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Social media bullying

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by purplerose68, Aug 3, 2015.

  1. Good evening everyone and hope you are all having a good Summer break. I was until last week! Whilst enjoying my holiday a governor text me about a group of parents making comments on Facebook. Silly people have open accounts so it was very easy to see what they were saying - but very upsetting to read about the personal comments about myself. I immediately sent copies of their comments to the legal team at our LA. They are writing letters to all the parents that have made comments about the school but advising me that if I want to take legal action the I shall have to do it personally. I wondered if anyone has any experience of this - will the letter from the LA stop this silly nonsense? I know that as Heads we put ourselves out there for the good of the pupils and our staff but should we really have to put up with these hurtful and personal comments? Welcome anyone's thoughts and experiences.
  2. Ladykaza

    Ladykaza Senior commenter

    Sorry, no experience, but wanted to sympathise and off er support. What a horrible thing to happen, and spoiling your holiday too.

    We are adding some bits to our home school agreement from September in response to some unreasonable demands by parents and are including a bit about defaming the school on social media. Do you have something in your policy about this? It may not stop them but will give your governors more teeth when tackling it.

    With regards to legal action, it really has to be your decision. Personally I think I'd leave it. Try to rise above it. Legal action involves you debating with them, giving them far vmore importance than they deserve. The press may get involved and it will drag the whole thing out over months.

    Hopefully the letter from the LA will give them the fright of their lives and by September it will be long past and forgotten. But like I say, has to be your choice.

    After a tricky term myself the one thing I've learned is to fight only the fights worth fighting and, in the words of Elsa, ( try your best to ) let it go.

    I hope you manage to put this to one side and benefit from your summer break.
  3. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    Horrible for you, really horrible!

    And you are not the only person to suffer this, I know personally of at least two, no three, other Heads who have gone through it. Some Heads are bullied out of their jobs, a great loss to the profession.

    Do talk to your union about this, they should be able to offer wise words if not actual legal support for suing the parents.

    And try and enjoy the bit of summer that remains.

    Best wishes


    Meet Theo on line on the TES JobSeekers Forum, where she answers jobseeking and careers queries regularly each week.
  4. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    First of all may I sympathise with you. This is a thoroughly unpleasant thing to happen and particularly during the long summer break when schools and local authorities go into summer hibernation and it is difficult to get things done.

    Now to some practicalities...

    It is important to remember that this type of correspondence between parents has gone on for aeons, certainly long before social media allowed others to 'listen in' to the conversation. The fact that it has taken place on open facebook accounts means that you (and the governor who sensibly brought it to your attention) are privy to what has been said. Before Facebook it would have taken place on the telephone or at the school gate, if not over coffee at ont of the parents' houses.

    With this in mind, I would suggest that what has taken place amounts to a bitchfest rather than bullying. There are a group of parents who are individually or collectively disgruntled and are venting their spleens. I doubt that they ever intended you to find out what was being said.

    In my experience, many individuals (read... 'parents') are not properly aware of the accessibility of social media and treat it as if it were private.

    I assume that the parents concerned are making comments about you IN YOUR ROLE AS HEADTEACHER, rather than about you personally (i.e., sexual preference, political leanings, disabilities, etc). If so, I suspect that you may have no recourse to legal action.

    Under the new Defamation Act 2013 claimants will have to show they have suffered "serious harm" before suing, since the government planned that the law would reverse the "chilling effect" current libel laws have had on freedom of expression and legitimate debate. If faced with a defamation claim, a defendant may defend on the basis that the statement was "fair comment" - a defence that, in effect, protects the right of free expression. It means that if the statement in question is the defendant?s honestly held opinion on a matter of public interest, and if the defendant did not make the statement maliciously, then it is not actionable.

    That said, I would imagine that the letters sent by the local authority will have quite a significant effect, if only to make the parents' concerned make their Facebook accounts private, and then the conversations will continue.

    If you really feel that further action is necessary, then you could arrange for a solicitor to send the parents concerned a letter which is in effect a 'shot across the bows', hinting at further legal action if such behaviour continues. However, I suspect the solicitor will advise you that there would be no mileage in taking legal action and may even refuse to help if that is the solicitor's belief.

    Now here is something that you may wish to consider. Give it a few weeks to think about it and plan it if you agree, and for the letters from the local authority to be received. Put a morning aside to meet with these parents collectively. Arrange a coffee morning and forum for the parents to come in and voice their concerns about the school to you in person. Give them a voice that is not Facebook. Do not do this on your own, but make sure there is a governor there with you (preferably the Chair, but a sensible governor with his/her head on his/her shoulders.

    Such an action may well pull the rug out from under the feet of the parents. When called to give their concerns, they may well realise just how petty their grievances are. If, however, the grievances have some substance, you are in a position to hear about it directly and do something about it or explain why you plan to do nothing.

    I wish you well.
  5. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    [​IMG] Great wisdom, Nomad.
  6. cornflake

    cornflake Senior commenter

    Had similar experience and it was personal as well as "in my role" comments.

    Police aware - and can get stuff removed if nothing else
  7. cornflake

    cornflake Senior commenter

    Oh - and in my case letter made it worse initially! I then adopted Nomads approach and called "the ringleader" in for a chat and said I was aware they had some issues that I wanted to discuss.... ;)
  8. jago123

    jago123 Established commenter

    It's horrible and I know how you feel.

    I feel that the actions that the LA are taking are appropriate and this should eliminate the bullying. Does your school have a social media policy? If not, devise one and then publish it in the school newsletter aswell as the school website so it is clear to everyone, this will also protect it's school's reputation along with the staff and students.

    It is totally up to you if you want to take this incident further, but if you want my honest opinion, I don't think it is necessary. The LA are already taking action as it is. Having said that, if the statements contain abuse/ threats etc, you could possibly take it further in that instance, but you've got to be very careful.
  9. mickeyforpresident

    mickeyforpresident New commenter

    I had a similar issue this year. Some parents being horrid on FB. Some lovely parents let me know and even offered to let me see. I called in the ringleader and spoke with them and asked politely for them to take their posts down and to talk with me face to face instead. They took posting down, thank goodness.

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