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Saturday 23 September 2017

Pressure mounts on Facebook to set up helpline after latest teacher attack

ANOTHER teacher in a second-level school has became the target of an offensive posting on Facebook.

Now the world's largest social media website is under growing pressure to set up a hotline for principals to allow complaints to be dealt with quickly.

The latest incident involves a co-educational school in the greater Dublin area, where a past pupil posted unpleasant remarks about the teacher.

The Department of Education said it had been made aware of the issue, but said it was not getting involved.

"The issue is being dealt with by the school and the department does not get involved in disciplinary issues in individual schools," a spokesperson said.

The incident has reignited concerns about the length of time it can take to have inappropriate postings taken down.

The Dublin school experienced "significant delays" in having the material removed, according to Clive Byrne of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD).

Mr Byrne has now written to Facebook, pressing for a dedicated liaison officer whose job it is to take calls from schools and parents and to act promptly in deleting offensive posts.

A spokesperson for Facebook said advice and guidance for young people, parents and teachers was available at www.facebook.com/safety.

Facebook's policy is that content that bullies or harasses another person breaks its rules, and is quickly removed once reported.

However, school principals are frustrated that reporting a problem on a social network, such as Facebook, involves sending an email, rather than making phone contact.

And when Facebook – which receives more than 100,000 member contacts including complaints about content such as bullying and abusive material every day – is alerted, it may not agree that a posting breaches its rules.

It is the second controversy involving Facebook and an Irish school in recent weeks.

Last month, Facebook repeatedly refused to remove an offensive photograph and text casting a slur on a teacher at a Co Limerick school, stating that it did not believe it violated its standard on bullying and harassment.

Colaiste Chiarain, Croom, suspended 28 students for two days for "liking" the online posting.

Members of the Oireachtas communications committee, which recently conducted hearings on the challenges posed by the rise in social media, including cyber-bullying and online harassment, was advised of the incident involving the Dublin school last Tuesday.

Opportunities

Colaiste Chiarain principal Noel Malone said there was a need for an educational campaign for schools, students and parents around social media.

"There should be a common policy from the Department of Education. It should not be left for each school to come up with their own – it is too serious," he said.

Colaiste Chiarain is at the forefront of technological change in the classroom and he said he was conscious that there were great opportunities with social media and the internet as well.

"All of us need to be better equipped to cope with the continuing challenges," Mr Malone added.

Irish Independent

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