Cyberbullying – Embedding anti-bullying work in schools

The opening paragraph of the new government advice document states that “… it is vital that schools understand the issue, know how to prevent and respond to incidents, and are updated on the legal issues surrounding this challenging subject”.

Understanding the issue is the relatively easy part. Knowing how to prevent and respond to incidents cuts to the very core of the problem. Much of the advice is excellent. Sites like RateMyTeacher can be used to cyberbully or intimidate staff; however the crux of the matter is the legal powers a school has to intervene in activities that are most frequently managed and executed from outside of school.

Head teachers have the power “… to such extent as is reasonable” to regulate the conduct of pupils when they are off-site or not under the control or charge of a member of staff. More realistically, the Education Inspections Act 2006 provides a defence for a school to confiscate items from a child, and the school discipline and pupil behaviours policy guidance allows staff to ask to reveal a message or show them content on a device. If a child refuses of course, then they can only be disciplined for the failure to follow a reasonable instruction, and not for the act that is suspected. the latter (as it is a more serious issues) is likely to be the reaction.

Whilst the guidance is very helpful, it does highlight the difficulties schools face on a daily basis with a confusion of rules, policies, laws and guidance are on this and other issues.

I do like some of the practical advice … “treat your passwords like you would your toothbrush, don’t share …”

There is a really useful Acceptable Use Policy included as an appendix to the document. The only issue I would challenge is that Internet access is a privilege not a right … Mmmm, I think virtual exclusions may be subject to challenge, especially if it disadvantages a child.

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