What happens when your cyberbullies are parents?

by Brett Henebery01 Feb 2017

One school’s online cyberbullying workshops have led to a massive drop in parent-teacher tensions at a time when reports show they are rising.

Yesterday, it was revealed that violent attacks against NSW teachers had spiked over the last four years, with many staff being left with concussions, open wounds and fractures.

The data, obtained under freedom of information laws, showed that in 2015 alone, 168 public school teachers were violently attacked.

St Clair High School principal, Chris Presland, told The Educator that when it comes to dealing with violent behaviour, principals are on the frontline, so it’s important that they take proactive steps to strengthen relationships with parents.

“There is a trend of parental abuse against principals and teachers. However, it’s important to emphasise that this is a societal issue and not a school issue.

That said, schools are obviously caught up in this and need to be prepared,” he said.

“On the up-side, the reality is that most principals and parents work closely together and have respectful relationships. At my school, for example, the parents are fantastic and are very supportive,” he said.

Presland said that despite recent headlines about the level of violence against NSW teachers, it’s only a very small percentage of parents who act out violently against school staff.

“Reports in the media have used the term ‘violence’, but the most common incidents have been threatening behaviour by parents who use social media to target principals and teachers,” he said.

Presland said that for the last two years his school has run anti-cyberbullying workshops for both students and parents, which has decreased the number of incidents.

“We’ve had workshops for parents around how to monitor and supervise their child’s online activity, but also discussing their own online behaviour,” he explained.

“During the workshops, parents go through scenario-based situations with staff and learn about good digital citizenship. Since these workshops there has definitely been a decline in the number of cyberbullying incidents.”

Presland said that as a result of his school maintaining a strong culture around digital citizenship and respectful behaviour, students are now much more proactive about reporting online abuse.

“We take digital citizenship and respectful behaviour very seriously, so students know exactly what’s expected of them and of others,” he said.

“They’re like little police. They have a great sense of justice and injustice and will let staff know immediately if they see anything happening that might have a negative impact on the culture we’ve built here.”
 
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