TikTok teacher abuse in Norfolk criticized by union leaders

Published:
06.30 on 16 November 2021



A tendency for students to use TikTok to mock and harass their teachers has been tossed as “a kick in the teeth” for the region’s hard-working teachers.

National reports of young people taking to the video-based social media platform and posting “shameful abuses” have prompted government reports following reports from a school leaders’ association.

And union leaders locally have cracked down hard on practice, with a handful of reports in Norfolk, including a teacher accused of being a pedophile.

Scott Lyons, district secretary for the National Education Union’s Norfolk branch, said he had received reports from members deeply hurt by what they had seen.


Scott Lyons.  Photo: DENISE BRADLEY

Scott Lyons. Photo: DENISE BRADLEY
– Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Lyons said: “It’s really a growing concern. It’s generally happening in colleges and has apparently been going on for a while.

“A member who contacted me had seen a video that contained accusations that they were pedophiles, and that kind of thing obviously has a huge impact.

“It really feels like a kick in the teeth after all the hard work teachers have done during the pandemic, to keep students connected to their school community.”

The trend has taken a number of different forms, with videos often including images downloaded through school websites and manipulated using add-ons like the Face App.

While some seem playful, including that teachers “sing along” to various songs, others assume more sinister forms.

There were also reports during lockdown of recordings taken of virtual lessons and reused for TikTok videos, posted on accounts hidden behind pseudonyms.

And it is anonymity that makes them particularly problematic for schools.

Sir. Lyons added: “The schools I’ve talked to about it have been incredibly supportive, but an equally big problem is that accounts are often anonymised. Not knowing where they are and where they come from does things just as well. difficult for school.

“Schools need to be very prepared to support their teachers through this, and the sanctions given to those in charge need to reflect that – but they are incredibly difficult to track.”

Ina Coubrough, Assistant Principal for Behavior, Participation and Protection at Hellesdon High School, said: “We teach all our students about online safety and how to behave online. Our school also has a long-standing mobile phone ban, which further supports online safety and help young people manage their social media consumption.

“Like many other schools, we monitor and report all inappropriate videos, but we need to see a faster response from TikTok when it comes to removing offensive content. We’re excited to see the Department of Education take steps to encourage this. . ”

The issue has been highlighted nationally by Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and a former Suffolk leader.


Geoff Barton, Secretary General of the ASCL Rectors' Association.

Geoff Barton, Secretary General of the ASCL Rectors’ Association.
– Credit: Archant

He said: “Over the last few weeks, school staff have been subjected to shameful abuse through messages and pictures posted on the social media platform TikTok.

“We do not know how widespread this is, but we have received over 50 reviews and we suspect there are many more.

“These posts are often defamatory and offensive, and some are homophobic.

“The material is extremely worrying for the targeted staff, and young people who post it are involved in behaviors that could lead to them being expelled from school and, in extreme cases, being the subject of a police investigation.”

A government spokeswoman told the Press Association that it “is working with TikTok on the steps they are taking to address this issue involving teachers”.

She added: “We are aware that social media companies need to take action against harmful content on their platforms and we are introducing laws that will usher in a new era of accountability for these social media companies.”


TikTok, the social media app, on an iPhone.  Photo: Sarah Ravencroft

TikTok, the social media app, on an iPhone. Photo: Sarah Ravencroft
– Credit: Sarah Ravencroft

A spokeswoman for TikTok said: “At TikTok, we take all reports of hate speech or bullying and harassment extremely seriously.

“Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not tolerate content that contains bullying or harassment, statements directed at an individual or hate speech or behavior, and we remove content that violates these guidelines.”

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