Filmed in a fit of madness

5th January 2007 at 00:00
Photographing of teachers losing their tempers by pupils with camera phones has led to debate on how to put a stop to such baiting

Teachers are being deliberately baited by pupils so their reaction can be filmed using camera phones, it has been claimed.

Union leaders say they are concerned that pupils are using the video-recording function or camera on their mobiles to drag teachers into disciplinary proceedings.

However, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association and the Educational Institute of Scotland have taken opposing stances on how to tackle the problem. While the SSTA is adamant a ban on mobiles with video function and cameras in schools is necessary, the EIS deems prohibition unworkable and has issued guidance on dealing with the threat.

David Eaglesham, SSTA general secretary, said: "There is no legitimate reason for a young person to have a camera phone in school. Frankly, to have a set of rules which is workable is very difficult.

"What is the alternative if covert filming is going on? People would get used to the idea (of phones being banned in schools) - after all, we are already not using mobiles on planes or in hospitals."

He stopped short of calling on heads to refuse to look at evidence from mobile films or pictures of teachers behaving incorrectly. "It is often difficult to tell whether footage has been edited or touched up by software. But it should be looked at on a case by case basis."

Legally, courts take a dim view of entrapment, he said. It would be up to the judge, should an incident become a police matter, to decide whether such filming would be admissible in a criminal court.

The EIS believes a ban is impossible and has issued guidance to teachers on tackling mobile misuse. It recommends staff have the right to confiscate phones and delete offending images. Ronnie Smith, general secretary, said:

"The potential for pupils or teachers to be photographed or filmed without their knowledge is a concern, and represents a breach of privacy and personal liberty."

Human rights campaigners have baulked at the idea. Green MSP Patrick Harvie described the concept as "deeply troubling": "We should be preparing young people for the reality of defending their privacy and civil liberties against ever more intrusive government systems. We risk creating environments which feel more like penal institutions than places of learning."

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