Schools hit by revenge of the nerds

22nd December 2000 at 00:00
BRIGHT but malicious fifth-year boys are creating their own websites, slandering teachers and e-mailing scurrilous material to them, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association has revealed, amid growing concern about the breakdown of discipline in secondaries.

Three teachers from different schools have been seriously defamed in the past five weeks by pupils who questioned their sexuality, causing immense personal distress. Headteachers have stepped in but the union is calling for firmer measures to protect staff.

Barbara Clark, the union's assistant general secretary, said one boy had posted "quite disgusting and worrying" suggestions about a female physical education teacher and made references to another woman member of staff.

Another boy in a different secondary had described a male teacher as a paedophile, a particularly damaging and dangerous charge in the current climate.

Mrs Clark said: "This makes you quite worried about the psychological balance of these children. It is causing great distress and schools do not know quite what to do. The most charitable interpretation is that youngsters do not appreciate the seriousness of what they are doing but they must know what is not acceptable." P> There may well be other cases teachers do not know about because of the ease with which ICT-literate pupils can establish sites on their computers, Mrs Clark said. "The police are not all that interested because they sometimes cannot trace the person who has posted it. Solicitors say you can regard it as a breach of the peace."

One school suspended a boy for two days and reprimanded him while another handed out a 20-day suspension. Some schools were not treating the matter seriously enough, the SSTA insists.

The use of high-tech means to abuse teachers fulfils the union's long-held fears about changing patterns of behaviour in secondaries, the main issue of its annual conference last May. Mrs Clark said: "I am being told by teachers on a weekly basis that things are getting worse and worse. A very competent teacher told pupils she was about to have an inspection but a pupil replied: 'It's not us who are being inspected, it's you'."

George Ross, secretary of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, said:

"This is another sign of the changing attitudes of youngsters to school and teachers but certainly the association would expect schools to deal with it in a fairly strict manner."

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