A Scottish teaching union has threatened to sue parents who carry out “sustained attacks” on staff via social media.
The Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) has asked every local authority to report possible cases of defamation after several senior staff said they had been subject to prolonged abuse by parents on Facebook, Twitter and other sites.
General secretary Greg Dempster said parents must raise concerns through official channels rather than resorting to such vilification in the mistaken belief that they were immune from legal action.
He said: “We took this step because local authorities seemed to have very clear policies about what teachers shouldn’t do online but very little about what would be done to tackle the targeting of headteachers or other school staff through social media.
“We are concerned about the increase in the use of technology to make inappropriate and sustained attacks against education professionals.”
The AHDS, which comprises about 1,500 of Scotland’s school leaders, said online harassment had become an increasing problem over the last two years. Some parents who attacked senior staff online cited perceived failings in both a personal and professional capacity, Mr Dempster said, although he could not comment on specific cases because of ongoing hearings.
“Social media has moved forward very quickly in recent years and a very small minority of parents seem to believe that it is not subject to defamation laws. Two years ago there was a trickle of incidents like this but it is significantly increasing. The issue is important to raise so that parents and others are aware their words carry strength and any grievances should be brought up through the complaints procedures that are in place.”
If that failed, they should raise the matter with the teacher’s immediate superiors and if that was still not satisfactory then they should tell the council.
The EIS, the country’s biggest teaching union, has said up to 60 teachers each year have “derogatory material” about them posted online by their own pupils.