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Violence in schools May 24, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Fintan O’Toole made a useful point in relation to the grim attack on a 14-year-old boy in Navan this last week. He asked why so many persisted, albeit sincerely, in calling him a ‘young man’ when the truth is he is a child. 

Just switch the language of TikTok’s classification to what it should be: “Attack on child in Navan”. Would that not make the idea of sharing that video much more obviously creepy?

Or is it that referring to children subjected to extreme bullying by their peers as men and women helps us to keep at bay the knowledge that our children inflict violence on other children all the time?

It was an attack on a child.

This is useful too:

Monday’s after-school attack was by no means an isolated incident. 

According to Belong To, a national organisation which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex young people in Ireland, there has been a rising level of anti-LGBTQ+ violence in the past 18 months which they describe as “deeply distressing.” 

“We know that members of our community feel increasingly unsafe in public spaces and that the Gardaí [police] saw a 29% increase in reports of hate crimes and hate-related incidents last year,” Belong To said in a statement. 

“These feelings of unsafety and uncertainty stand in stark contrast with the jubilance of 2015 as we welcomed Marriage Equality,” they added. 


On a slight tangent, O’Toole suggests that in his experience school wasn’t as violent when he was that age. I’d agree to an extent, albeit with caveats.

I was fortunate that the school I went to did not allow the teaching staff to use physical violence but there was violence here and there amongst the students, not so much on school grounds (though that was a factor) as much as off them. I can’t recall an incident that resulted in concussion but I saw violence meted out by some to others at a similar age.

All this really impacted on people subsequently. I know people who were genuinely traumatised by bullying and the violence that accompanied it. I’m sure many of us do. 


1. 6to5against - May 24, 2023

I’m really surprised to hear FOT suggest that school wasn’t as violent in his youth. The incident last week was very violent by any measure but I would say that in general my kids are growing up a much less violent world than I did.

I don’t think I would have had a harsh childhood but my experience in the 1980s was that there was a constant threat of violence out there, particularly at night but also in the after-school hours.

Actually violent events rarely developed but the danger was there and that knowledge weighs on you in a way that I didn’t understand until many years later.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2023

Yeah completely agree, I was very surprised by his view too.

It’s what you say: there was an undercurrent of violence and threat. Physical and mental bullying was widespread.

My sense was it impacted on me in first year in Community School and briefly in the Gaeltacht a couple of years later but I know people who were relentlessly bullied in school in third year and when I repeated my Leaving I was amazed to see some bullying in that school amongst my peer group. And, Jesus, outside on streets, at discos, etc. Someone tried to glass me in The Summit in Howth when I was 18 or 19. Buses from the city centre home at night – yikes.

For one reason or another, I’ve always been okay at defusing or avoiding that sort of stuff but it does stick with one, as you say.


WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2023

Two thoughts on the impacts.

Two people I know wouldn’t attend a 30th reunion at the Community School because of how bad an experience they had of bullying – one was female.

Second anecdote (and this shows a different angle): I was at a funeral some years back and a National School teacher was there who I wouldn’t have met in 40 years though he wasn’t my teacher. I noticed some of the people there a couple of years younger weren’t talking to the teacher. Afterwards, I asked why. Was told they’d never speak to that teacher because he’d been brutal with the strap in primary school. Very understandable response, I thought.

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Gearóid Clár - May 24, 2023

Agreed. O’Toole is my father’s generation and violence was a very regular feature among his peers growing up. Same with my own experience in secondary school in the early 00s – in first and second year, there was nearly one fight after school every week. Some of those involved headstomps, kicking people in the face on the ground, really horrific stuff. My friend and I were jumped by gangs twice before we were fifteen.

I think O’Toole might just have been very fortunate, but this seems to be another of those issues that just weren’t at the forefront til social media and camera phones. Not that we should accept it – and we never should have.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2023

That’s it re media and camera phones making it more evident. But it is unacceptable. And another angle was physical bullying tended to largely die out in tte last two years before leaving but mental bullying was rife.


2. NFB - May 24, 2023

I despised my secondary school days,and could probably talk for hours on the subject. I’d have a common experience to 6-5. It was more the constant threat of violence among the student population than actual violence, though there were plenty of incidents. Of course, you can still get scarred in other ways.

Teachers never got physically violent but verbal and occasional emotional abuse happened all the time – too many of them still thought half their job was “toughening” us up and you were on your own when it came to bullying.

That constant feeling of fear was so draining and I didn’t even realise it had become normal until I went to the college environment. I can’t really say how much it affected me but I have been described as overly-guarded at times and I struggle with confrontation. I suspect my teen years experience played a part in that. I wouldn’t go to any reunions if you paid me.

I don’t know if things are better or worse but If I ever have a son I will never willingly send them to an all-boys public school like mine, no matter its reputation.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2023


The constant fear was in 1st year and a bit of 3rd (often wondered was the aggression and belligerence a function of developmental stages for some).

I was in a mixed school for my first Leaving and then went to a single-sex school to repeat. The first was rough but the second was at times like Lord of the Flies. I recall two teachers being bullied by students which just didn’t compute with me. Exactly the same as you. Would never send a kid to a single-sex school, just no way no how.

That guarded thing you mention – completely get that. I was even worse, unbelievably shy as well until a lot later and I think school and the need to be watchful played a role there. That said, I did learn to get a good sense of dodgy situations, which wasn’t a bad thing.

