Cyberbullying: The teachers' stories
New media can provide a fertile ground for cyberbullies to abuse teachers. Members of the TES Connect community share their experiences and what they’ve learnt about self-protection.
Social networking site
The abuse: My colleague recently had a ‘hate group’ set up about him on Facebook. Over 100 students wrote things on it.
The personal impact: He found out about through a friend outside of school so his friends and family all knew about it, which made him feel devastated.
Action taken: The school hasn’t taken it seriously enough and my colleague had to really push to get it dealt with and did most of the investigation work himself. The pupil who set it up got a short exclusion and some of the others got short internal exclusions.
The abuse: I was recorded on a pupil’s mobile phone and it was forwarded with an abusive message.
The personal impact: I felt terrible. It’s a shame when a few unpleasant characters spoil education for others.
Action taken: Senior staff did take this up and deal with it to a certain extent. However, I was in assembly when pupils were told that if this happened they would be excluded. In the event, the pupils were not excluded.
Advice to teachers: No phones out in lessons. When your back is turned they could be using the video or camera and then ‘hey ho’, you are on Youtube.
The abuse: an abusive e-mail sent via our school website, but addressed to me personally. It was made worse because they had put my full name in the subject line, which isn’t stated anywhere on our site.
Personal impact: Only a couple of words in it, but still upsetting nevertheless. I have spent ages today trying to think of someone I have annoyed, but I can’t. We are a small rural school with pupils who you wouldn’t expect to do this kind of thing. I know I am spending too much time worrying over this, but with them having my full name and sending it to me personally not just the school itself it has got right under my skin.
Action taken: Nothing was done about it. I have my suspicions that it was a parent of one of my pupils, but nothing more has been received so the matter has been allowed to drop. I am going to change the website so that contact has to be made via normal e-mail rather than filling in a form as the form allows the sender to fill in their own, therefore possibly false, e-mail address.
The abuse: Our school has set up a Virtual Teaching and Learning system and is trying to encourage teachers and pupils to use it to save work at home and school. It also has a messaging facility for members of the school groups. I returned from a school trip to London just before half term to find a message from one of the pupils in my class (am a year 6 teacher) saying “Hope you had a good SEX with Jason Donivin bitch”
Personal impact: I was very shocked but knew the named person on the email couldn’t have sent it as the boy has a whole host of needs and would not of been able to write it.
Action taken: After some investigating it turns out the boy’s password has been stolen by another child in the class who thought it would be good to get the boy into trouble. It was the first occasion for something like this to happen so there wasn’t a policy in place and all the boy got was a detention. With more schools using online learning environments, it will only open teachers up to a whole variety of abuse from pupils, especially as they never seem to keep passwords secret.
How other cyberbullying incidents have been dealt with
- “The school a rolling suspension and the pupil wasn’t allowed entry back to school to do A-levels. Parent used Children’s Law society to over rule any suspension or expulsion.”
- “My head made a commitment to act in a way that was satisfactory in my eyes. Sixteen weeks down the line, and following numerous reminders (and re-stated commitments)) little has actually happened.”
- “Police prosecuted student - received caution from judge.”
- “Fixed term exclusions for pupils who had posted offensive comments and those who had moderated the site. The website was closed down 24 hours after the offence had been reported.”
- “School have apparently been aware of the situation for over six months and apparently dealt with the pupils at the time. I only discovered the site a few days ago. I have emailed ‘Bebo’ this evening, and have asked them to remove the page from their website.”
- “The Incident was logged; parents informed; student made to apologise”.
- “There seems to be little that can be done about that awful website Ratemyteacher.com.”
- “Pupil was given a short-term exclusion with the threat of police involvement if repeated.”
Source: NASUWT survey
If you’ve been personally affected by online initmidation, visit the Cyberbullying Forum, where Teacher Support Network experts will answer your queries.