When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Southampton schools launch crackdown on cyber-bullies
THEY are the social networks that are part of everyday life for thousands of Hampshire children.
But for many youngsters, websites and mobile phones are creating a world where they cannot escape the torment of classroom bullies.
Now a crackdown has been launched by police and council bosses in a bid to stop the cyberbullying and harassment increasingly blighting schools.
It comes as a 13-year-old girl was suspended from a Southampton school over allegations of bullying sparked by comments she posted on Facebook.
The Year 8 pupil was excluded after making claims about another pupil on the site – in clear view of anyone who knows either of them.
The suspended girl’s mother has angrily hit out at the severe punishment, saying the school should not be involved in incidents that take place outside school.
But the pupils’ head teacher, who stepped in after taunting continued in class, has revealed that social networks are a major problem for schools, and is urging parents to do more to make their children act responsibly.
Although schools cannot punish pupils for actions at home, the head said bullying over social networks like Facebook or BBM – a free instant messaging service run through Blackberry mobile phones – can have a major impact on children in school. The head, so shocked by the Facebook incident they have passed information to the police, told the Daily Echo: “If I could get rid of them tomorrow, I would.
“If you mention Facebook or BBM to any head teacher or teacher, they will roll their eyes.
There’s a real issue.
“Because they’re saying it on Facebook it becomes more acceptable than walking up to someone in the street and saying it, but in my mind it’s exactly the same.
“The problem we will always have in school is the legal powers we have, which mean they can’t be used against something that happens in someone’s own time. But if it then comes into school and that child then gets a hard time because of something that was said on Facebook, we can act.
“We have a moral duty to our students and we challenge anything we think is inappropriate.
“Incidents of persistent and on-going bullying at our school are rare. When it does occur we investigate it rigorously and sanction appropriately – in this case an external exclusion.
Bullying is unacceptable and due to its seriousness we have contacted the police.”
The case comes as police have increasingly begun to take action against hate crimes committed on social networking sites, with high-profile prosecutions for racist abuse of the footballers Fabrice Muamba and Stan Collymore.
Southampton City Council has recently begun working with police to send PCSOs into schools to provide support and training.
So far 24 city schools have signed up to have officers attend to discuss online safety, ranging from social networking to grooming, and cyber-bullying to online gaming. The presentations also provide information for teachers and parents.
Council education chief Cllr Sarah Bogle, said: “It’s quite a new phenomenon with the rise of social media, and young people are very vulnerable.
“We work with the schools and try to support them, because they don’t just do education any more, they do lots of pastoral stuff and this is one example of that.”
Inspector Julie Fry, who leads Hampshire police’s Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Resource Group, said police will act on cyber-bullying.
She said: “You can substitute the words bullying and harassment and it’s that escalation.
Within schools it might just be words, but all the information, all the research that’s coming out in education and outside of education in our world is that words can hurt.
“We know that that continual drip feed of negativity to a young person or adult can massively affect their lives.
“If it’s frequent and the content is so horrendous and horrific that it’s insulting, then bullying can be a criminal offence.
“In the worst case, people are being physically attacked and damage caused to their homes or property. That is just not acceptable and it’s a place for the police to get involved.”