The fight against classroom upskirting and student violence

Written by: Simon Doyle | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Teachers in Northern Ireland are concerned over reports of student violence in the classroom and incidents of 'upskirting'

Classroom upskirting

Teachers are fighting back again the worrying trend of students “upskirting” teachers in the classroom in Northern Ireland.

It comes as the NASUWT welcomed the guilty verdict against a secondary pupil who took covert upskirt photos of two of its members at a school in Co Fermanagh.

The pupil was aged 14 and 15 at the time he captured the footage of two female teachers in 2015 and 2016. He was found guilty on all counts of committing an act of a lewd, obscene and disgusting nature and outraging public decency.

The NASUWT had pressed for the Public Prosecution Service to take action against the pupil. While welcoming the verdict, the case highlighted the inadequacy of current legal protections in Northern Ireland, the union said.

It is now calling for legislation to be enacted to create an offence of upskirting in criminal law. This would bring Northern Ireland into line with legislation in England and Scotland. The issue was raised both at its recent Northern Ireland conference and at its national conference in Belfast in April.

General secretary Chris Keates says the verdict will hopefully provide the teachers with a sense of closure and allow them to move on. She added: “It also sends out a clear message to pupils that engaging in such degrading behaviour is completely unacceptable. It sends a message to teachers that they do not have to put up with sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace.

“This case has highlighted the inadequacy of current laws around sexual harassment in Northern Ireland. Legislation has failed to keep up with the advent of mobile technology and it is clear new powers are needed to create an offence of upskirting.”

Student violence

A pupil threatened to stab a teacher in Northern Ireland in their pregnant belly, a conference has heard during a debate about violence in the classroom.

The Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU) revealed it is to work with police in a concerted bid to combat “horrifying” levels of violence in the classroom.

The UTU annual conference in Newcastle also heard calls for criminalisation of online abuse of teachers.

A report by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions found one in five education workers were physically abused once a week. UTU deputy general secretary Jacquie White says there are “obscene levels of violence which teachers encounter daily”.

“It must stop before there is a real tragedy,” she added. “Everyone coming to the gates of any school should be aware that violence against staff will not be tolerated and where it arises, the police will be involved – even if this means a sign like those in GPs’ surgeries, pharmacies, and Post Offices, for instance.”

One teacher, she says, was told by a pupil that he would “stab her pregnant belly” because he did not want to do literacy. In another incident a senior teacher of 30 years’ experience was pinned to a wall.

“These are the realities behind the headlines when the public sees teachers asking for help and highlighting their growing fears about violence in the classroom,” Ms White continued.

\“Teachers feel they are being increasingly scape-goated and isolated. They are expected to embrace the well intentioned ‘inclusion’ policy of educating all children together ... yet they’re not being given the funding or training to support this.”


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