“Upskirting” ban failing to protect teachers

Sexual harassment in schools - including pupils secretly taking pictures up teachers' skirts - remains a major issue in Scotland

Tes Reporter

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Laws banning "upskirting" in Scotland have failed to sufficiently protect teachers from pupils who use mobile phones to secretly take pictures, a union official has claimed.

Secretly taking pictures up someone's skirt or down their blouse has been an offence in Scotland since 2010 and moves are afoot in England to introduce similar protections.

The Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse recently tabled a parliamentary bill that would make it a criminal offence to take a photo up a person’s skirt without their permission.

However, Jane Peckham, the national officer for the NASUWT teaching union in Scotland, has claimed whilst there are more protections in place in Scotland than other UK nations these laws are "not making an impact in the way that they should be" for teachers.

Speaking about the problem at a fringe event at the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee yesterday she said: "The concern is that even when that is being reported I think there was only 11 cases that ever got to be heard.

"So even though we have protections other nations in the UK don't have, they still are not making an impact in the way that they should be."

Sexual harassment was a "major issue" in schools, Ms Peckham said, with a survey by the union two years ago showing one in six female teachers has suffered abuse in the last two years.

She said that sexualised behaviour – from pupils “setting up phones and sliding bags under teachers as they go round” to pupils being victims of “unwanted sexual touching”  -  had become so rife in schools it was “almost dismissed as banter now”.

She accused headteachers of turning “a blind eye” and accusing teachers of “over-reacting” when they reported it.

Ms Peckham called for a “zero tolerance” approach and for schools “to monitor and record incidents against teachers and pupils that are of a sexualised nature."

She also said all schools should have "whole school policies on preventing sexual harassment and violence" to protect pupils and teachers.

Ms Peckham said: "There has to be a clear message that those who do seek to abuse, harass and threaten staff and pupils through the use of social media will face serious sanctions - zero tolerance has to be introduced."

She went on: "There are threats of sexual violence and rape towards teachers online, fake accounts set up where young boys are speaking suggestively about members of staff, a site called Teachers We Want to F*** has photos of staff on it where pupils are leaving comments and photographs."

She added: "Teachers reported pupils filming themselves masturbating and sharing the images, girls taking nude pictures of themselves and sending them to older boys, regular incidents of girls sending nude pictures to their boyfriends and then these are more widely shared."

An MSP who sits on the Scottish parliament’s education committee recently described sexting – the sharing of explicit messages and nude images – as endemic among teenagers who thought it was “no big deal”.

Gillian Martin the SNP representative for Aberdeenshire East is campaigning for better protection for young people after an 11-year-old girl in her constituency sent a semi-nude photograph of herself via Snapchat to an older boy who, within 30 minutes, had shared it with “multitudes of people in the area”.

Research by educational psychologists in Scotland found that 38 per cent of 13 to 14 year olds had received inappropriate images – defined as naked or nearly naked shots – while a sizeable minority of 11 to 12 year olds had, too (14 per cent).

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