The wide use of social media has inevitably led to an increase in cyberbullying. A Government report suggested that 21% of teachers have been victims of online bullying, with perpetrators being both pupils and parents.
It is really important to ensure that appropriate training and policies are in place. Policies could be for parents, students and staff. The staff policy may include procedures for reporting incidents, as well as naming a designated member of staff who is trained to deal with cases of cyberbullying.
The policy should make it absolutely clear that cyberbullying will lead to punishment. For students, this would follow the relevant disciplinary policy. For parents, the formal options are limited. Hopefully informal options should work but in extreme cases it may be necessary to consider banning a parent from the school site or (if violence is threatened) reporting the matter to the police.
In extreme cases, the school may wish to apply for an injunction or consider defamation proceedings.
Each case must be looked at on its own merits but we suggest the following:
Encourage teachers to report incidents to the relevant member of staff at the school as soon as possible.
Follow the steps set out in the school’s social media policy. Ensure that the report is dealt with quickly and objectively. Keep records of what steps were taken and why, including any communication with the perpetrator.
Keep any offensive texts, emails, messages and screen shots, including the date and time. This evidence will form the basis of any disciplinary action or police referral.
For more information please contact a member of our Education team.