From 15-19 June, Robert Latham from Teacher Support Networkwas here to respond to your questions and experiences of cyberbullying.
Affected by cyberbullying
Q: I informed the police twice over that I have been subjected to a hate campaign waged on the internet and on Talk Radio which has, amongst other things, encouraged people to take photos of yours truly and post them online and to engage in speculation as to the precise cause of my stress related symptoms. Frankly, I am surprised that these sort of baiting over a long period of time has not been a prelude to a physical assault. The police, while sympathetic, deal in hard, verifiable facts, and those are not readily forthcoming in cases such as this.
It sickens me that some schools and councils have taken up the habit of doing a Facebook check on those who they are considered for interview, which is akin to asking in the local boozer at throwing up time if someone is a good bloke or not. As for the Teacher Support Network, I recall tyrying to tell them four years ago by my concerns about sexual violence and gang activity not being taken seriously in one area in particular, with consequences which have since been the subject of much hand wringing.
A: I'm sorry to hear that you felt Teacher Support Network weren't helpful four years ago. Our services have changed a great deal since that time with an entirely different team and approach so I hope if you were to contact us again we would be able to offer the support you need. If we're not the right people to help with your individual circumstances, we can certainly point you in the right direction.
It's important to remember that if a law has been broken, there should be cause for redress and investigation from the authorities, including the police. While the processes can sometimes be very frustrating, it's worth pursuing this course. Remember to speak to your union for advice, particularly over legal matters, and your manager or headteacher should also offer you support in such circumstances.
Ratemyteacher slur - what to do?
Q: A friend of mine has had an offensive (and untrue) comment posted about her partner on ratemyteacher. It's starting to affect her morale as she doesn't know who has seenthis at her school. Is ther anything she can do?There's been conversations about this in the forums, before but wondered ehat you would advise.
A: Ratemyteacher.com is a very unfortunate site that has been used countless times to deliver abuse about teachers across the English-speaking world. Whilst ideally Teacher Support Network would like to see the site close down entirely, there are a number of step teachers can take when the subjects of such abuse within the framework laid out by the site.
The site's rules
The website claims to be "pretty picky" about what is allowed to be posted on our site. They claim to delete comments or ratings that break their rules. These include those that "contain vulgar or profane words" or "have to do with personal appearance". You can find their list here.
Next to each user comment, there is a `report' button. If you feel the comments made about your or a colleague are inappropriate, you can use this button to let the site's administrators know. If you click through you will see a summary of the sites rules and a space to explain why the post should be taken down. It's worth trying this even if there is ambiguity over whether their rules have been broken or not.
It is possible for comments to be made via the site that may be considered libellous although ratemyteacher.com claims to censor anything that could be interpreted so. There have been a few cases around libel over internet sites but it's difficult to come to a conclusive position as to what will be deemed libellous by the courts, particularly for `moderated' sites. As with all legal matters, we would always suggest contacting your union for advice.
Unfortunately there is no obligation for pupils of "middle or high schools" (ie usually older than 11 or 12 in US terminology) of the site to log in, enter their names or provide their email addresses although parents must. Parents of any age and pupils at "elementary school" must, although there is no way for other users to see their details. Remember though that abuse over the internet should be covered in your school's disciplinary procedures. If you know the source, or even if you don't, speak to your manager or headteacher about what can be done.
The site claims all comments are reviewed within two days before they are posted. There is the option for schools to have a `moderator', whereby powers of acceptance, censorship and deletion of comments are devolved to a volunteer pupil at the school, although it is not made clear when this has happened, and seems rare in the UK. Moderators are advised that "it is not your job to comment on the correctness of ratings, and you must remain impartial." Teachers cannot become moderators, and the site gives the following advice: "If you are employed by the school and are considering posing as a student to become the moderator - STOP! We WILL post a note on your school's page when you are discovered." Nevertheless, if you know who the moderator at your school is, ask for help from your manager or headteacher.
Best way to tackle this?
Q: I'm ateacher at a school where my daughter is also a pupil. recently there apparently have been a few comments made about me on a social networking site. I can brush it off but my daughter is mortified. What's the best way of dealing with this that causes the least upset to my daughter - school management team - or a quiet word in the cultprits' ears?
A: I'm very sorry to hear about your situation. We would always advise in the first instance talking to your line manager and asking for his or her advice on and participation in the next steps. The school should have policies in place to address this kind of problem and help you make decisions on how to approach or discipline the pupils whilst treating your daughters' feelings sensitively. I hope that this helps resolve the situation but if you are unhappy with the way the school has dealt with the issue it's best to contact your union rep.
Q: I've recently had a long battle with YouTube to get them to remove insulting video footage of several members of staff at my school. Is there a short cut way to getting footage removed?
A: It sounds like you're already in contact with the site. There doesn't seem to be any way of bypassing the procedures they have in place, which begin by `flagging' individual videos. We would encourage school management to take the lead in negotiating the removal of offensive content from websites such as Youtube and you may find that some sites are more likely to respond to senior members of staff, including from local authorities.
It may also be an option for the school to approach the pupil or pupils themselves if it is known who has been involved and asking them to remove the material. Some schools have discipline procedures to address this kind of behaviour. Depending on existing relationships, it may be worth attempting to engage with pupils' parents.
Q: I have been asked to give a short presentation to the pastoral team at my school on Cyberbullying. I have some training and background but was after suggestions for:
A powerful approach to take to the presentation
Some resources I could use with present the scale of the problem and the seperate types
Some good support materials we could use to build a PSE topic or policy approach.
A: A powerful approach to the presentation might be to include some statistics about the scale of the problem. Teacher Support Network's joint survey with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers earlier this year showed that:
One in seven respondents had experienced cyberbullying.
44 per cent of these had experienced cyberbullying from pupils.
28 per cent had experienced it from a manager of colleague.
39 per cent said it reduced their confidence and self-esteem.
23 per cent said it reduced their effectiveness as a teacher.
6 per cent said they were forced to take sick leave because of resulting illness and stress.
62 per cent said that their school didn't have a policy to address cyberbullying or that they were unaware of one.
60 per cent said they had never received advice from their school about protecting themselves online.
You may find quoting a former teacher with real life experience of cyberbullying also helps make your case. Last year a teacher who had contacted Teacher Support Network discussed her experiences in an article about cyberbullying in Scotland on Sunday. You can view the article here:
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