Teachers: ‘Our pupils are targeting us on social media’ with more than a quarter victims of abuse
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Monday 21 April 2014
Teachers are facing an increasing barrage of “vile” sexual abuse, unfair allegations of incompetence and videos of themselves taken without their consent being posted online by their pupils, according to a report seen by The Independent.
The survey of 7,500 teachers revealed that more than one in five (21 per cent) reported having adverse or derogatory comments posted about them on social media – from parents as well as children.
“Abusive and highly offensive language is common, accompanied by remarks about teachers’ appearance, competence or sexuality,” said a report out today, conducted by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT). Poor behaviour in the classroom is enough to persuade many teachers to quit but the added element of online abuse taking place inside and outside the classroom is adding to the pressures of the job.
In one case highlighted by the report, a pupil tweeted: “You are a paedo and your daughter is a whore.” Another pupil said on Facebook that he wanted to kill his teacher – and invited fellow pupils to join in. The majority of comments by pupils, 61 per cent, came from 14- to 16-year-olds. However, there were two recorded from four- to seven-year-olds. The sites used by the pupils included Facebook, Ratemyteacher, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.
In one case, a picture of a drunk person who had passed out and resembled a teacher was posted, with a comment telling fellow pupils it was their teacher.
Of the comments posted by pupils, 47 per cent included insulting words or phrases, 50 per cent had comments made about their performance as a teacher, and 26 per cent had videos or photographs posted without their consent.
Of the parents’ comments, 57 per cent were insulting, 63 per cent criticised the teachers’ performance, 7 per cent involved threatening behaviour, and 7 per cent were videos or photographs taken without the teachers’ consent.
In addition to this, 6 per cent involved allegations of inappropriate behaviour with children and 3 per cent inappropriate behaviour with parents.
One teacher said of the abuse: “I was so upset by the allegations and comments from kids who had seen it all... that I ended up being off work with stress, on antidepressants and having to see a counsellor.”
Union leaders are urging schools to support staff in approaching social media websites to secure the removal of offensive material and encouraging them to go to the police.
Of those who complained, 11 per cent went to the police – but three-quarters of these said no further action had been taken against either pupils or parents, although they had received a sympathetic hearing.
“Teachers are often devastated by the vile nature of the abuse they are suffering,” said Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT. “Teachers are often traumatised by the attacks made on them through social media.
“Some have lost their confidence to teach once they see foul and personal remarks made by pupils in their classes and have left the profession.
“Others have been so disturbed by the comments that their health has been affected.”
Meanwhile, teachers’ leaders will warn today that they face a “home invasion” of emails from heads and senior management, which sometimes arrive in the early hours and demand that action be taken by the recipient before the start of the school day.
Ms Keates cited one case where a teacher received an email at 2.15am demanding action by 8am, describing it as “unacceptable harassment and pressure”.
“Teachers even report receiving emails from school management at midnight on New Year’s Eve with a message reminding them of the work they must have completed by the time the new term starts,” she added.
She urged all schools to adopt a policy and protocol on the appropriate use of emails to avoid further stress being placed on teachers.
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