Exclusive: Teachers face ‘trial by trolls’ as parents challenge marking

Warning after thousands sign petition calling for teacher to be sacked over comment on pupil's test

Martin George

Martin George

Teachers are facing 'trial by trolls', Chris Keates warned.

Teachers are being subjected to ‘trial by trolls’ as parents use social media to complain about how they have marked their pupils' work, a teachers’ leader has warned.

The concerns follow news that a parent’s complaint about a teacher allegedly writing “absolutely pathetic” on their child’s test was widely shared on Facebook.

The incident, which centred on Valley View Elementary School in Pennsylvania, US, led to an online petition to sack the teacher, which has been signed by more than 16,000 people.

Quick read: Social media puts ‘overwhelming pressure’ on young people

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Teachers: 'Bullying is endemic in our profession'

Asked whether she has come across similar cases in the UK, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, told Tes: “We have had a lot of that. That’s been part of the issue we have been raising when we first got involved in our social media campaign, and I’ve described it as people being put on trial by trolls.”

She was speaking at the organisation’s annual conference in Belfast, where concerns were raised about teachers receiving emails from parents at all hours that disrupt their homes lives.

Ms Keates said: “My view is parents have got a right if they are concerned about something a school is doing or a teacher is doing to raise that, but there’s a proper way of doing that, and a proper way of finding the facts, and if a teacher has done something wrong then that teacher is subject to procedures.

“You don’t hold kangaroo courts or trials by internet or start petitions about people being sacked.

"I always ask people to take a step back and ask how would you feel if that was happening to you in your workplace?”

She added that when parents complain about teachers’ marking on social media, it puts teachers in a “very difficult and disempowered position in the classroom”.

She said: “A lot of the pupils have seen the things on social media and can you imagine you’ve got to be in a position of authority with pupils, you’ve got to try and engage them, and what you’ve got on the internet is ‘oh, my parents think you should be sacked’.”

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