Last Updated on 9th November 2021

INEQE Safeguarding Group have been alerted to a number of incidents concerning the online targeting of teachers and school professionals by students. Pupils have been creating online posts that ridicule, harass, or otherwise bully staff on social media sites, such as TikTok and Instagram. 

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The nature of these posts includes photographs of staff taken by students using their mobile phones or harvested from the personal social media profiles of staff.  Some include defamatory comments and serious allegations about the staff membersothers include videos that mock or criticise themand some expose personal information.   

It is worthy of note that posts in some cases reflect online sexual harassment, through the usage of sexualised commentary and inappropriate/illegal photography, such as ‘upskirting’ photos.

These posts may be generated by students as a form of a prank or joke, but the impact on the teachers and school staff who are victimised and the consequences for the student can be serious.  The victims may well suffer high levels of stress and anxiety leading to long term mental health issues. The potential harm to the students themselves cannot be understated; posts that contain criminal content could result in legal action against the offending user and or negatively impact on their education due to disciplinary action including suspensions and exclusions 

If you’re a professional and are experiencing harassment and bullying online:

If you’re a professional and are experiencing harassment and bullying online:

  • Don’t respond to any online bullying. Instead, take screen shots as evidence, making sure to include usernames.   
  • Speak to your line manager as soon as possible and report the incidents to the platform.
  • Check the existing school behavioural policies to establish next steps. Ask for further support from your school or contact the Professionals Online Safety Helpline 

You should consider reporting to police when:

  • Cases involve aggravating factors, including threats, hate crimes, allegations of abuse or sexualised harassment and upskirting* 

  • The harassment is impacting your wellbeing, reputation or working relationships.
  • The abuse is persistent, anonymous and is not being removed by the platform.

*Please note upskirting is set to become a criminal offence in Northern Ireland in the near future.

Whether or not members of staff have been victimised by online bullying, we strongly encourage all schools to take action through the following measures:

  • Ensure teachers and school staff have stringent privacy settings on social media sites and are checking these settings regularly.
  • Check that school policies have clear and effective procedures for dealing with such incidents, including the use of camera phones to take photos of teachers inside the classroom and school property. 

  • Make staff aware of the process they should follow if they become a victim of bullying by students and how to access support.   

  • Clarify expectations on student behaviour and conduct at school as it relates to students, teachers, images and the use of mobile phones at school. 
  • Deliver appropriate use of social media training to students and school staff.  This should incorporate credible case studies that demonstrate what can happen when things go wrong. 

Learn how to block, report and enable your privacy settings on social media platforms using our Online Safety Centre.  

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