If you are a member of a Facebook group, you’ve no doubt seen posts critical of well-known people or businesses. Perhaps you’ve been a part of them yourselves. Making the business sit up and take notice, be accountable.
Many of them are spot on – the business deserved it and needed a good boot up the bottom but others, many others, are just plain old nasty, vicious and even slanderous.
But it seems that such posts and social media gripes aren’t just reserved for businesses but are more and more being used to denigrate those people with whom we entrust our children – our teachers.
There are reports that one Melbourne school has been forced to take legal action sending warnings to parents who have attacked teachers on social media asking them to stop.
Cyber safety expert Susan McLean told The Herald Sun that an unnamed primary school she advises has taken legal action asking parents to stop online comments about teachers and remove certain posts on Facebook.
It’s causing some schools to re-think their social media policies and extend them to include parents.
“They were talking about the quality of teaching, defaming people, using obscene language,” she said.
“We are seeing more and more of totally inappropriate, disrespectful behaviour online. People think it’s harmless fun but it can ruin a teacher’s life, and what kind of message is it sending to their children?”
It’s causing some schools to re-think their social media policies and extend them to include parents.Image via iStock.
A study released last year found that school principals in NSW were five times more likely to be threatened than the general population.
In an age when one of the greatest worries for parents is cyber-bullying, it’s a disturbing way of role-modelling the very thing most parents want to stamp out.
Sadly it's not new - since 2006 a website named Rate My Teacher has been in operation where students and parents can pop online and instantly slander a teacher in a matter of seconds.
There comments ranging from the innocuous “She wears really great shoes” and “He gave out too much work" to the downright career-ending “He kinda always creeped me out... I never quite felt comfortable around him.”
The Herald Sun reports that unfortunately it's getting worse, with parents setting up Facebook sites in a school’s name for the purposes of slandering teachers. An online burn book allows gangs of parent bullies to bicker about what they perceive teachers are doing wrong by their child.
School principals in NSW were five times more likely to be threatened than the general population. Image via iStock.
However, parent bullies who do take to social media to stir up trouble need only to look at cases like that of Christine Mickle to know that the law is not on their side.
In 2014, a 20-year-old NSW man named Andrew Farley was ordered to pay $105,000 compensation after a court found he had defamed a former teacher on social media in 2012.
Christine Mickle had filled a position teaching music at Orange High School. Mr Farley had made comments on both Facebook and Twitter that he said were between friends and "never meant for public broadcast".
But a court ruled that the comments had a "devastating effect" on the popular teacher, who immediately took sick leave.
Fairfax Media reported at the time that the judge said it is common knowledge that comments on social media spread.
"They are spread easily by the simple manipulation of mobile phones and computers. Their evil lies in the grapevine effect that stems from the use of this type of communication."
Truthfully nine out of 10 teachers I’ve met leave me awestruck.Image via iStock.
Schools being forced to take legal action to reign in parent bullies is just the latest installment in the age of the entitlement, but this time not the entitled child – the entitled parent.
Perhaps I’m just a people-pleaser but I’ve always been under the impression that you want your child’s teacher to like you - after all, each day you entrust them with your most precious thing.
In my short span of four years as a school mum, I’ve met all sorts of teachers – from those whose lack of interest in the job radiates from them to those whose presence you wish you could never leave. Yet no matter what I thought of them, what was overwhelmingly important was what my children thought of them.
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Truthfully, nine out of 10 teachers I’ve met leave me awestruck.
When I often struggle to get three children to do what they are told the idea that one person can control a classroom of 30 children leaves me speechless – and not just control them but mold them and guide them.
Our teachers are the best back up we parents have in striving to bring up decent human beings, human beings who can respect each other, be tolerant and fair and human begins who stand up to bullies rather than become one.
If we ever want to control cyber-bullying we need to ensure we practise what we preach and remember that by denigrating our teachers - either in public or online - we do not just our children but ourselves a great disservice.
Featured Images: iStock