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Bullying Online (Teachers and Students)Myself and a number of other colleagues were...

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Bullying Online (Teachers and Students)

Myself and a number of other colleagues were recently vilified on facebook by a number of students at my school (they labelled a school photograph). The school wants to protect its reputation so handed down very light punishments and the matter not properly investigated because senior staff have no idea of how the technology works. Being pro-active, i tried to find support groups outside of the school environment but support is minimal. This appears to be a growing concern for teachers (and students but there is a lot of protection for kids, as there should be) - many cases throughout Australia and the world. The unions are struggling to keep up. Schools seem woefully under-resourced or educated in these matters. If this had happened earlier in my career that would be it - as it is, after 15 yrs a new career path seems safer. What will it take for some working legislation to come to pass? - Any thoughts?

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linda-allen's profile pic

Posted (Answer #2)

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I don't see how schools can punish students for an act they committed off the school grounds. It sounds more like a case of slander, which should be handled by the police and courts. Do we need new legislation for that? Don't existing laws already cover such abuses? Have you spoken to the police or to an attorney?

We had a case at my school in which a student went on myspace and (he thought) jokingly stated that a teacher needed to die and asked for people to help burn her. When it was brought to his attention, our prinicipal immediately notified the police, and that student was placed in an alternative school for the rest of the semester.

amy-lepore's profile pic

Posted (Answer #3)

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I agree with Linda.  If the comments against you are threatening in any way, I would report it to the police.  Let them deal with the investigations and the technology to get to the bottom of it all.  I'm sure you are busy enough with your teaching duties, etc.  Students too often are way too cavalier with their comments and don't realize the severity of a situation unless it is dealt with in a serious venue.  I can't think of a more serious place than police headquarters. 

If the comments are not threatening but still slanderous, print it all out and make a police report.  The students will still be contacted and informed of their faults.  A public apology at the very least is necessary.

Students have said negative things about their teachers since there have been students and teachers.  However, students need to realize that with a greater audience (such as the internet provides) comes greater responsibility.  They must use caution and understand that not every reader of their comments will take it as a harmless joke.  This is also the very reason why so many students have lost out on a job opportunity or have no longer been recruited by certain colleges, clubs, or memberships because someone affiliated with the organization or company saw their comments or activites posted on a social website.  Carelessness will come back to bite you...

pohnpei397's profile pic

Posted (Answer #4)

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Unless there are specific lies (or threats) being told about you, I don't think it's appropriate for there to be laws/school rules against this.  I don't think I'd want a kid suspended for writing nasty things about me on someone else's yearbook, so why is it wrong for them to write it on Facebook?

If they threaten or tell lies, that's a problem, but if they just express negative opinions... I don't see it.

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

Posted (Answer #5)

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I do think that there are several legal issues involved.  If you were slandered, then you do have a right to get the police involved.  From a personal security issue, if the students posted actual photographs of you and labeled them with your real name, that is also a privacy problem, and you can most likely address it with Facebook.  Most websites and social networking sites will attend to issues such as this quickly.

One tool that we have been using at our school is to try to educate students on the difference between saying and writing things in a personal, private setting and posting things online.  Many adults and students do not realize that there is a whole different set of standards for what they post for the public to view and what they say to friends and family.  As Post #2 notes, jobseekers have lost out on jobs because of photographs or other information they posted on their MySpace and Facebook accounts which potential employers found.  It is as simple as googling someone's name to find this information.  In a recent survey, 80% of human resource directors who participated acknowledged that they regularly look up potential employees online.  We had a student at my school lose a scholarship over a damaging photo on his Facebook page.  What is troubling is that even when someone deletes a Facebook account or photo, those photos are often stored already and available online.

So, while students certainly have their freedom of speech, they need to be made aware of the practical consequences of their online posts.

bullgatortail's profile pic

Posted (Answer #6)

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The private school where I taught last year did have a specific rule concerning any form of negative bullying on Facebook or My Space toward other students or teachers. Students signed a pledge as part of their school contract to avoid such behavior under the threat of permanent suspension. Sadly, public schools have other more serious problems to deal with, and I'm not surprised that administrators pass the buck.

treedreamer's profile pic

Posted (Answer #7)

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Thanks for the feedback all :) - student's comments were not threatening as such or slanderous (did not comment upon skill as a teacher; sexual affiliation; habits etc) - just mean really about my appearance and being a c@#*. It is a girl's school so girls and their craziness...women of the future - eek! still, it was a shock. Did lots of research and had a think. It was done off premises so yes, could go to police. But police are busy people and probably have murders to solve.

The student is only 14 so I had to think long and hard about that. I mean, she is a child. Still if it happens again I will have to go to other authorities for sure. It's really up to the school to educate students and teachers about safe/ethical technology usage.

The main benefit I got out of it was to never have to be in the school photographs again! Another benefit is that I am now much more aware of what technology does and what people will be willing to do with it. It also helps to know first hand what some kids have to endure from their peers. I can be more aware and supportive.

I think if anyone else did call me something like that again I'd be like: "yeah so what? is that the best ya got? oooo hurts!" or something equally dirty-harry-sneer-minus-shooting.



krishna-agrawala's profile pic

Posted (Answer #8)

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If the school is more concerned about reputation rather the real performance in terms of maintaining proper student behavior and discipline, I do not see how a single teacher or even a small group of teacher can change the situation.

