Pupils ‘going unpunished’ for abusing teachers on their mobiles

Mobile phones are increasingly being used against teachers
Mobile phones are increasingly being used against teachers
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Union leaders have complained that too often nothing is done to tackle pupils who use the internet and mobile phones to target abuse at teachers.

Margaret Smith, president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, spoke out about what she called the “sinister 
development” over the past decade of youngsters using social networking websites and phones to attack staff.

Teachers were being subjected to “verbal abuse, threats and ridicule”, with females “often subjected to grossly offensive comments regarding their personal lives, which can be deemed nothing other than sexual harassment”, she said.

“Too often, nothing is done to combat this behaviour, and pupils believe that their conduct is without consequence.”

She raised the issue as the union accused the Scottish Government of complacency about classroom indiscipline.

“A sinister development over the past decade or so has been the co-ordinated targeting of some teachers,” she said.

“Social media networks, 
mobile phones and other 
technologies to which pupils have access make it so much easier to make a teacher’s life intolerable and his or her job 

The problem of “indiscipline in Scottish schools, both serious indiscipline and lower-level misbehaviour” has concerned her for some time. “Over the years, I have spoken out against what I consider to be an ad-hoc and somewhat complacent 
attitude on the part of some 
authorities and managers regarding indiscipline in our schools.”

While the union leader accepted that classroom indiscipline is “not a uniquely Scottish problem”, she said she believes that most European countries are “calling for a co-ordinated approach to indiscipline and see tackling it as part of the duty of care all employers have towards their employees”.

But “this is rarely the situation in Scotland”.

She said: “Standards of tolerance regarding quite shocking levels of misbehaviour, including physical and verbal abuse of teachers differ greatly from school to school, depending on the level of support offered by management towards teaching staff.

“Indiscipline is not just an issue for deprived areas, something that teachers in the so-called leafy suburbs do not have to worry about. If teachers are not supported, it can and does affect any school.”

Teacher stress levels were “at an all-time high” but tackling bad behaviour in the classroom would reduce this, Ms Smith said.

“I am totally convinced, however, that if we were to see a concerted approach to tackling indiscipline in our schools, much teacher stress would be alleviated, if not eliminated.

“It is a problem which will not go away and to which
we cannot, as is too often the case, continue to turn a blind eye.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The 
vast majority of pupils in our schools are well behaved and a credit to Scotland. However, any incident is one too many, and we are working across the sector to improve behaviour in schools.

“Independent research shows that behaviour, including serious indiscipline and violence, has improved since 2006.”