‘You are a paedo and your daughter is a whore’

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There has been a call for action after thousands of teachers reported the sometimes horrifying and often disgusting abuse that they have received from both pupils and parents via social media. Pete Henshaw reports.

“You are a paedo and your daughter is a whore” – this comment is one example of the disgusting and abusive messages being sent to thousands of teachers by pupils and parents using social media.

Research involving 7,500 teachers has discovered that more than a fifth have been harassed, abused or insulted via social media.

The majority of the abuse is from pupils (64 per cent), but parents are also responsible for almost a third of the comments posted (27 per cent). What’s more, one in 10 of the comments reported in the study were made jointly by parents and pupils.

Other examples of posts include death threats and threats of physical violence, racist and sexist abuse, as well as comments about teachers’ appearance, competence and sexuality. In one case, a bogus Facebook account was set up in a teacher’s name with the post: “I will rape every year 8 pupil who comes to the school.”

Another Facebook page was set up by a pupil who claimed he wanted to kill his teacher, while a third incident saw a teacher’s Facebook hacked and photos from their civil partnership re-posted with insulting comments.

The majority of the attacks come from secondary-aged students, with Facebook being the most regularly used forum for the abuse.

The findings came from the NASUWT’s second annual survey of teachers and were released as the union met for its annual conference in Birmingham last week.

General secretary Chris Keates, said more needed to be done to protect teachers from this kind of abuse and called for government guidance for schools to be reinstated.

Elsewhere in the survey, a quarter of teachers who had received abuse said that it involved videos or photos being posted online that had been of them taken without their consent.

Worryingly, almost 60 per cent of the teachers did not report the abuse and, of those who did, many reported difficulties in getting action to be taken, either by the school, social network websites or by the police. When teachers did report abuse, 40 per cent said no action was taken against pupils by the school, while 55 per cent said no action was taken against parents.

One teacher told researchers: “I felt it to be ‘my fault’ from the attitude of senior management. I was made to ‘make bridges’ with the pupil who abused me, with very little support. The pupil was back in my class within days, with no reason to not offend again.”

Another added: “I was so upset by the allegations and comments from kids who had seen it all on Facebook that I ended up being off work with stress, on antidepressants and having to see a counsellor.”

Where the ages of the pupils were known, 61 per cent of incidents involved students aged 14 to 16 and 35 per cent involved students aged 11 to 14. 

And while the majority of the attacks by pupils took place on Facebook (57 per cent), 33 per cent were via on Ratemyteacher, 23 per cent Twitter, and five per cent YouTube.

Ninety-seven per cent of the comments made by parents were via Facebook, with five per cent of incidents taking place via Twitter.

Ms Keates said: “It is clear that steps need to be taken to protect teachers from the abuse of social media by pupils and parents.

“Teachers are often devastated by the vile nature of the abuse they are suffering. 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. Others have been so disturbed by the comments that their health has been affected.”

The research also finds that only 73 per cent of the teachers said that their school has an internet or social media policy, with only 30 per cent of these policies making reference to protecting staff from abuse by social media.

Ms Keates criticised the coalition government for removing existing government guidance which promoted good practice for schools on how to protect staff and pupils from online abuse.

She continued: “One of the coalition government’s first acts was to remove the guidance on the grounds that it was unnecessary bureaucracy.

“Schools need policies which prevent abuse and identify sanctions which will be taken against parents and pupils who abuse staff in this way. Schools should also be supporting staff in securing the removal of the offensive material from social media sites and encouraging the staff concerned to go to the police.”

Comments or abuse from pupils included:

  • A pupil via Twitter: “You are a paedo and your daughter is a whore.”

  • On a bogus Facebook account set up using the teacher’s name: “I will rape every year 8 pupil who comes to the school.”

  • A Facebook page set up by a pupil who claimed he wanted to kill the teacher and inviting others in the class to join. 

  • A teacher’s Facebook was hacked and a photo from their civil partnership re-posted with insulting comments.

  • From a pupil: “Mr ***** is a wee wanker I hate him. He better not tell me what to do or I’ll flatten him.”

  • From a pupil: “Go back to China.”

Comments or abuse from parents included:

  • A teacher on maternity leave was told she didn’t care about the classes she’d left behind and “my son will fail now because of you”.

  • A teacher who is a non-UK citizen was called a “nasty teacher” and told to “go home”.

  • About a teacher: “She is a psycho.”


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