Cyberbullying of Teachers by Students - Coming to a School Near You?

Cyberbullying of teachers by their students may be the next frontier in the fight against bullying in schools. Physical attacks against teachers are thankfully rare, but due to the anonymity and reach of social media, students who may have never thought of raising their hand to a teacher, may now be raising their voices in the form of harassing texts, tweets and posts.

Kids will say almost anything on line. Emboldened by a sense of security, distance, and lack of immediate feed back from their victims, there is an increasing number of reports of students lashing out at teachers and other school administrators via online tweets, texts, and posts. Recent articles from Ireland and the UK suggest that the US is not alone in this issue, and we may be behind - but that it not a good place to be, because it means the situation may get much worse before it gets better.

In the two articles cited below, teachers raise concerns about being threatened and harassed online and their feelings that not enough is being done by school administration in response.

Ireland: Teachers in cyber-bullying protest after abuse by pupils

UK: Teachers report widespread cyberbullying by pupils and parents

The UK article is extremely detailed, and is based on a soon-to-be-released study by the UK teaching union.

Here is a key excerpt from the story: "Of those who took part in the survey, more than two-fifths (42%) said they had been a victim of cyberbullying. Of these, 61.2% said they had been subjected to a pupil writing an insulting comment about them on a social network or internet site, 38.1% said a student had made comments about their competence or performance as a teacher, and 9.1% said they had faced allegations that they behaved inappropriately with pupils."

Students lashing out at their teachers is probably as old as teaching itself. Aristotle and Socrates probably had student detractors, but what is different today is the immediacy and widespread distribution of the material. What was etched on the boys restroom wall was only seen by those frequenting that restroom and stall. Having a teacher singled out in a scathing tweet by a highly followed student is a completely different story. Its hard to forward a restroom wall - its easily to forward a tweet.

The UK article above also suggest that parents are engaging in "cyberbullying" of teachers. US school administrators were quick to learn that parents are quick to voice their opinions on Facebook® when a a school posting does not meet with an individual parent's favor. Outright cyberbullying of teachers by parents may soon be next. As schools across the US began offering Facebook pages as another way to keep parents and community members informed and engaged, many were not prepared for dealing with the comments from parents and others who could quickly and easily post their "2 cents" and have that comment immediately seen by anyone following the school on Facebook.

This is an interesting situation, one that we plan on continuing to follow here at the CyberBully Hotline.