Staff in schools may become targets of cyber abuse/ bullying and, like other forms of bullying; it can have a significant impact on their health and self-confidence.
Protecting staff from abuse is best done within a prevention framework, including whole school policies and appropriate practices.
Cyber abuse/ bullying may consist of threats, harassment, embarrassment, humiliation, defamation or impersonation. It may take the form of general insults, or prejudice based abuse, e.g. homophobic, sexist, and racist or other forms of discrimination. It may involve email, virtual learning environments, chat rooms, websites, social networking sites, mobile and fixed-point phones, digital cameras, games and virtual world sites.
Abuse using cyber technology can occur at any time and incidents can intrude into the victim’s private life. The audience for such messages can be very large and can be reached rapidly.
The content of electronically forwarded messages is hard to control and the worry of content resurfacing can make it difficult for the victim to move on.
St Mary’s governors endorse the decision of the school to operate a zero tolerance policy towards direct or indirect harassment or assault against any member of staff, volunteers or governors. This includes the use of social media and other forms of electronic communication to facilitate the act. While there is not a specific, criminal offence called cyberbullying; activities can be criminal offences under a range of different laws, including:
- The Protection from Harassment Act 1997
- The Malicious Communications Act 1998
- Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003
- Public Order Act 1986
- The Defamation Acts 1952 and 1996
It is the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees. Incidents that are related to employment, even those taking place outside the hours or place of work may fall under the responsibility of the employer.
School behaviour policies and procedures should explicitly refer to and outline how the school will deal with cyber abuse/ bullying of both staff and pupils. They should include:
- Rules on the use of equipment, software and network access provided by the school.
- The use of staff and pupil owned equipment and internet access routes, where they are used on school premises and within school hours, e.g. mobile phones, digital cameras and laptops.
- Acceptable behaviour, including behaviour outside school, e.g. use of social networking services and other sites, with regard to harming others and bringing the school into disrepute.