News from Holyrood

15th February 2008 at 00:00
There is an episode of The Simpsons where Moe, the foul-tempered barman and gun nut, finds himself on the Springfield supply list.

Taking over Mrs Krabappel's class, the hapless stand-in falls victim to a doctored register and appeals in vain for Anita Bath and Maya Buttreeks to make themselves known.

It's all a rather quaint depiction of teacher harassment, far removed from the current moral panic over the abuse of new technology.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary at the Educational Institute of Scotland, recently called for tighter regulation of abusive internet material aimed at teachers; the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association made a similar call last year, weeks after the "happy-slapping" of a headteacher in the Borders.

Mr Smith, who said barely a week went by without a "malicious blog posting aimed at a teacher", launched a broadside against website operators who allow attacks on teachers to be viewed by millions before they are taken down.

Now, our parliamentarians have cottoned on that classroom pranksters have long since ditched whoopee cushions and stink bombs for things more sinister.

Rob Gibson, deputy convener of the education committee, has lodged a motion outlining his worries about "cyber impersonation" on social-networking sites. This after a teacher contacted the Highlands and Islands SNP MSP about pupils posting photos online under his name. The teacher stressed that the postings did not make him feel humiliated or bullied, but he wanted to save colleagues from having their names linked with more extreme content.

Mr Gibson is demanding that internet service providers and administrators introduce more rigorous vetting to prevent "unwarranted attacks on unsuspecting individuals" - flagging up a particular concern for the welfare of schoolchildren and teachers: "We need to send a clear message to those who wish to embark on such pranks that these actions will not be tolerated."

It's enough to make teachers nostalgic for the days when, like Moe, the worst pranks they had to worry about were inducements to call out for the elusive Hugh Jass, Jacques Strap and Bea O'Problem.

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