Also,the school must also share some responsibility for the  action of its students. Responsibility of school and teachers does not end with the going through the the motions of teaching, without winning reasonable amount of student interest and acceptance. It will be worthwhile for the school and teachers to do some thinking on the causes that incited students to engage in such objectionable behavior and if something can be done to eliminate such causes.

clyonslf's profile pic

Posted (Answer #9)

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I'm glad you were able to take something positive away from this experience.  I thought it was particularly insightful about understanding what it must be like for a teenager to deal with this new type of bullying.  Sometimes as adults we are so far removed from their worlds and it's good to be reminded.

Growing a thicker skin will certainly help in the future.  I think I would have spoken with this girl one-on-one to let her know just how much she hurt you.  Sometimes students need to be reminded that we are human also and have feelings.  I think in the world they now live in is very public, and they don't have a clue that most adults don't care to live their lives in full public view. 

I also think that all school districts should seriously consider creating guidelines for both teachers and students when it comes to this social networking technology.  Perhaps they should consider running a workshop day that includes the students and teachers to help both sides understand the benefits and dangers of these type of sites.  I know have also had some issues over the past few years that  haven't really been successfully addressed.

The times they are a changin'  :)

mochachik's profile pic

Posted (Answer #10)

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i completely agree with linda.bc 1st of all its a persons opinion,2nd of all its off school grounds, and everything else is self explanitory!!!!

treedreamer's profile pic

Posted (Answer #11)

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Children have parents for a reason. To love them, guide them and be their first role model. It is somewhat unreasonable to expect teachers to be a parent as well as a professional educator. Isn't the workload huge enough? And here we enter burn-out territory. All things to all people? impossible! We have families and children too. Imagine - the govt. wants a standard pay-scale as we go nationwide - how does 50 grand a year sound to everyone?

I think kids are much more influenced by outside the world of school than within it thus I don't think the school or teachers as such could be responsible for internet vilification. Apart from the lack of open dialogue and education. The school or teachers would have to be pretty bad. Actually it is the opposite in my school - quite lax and poorly followed through discipline strategies. The idea that girls can't really be that bad! If we consider a school as a microcosm of society perhaps that is why there is so much conflict. Lots of people seem angry. Aside from over-analysis, it is always natural for many teens to feel rebellious.

besure77's profile pic

Posted (Answer #12)

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There should most definitely be rules that must be followed regrading social networking sites. I do think that students and teachers alike have the right to post what they like but it should not defame the school or hurt others.

There have been students who have posted horrible things about other students and that student has been damaged so badly that they committed suicide. There needs to be serious consequences for this type of behavior.

cburnor's profile pic

Posted (Answer #13)

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Consider that many student behaviors seen as negative, wrong or purposful are actually done because the student lacks the essential skills for positive behavior - do you believe  anyone wants to fail...this is where it really doesn't matter if the parents didn't teach the skill or the teachers or whether the deficit is due to a social system flaw - the fact remains there is a missing (or many missing) skill set the must be addressed for the student to be a fully functional adult...now - do you as a teacher step up and teach the skill or blame a parent or burn-out as the reason to continue to allow a student to face failure.   Jsut my opinion, check out collaborative problem solving for more insight.

kapokkid's profile pic

Posted (Answer #14)

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It is an interesting debate, and one that comes back to a simple question about how much a school or teacher is responsible for their students and their behavior.  I agree it would be more serious if it were a threat, but as a previous poster said, if it is just someone saying negative things about a teacher, that isn't anything new and if it is something constructive, perhaps it could be used to improve something.  If it is just a student being vindictive, at least now you know something more about that student but you can talk to them if necessary.

I am just skeptical about creating rules and guidelines for everything, particularly in this case about things done by a student outside of school.  They have to be given some place in which to figure out for themslves what acceptable standards of behavior are and if they care so little about their relationship with this particular adult, then go ahead and ruin it by being vindictive and nasty.  But expecting the school to investigate and then punish the student does seem like asking a bit too much, both practically and philosophically.

herappleness's profile pic

Posted (Answer #15)

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One of the biggest things I do with my students is to have them sign a pledge for proper netiquette, and that pledge is issued by ME and by the regulations that I have stated that should be happening in my room. The moment one of them breaks that rule I have every right to remove every single chance for them to ever go near a computer in my classroom.

As for facebook, et al, I tell my students that placing their picture and information online is the same as putting it in a milk carton, a wheaties box, and a wanted ad- it becomes everyone's property. What can they do about it? Very little unless there is a lot of money for a lawyer who is willing to go all the way to the source of the bullying, which is hard to find in every case. So, it is all a matter of protection. It is sad that people do these things.

jmalloy1209's profile pic

Posted (Answer #16)

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I don't see how schools can punish students for an act they committed off the school grounds. It sounds more like a case of slander, which should be handled by the police and courts. Do we need new legislation for that? Don't existing laws already cover such abuses? Have you spoken to the police or to an attorney?

We had a case at my school in which a student went on myspace and (he thought) jokingly stated that a teacher needed to die and asked for people to help burn her. When it was brought to his attention, our prinicipal immediately notified the police, and that student was placed in an alternative school for the rest of the semester.

I agree with Linda to a certain extent. If an offence happened off of school grounds then it should be under investigation in the courts. But since this offence was based off of a school picture then it is the school administrations business to distribute punishment along with the charges filed in court.

accessteacher's profile pic

Posted (Answer #17)

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Difficult issue as we need to be careful we do not infrige free speech, but at the same time it is not fair to allow students to vilify you through mediums such as facebook. I guess one of the consequences of living in a technological age is that we now have so many forms of communication that can reach a much wider audience than before, so these cases can really spread. It will be interesting to see if there are other cases that may trigger some kind of legislation.

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