One in four students in Cyprus is a victim of school bullying, it emerged from a House education committee meeting on Wednesday.

According to an education ministry spokesperson, the police recorded 508 cases of juvenile delinquent behaviour in 2022, an increase from the 496 recorded in 2021 and the 451 recorded in 2020.

The discussion also revolved around the legislation passed by parliament in 2020 establishing mechanisms to prevent and deal with bullying and intimidation at schools.

According to recommendations put forward by the education ministry, the legislation is in dire need of amendment. Members of the committee agreed to discuss new provisions for the legislation and submit an amendment to parliament at the start of the new year.

The committee head and Diko MP Pavlos Mylonas proposed an independent investigation into the creation of support structures for children displaying delinquent behaviour at schools. After voting among committee members, the issue was included in the agenda.

Mylonas also stressed the need for the state to address the seriousness of the issue, which he said extends beyond school boundaries. He questioned whether schools should become therapeutic centres, underscoring the need for an answer from the government.

Speaking after Mylonas, Diko MP Chrysanthos Savvides emphasised that bullying constitutes an intentional act of harm, stressing the importance of students’ roles and peer assistance.

Additionally, Akel MP Andreas Kafkalias raised questions regarding the legislative framework to combat school bullying and inquired about proposals forwarded by the education ministry.

Kafkalias pressed for insights into the proposed amendments and their alignment with addressing the concerning issue of school bullying.

Τhe head of the psychological support service at the education ministry Ersi Papacosta stressed the imbalance of power between the bully and the victim, explaining that this power disparity often prevents the victim from expressing themselves effectively.

She stressed “the pressing need to empower both children and educational institutions to effectively tackle bullying issues”.

Responding to a query from Mylonas regarding school gangs, Papacosta acknowledged the emergence of gang-related behaviour as a known phenomenon since 2014, with a significant intensification in recent years.

Additionally, she labelled the establishment of specialised centres for children with deviant behaviour as a “sensitive issue”, cautioning against hasty decisions that might create impromptu solutions.

“It’s crucial to avoid creating rushed remedies,” she said.