Teachers hit back at cyber-bullies

14th December 2007 at 00:00
A pregnant teacher has reported pupils to police after they posted messages threatening her and her unborn child on a website.

The teacher, who cannot be identified, is one of the latest school staff members in the UK to suffer cyber-bullying from students and, in some cases, their families.

The newly qualified teacher told The TES that an IT technician at her school had discovered the comments, made by Year 9 pupils on Bebo, the social networking website, and given her a print-out.

At first she was shocked but not surprised, as she knew some of the teenagers bore a grudge against her.

"However, when I read the script properly, I realised that someone had written about killing my unborn baby with a rugby ball," she said. "Another said he swore that he would knock my teeth out and force them down my throat.

"As a pregnant woman, I was devastated by this. I still have to teach these kids and I am considering leaving the profession."

The teacher has now contacted the police and her school has suspended the pupils involved.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Head Teachers is trying to defend a primary school head who has been described as a "child abuser" on a parent's blog.

Writing in The TES today, Simon Thomas, NAHT solicitor, says it has been trying to stop the parent, but taking him to court might give him the publicity he seeks and any compensation they won from him might be difficult to collect.

The association succeeded in shutting down the original blog after contacting Microsoft, but the parent began a new one on Google, which they are still trying to stop.

Teachers who fall victim to threatening and offensive web messages have been offered a ray of hope in the form of a "cyber-Asbo".

A 17-year-old boy in Norfolk has been given an anti-social behaviour order to stop him posting offensive comments about police officers on Bebo. Under the Asbo, he is banned for two years from publishing any material online that could promote criminal activity.

Philip Parkin, general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers, said his members were concerned about cyber-bullying and welcomed the cyber-Asbo.

"Cyber-bullying is an invasion of privacy from which it can be difficult to escape," he said. "Just because it takes place online does not mean it is not real and harmful."

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said teachers deserved the full protection of the law. "Any bullying is unacceptable - and threats or incitement to violence go beyond this into the realm of crime," he said.

Peril of parent portals, page 25.

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