A teachers’ union is threatening legal action over the growing trend of ‘cyber-bullying’ in an effort to prevent a potential exodus of teachers from the profession.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), told Personnel Today: “ATL would consider taking a legal test case on cyber-bullying if a member would like us to do so.”
The warning follows a High Court ruling in February that UK discrimination law must be amended to impose a duty on employers to take steps within their power to stop discriminatory harassment of employees by third parties.
Two in five teachers responding to a survey conducted by the Teacher Support Network (TSN) and the ATL said their school did not have a code of conduct to address cyber-bullying – harassment from students by mobile phone, e-mail or on the internet.
The survey found that 17% of teachers had experienced cyber-bullying. One in five said they were scared to go to work as a result, and 17% admitted to taking time off following cyber-bullying.
Alison Wetherfield, head of the employment department at law firm McDermott Will & Emery UK, said: “The new law would help teachers to require their employers to take this sort of behaviour seriously.”
Secretary of state for education and skills Alan Johnson highlighted the scale of cyber-bullying at the NASUWT union conference in Belfast last week.
He told delegates: “The online harassment of teachers is causing some to consider leaving the profession because of the defamation and humiliation they are forced to suffer.”
A survey of pupil behaviour also revealed that bad behaviour was driving teachers out of the classroom, with more than half (56%) considering leaving teaching due to poor behaviour by pupils.