According to a study conducted by Plymouth University, teachers in the UK are increasingly becoming the target of cyber bullying at the hands of students and parents. Andy Phippen, who authored the study, questioned nearly 400 teachers earlier this year about their experiences with cyber bullying. He discovered that 35 percent of the teachers in his sample said that they or a colleague had been the victim of cyber bullying perpetrated by students or their parents.
In an interview, Phippen stated, “Everyone acknowledges this is a problem and something needs to be done about it, but schools lack support. It is a sticky area as some of the things posted may not be considered illegal.” Furthermore, British schools have not shown much support for teachers who have been targeted. “I heard of one case where a teacher told his employers about the bullying and not only did they tell other members to staff to ignore this teacher, they also suspended him. Their reasoning was ‘there is no smoke without fire’.”
The study’s participants reported incidents of cyber bullying ranging from Facebook postings to abusive Tweets. Phippen was particularly disturbed to discover that 26 percent of the bullying was actually committed by parents. One educator who participated in the study had what she called a “mini breakdown” after a year-long campaign of abuse by a parent. “The parental statistics were particularly surprising,” said Phippen. “Schools are definitely playing down the severity of the issue, whether it’s because they just don’t realize, or because they don’t know how to deal with it.”
Phippen wants to change that and thinks Britain needs a nationwide support network to address the problem. Although I am not aware of any similar study in the US, it’s (unfortunately) a safe bet that it’s happening here. In recent years American courts have heard several cases in which students were suing over punishments meted out by schools for mocking or insulting posts made outside of school.