Teachers demand protection from pupil cyber-bullying

TWO of the country’s largest teaching unions have called for a national campaign to promote zero tolerance of cyber bullying amid complaints that teachers are being subjected to “untold distress and trauma” by pupils misusing Twitter and Facebook.

In a motion to next week’s STUC annual congress, the NASUWT says the popularity of social media has led to a growing number of cases where members of the teaching profession have been subjected to “public ridicule” or “false allegations”.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), which represents 80 per cent of Scotland’s teachers, is calling on the Scottish Government to publish guidance on the use of social media for staff and students alike.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

There are also concerns that schools are increasingly asking teachers to communicate with pupils and parents using personal e-mail and Facebook 

Jane Peckham, NASUWT Scotland organiser, said: “Cyber bullying has been a major campaign of ours for a number of years now, but it’s still causing huge problems. We’ve had members commit suicide because of things that have come from Facebook which are complete fabrications.

“You are never going to stop these things, but we need to make pupils aware of the consequences of their actions. If young people consider the implications of what they’re going to do, then they would not necessarily go ahead with it. I don’t believe it’s all vicious and out to cause harm – there’s just a lack of understanding.”

Ms Peckham said the union was also uncomfortable about reports from members that teachers had been asked to communicate with parents using social media outside school time.

The motion going before next week’s STUC congress calls for a review of current legislation to prevent allegations being made against teachers online, as well as more effective national policies to promote zero tolerance of cyber bullying.

In an amendment to the NASUWT motion, the EIS has added a further point, calling for guidance from the Scottish Government regarding the “perils of social media for staff, pupils and students”.

It came after the General Teaching Council for Scotland issued guidance for the profession on using social media amid warnings that Facebook and Twitter were “blurring the professional boundary” between teacher and pupil.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Bullying in any form is absolutely unacceptable. We recognise the potential benefits that modern technology can have for education, but its misuse can be devastating to those targeted, whether they are teachers or pupils.

“In partnership with key stakeholders, we are developing guidance on safe and responsible use of personal mobile technology, which will look specifically at social media and internet safety. We will also continue to support the national anti-bullying service, Respectme, Childline and others who are helping people to tackle bullying behaviour and deal with its consequences.”

Case study: Facebook page ‘designed to humiliate and defame staff’

EARLIER this year, a Scottish secondary school took the unusual step of asking parents to check their children’s mobile phones and laptops after a Facebook page was created to mock and humiliate teachers.

The headteacher of Alva Academy in Clackmannanshire said the page had been “designed to deliberately cause humiliation, defamation and insult to staff”.

The page was believed to contain images of teachers with sexual references written on them. In her letter to parents, headteacher Sharee MacKerron advised parents to “check your child’s mobile phone and other electronic devices for copies of images”.

She wrote: “Disappointingly, a number of pupils not only visited the site, but commented on the images and indicated that they ‘liked’ the images.”

One Alva Academy pupil tweeted: “Ridiculous how far the schools [sic] taking this whole thing. Ma mums [sic] going nowhere near my phone or laptop”.

A 14-year-old boy pupil was later charged with breaching the Communications Act.