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rockroots - May 24, 2023

100% my experience too, NFB. A desperately unhappy part of my life.


alanmyler - May 24, 2023

I’d have to agree. My school had corporal punishment, both the somewhat premeditated “leathering” by the year head or principal, when someone would be sent to their office for punishment, but also the spontaneous violence type, heads being smashed together, slaps across the face, punches to the back.

And then there was the bullying. Not overt violence most of the time, it was usually verbal and maybe jostling or small digs, but every so often there would be a “claim” in the yard with a couple of guys going for it.

I was hit by teachers a few times, and bullied by the clique that considered themselves hard men. Nothing dangerous, just low level torment, getting clattered across the back of the head with think schoolbooks and so on. Until one day in 3rd year I lost it with the kid who was on my case that day and held him up against the wall by the throat. They left me alone after that. But other kids were bullied the whole time.

It was pretty much dog eat dog. No anti-bullying solidarity to speak of. You were just glad they weren’t having a go at you.

Not in the same scale of things obviously but reading Primo Levi’s memoir of his time in Auschwitz he spoke of the absence of solidarity between prisoners in the face of daily torment by the kapos and other prisoners. I can see how it happens.

Anyway the school I went to was in a pretty pleasant part of south Dublin. I wouldn’t like to think about how bad it was in schools in tougher parts of the city.

I also hated my time in secondary school. I never went to a reunion, just no interest. Never kept in touch with anyone after leaving, I was just glad to have finally escaped it. There’s one lad I still see once every few years but that’s only because he was in the same college course as me really, so we’d meet at occasional college reunions.

The worst of the teachers got a big puff piece in the IT when he wrote his memoir. “He was a real disciplinarian” says the article. Understatement of the year.


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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2023

That’s grim. Just read the article. 😦 I see what you mean. I didn’t hate school but was a hairy experience at times. Know exactly what you mean re low level torment. The ruler pushed against the back of the head from the seats behind you etc I wonder is it better now for all that FO’T thinks otherwise.

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alanmyler - May 25, 2023

Bullying is not something that I’ve discussed in any great depth with our three young adults. Our two daughters went to an all girls school in Navan, not the posher of the two ex-convent schools in the town, and not the community school that the kid goes to who was brutally assaulted last week, but a good school, and socially mixed, a lot of new-Irish kids too. There is the standard teenage girl clique stuff, the Populars are so on, bitchiness, but overall both of our daughters had good friends in school and enjoyed it, as much as anyone can enjoy it within the limits of the regime of secondary school. Our son went to the local community school, a country school, small, very socially mixed, a DEIS school. There was some bullying, but it’s a co-ed school so the presence of the fairer sex might be a factor in dampening down the teenage male urge to beat the shit out of someone. But definitely a tougher environment than the girls’ school in Navan. But, across both schools, and I expect more or less across the board in schools throughout the country, the relationship between students and teachers is just in a completely different place to how it was in my day. When I was in school you were physically afraid of the teachers. They weren’t all psychos, but there were enough of them who did resort to violence that there was a safe distance in one’s relationship with them, one didn’t get too close, not even to the nicer ones. Fear was ever present. Whereas now the atmosphere doesn’t have that, if anything the opposite, all our kids talked of their teachers, without exception, with genuine warmth and affection, there seemed to be a real atmosphere of nurturing and respect, and fun even. Which is just as one would want it to be.

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WorldbyStorm - May 25, 2023

Saw some bad social bullying across the first year of the pandemic though it predated that. Thankfully a new context changed all that. Agree re relationship with teachers, albeit I would say the Community School I went to eschewed corporal punishment and people got on with most teachers really well – not perfectly, and some were right so and sos and I heard of elbowing and shouldering aside some kids as a sort of off the books ‘punishment’, that sort of thing. So it definitely wasn’t ever-present fear from them. But from some of the kids. Well that was different. But I thin the school was not necessarily typical of the period and your experience would be much more typical.

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Dr Nightdub - May 25, 2023

I went to a Christian Brothers school in the 70s and to be honest, the most likely source of violence wasn’t other boys but the staff. Lads might get slagged but I don’t rememeber any bullying, certainly not physical – or maybe I just didn’t see or hear of it.

All the brothers had and used the leather, bar one pacifist, who managed fine without it. The head brother’s favourite technique was to make you lay your hand on the desk so’s you couldn’t drop it or jerk it out of the way.

Of the lay teachers, I think only the assistant principal was let use the leather, he’d make you go and wash your hands afterwards for additional pain. The rest would either send you to the head brother for a leathering or just resort to their own physical thuggery – the science teacher used to just shove people’s heads under the taps that were in the science lab.

Oddly enough, the teacher whose nickname was “Satan” never actually laid a hand on anyone…


WorldbyStorm - May 26, 2023

The hand on the table. That was brutal. And of course it didn’t work. There was pretty good discipline, in the sense of the place not being chaotic, in the Community School I was in and there was no (overt) violence from teachers. Interesting about the distinction between religious and lay teachers. It was a genuine good to move the former out of education however much individual religious could be grand.


3. crocodileshoes - May 24, 2023

That Navan video appeared on my timeline before I knew what to expect. It was sickening and familiar. Not much changes in the world of teenage boys. This could have been 50 years ago, when I was a teenager.
Except, maybe, for two aspects. First, the filming – pre planned and instantly spread, with millions of ‘views’. Second, the racial element – not much commented on for understandable reasons, but touched on by former Navan school principal Colm O’Rourke in the Sindo.

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