Tuesday, January 18, 2011

News: Abuses of Facebook by Students Towards Their Teachers and School

Many teachers would have a Facebook account to stay in touch with family and friends.

Some Facebooks are created for the sole purpose of interacting with students and for ELT purposes.

These would be the positive aspects of using Facebook.

However, there are times that this wonderful innovation is abused by students who are out to put down teachers, administrators and the school. What should an educator do then?

Already such abuses have been reported in the Malaysian media.

Below is an article about the negative experiences that actually occured in a Middle East country.

Rodney Tan


The writing on the wall

For disgruntled students, Facebook has become a forum for expressing their frustrations with teachers - but many argue the insults go too far.

By Dafna Arad

These days, it isn't only classmates attacking each other on the Facebook social networking site. Schoolchildren have also discovered that juicy virtual lemonade can be squeezed out of any sourpuss teacher. The increasing levels of disrespect and violent behavior seen in classrooms are now reinforced via targeted attacks on Facebook.

Even if the vitriol expressed on the site doesn't warrant a panic attack, it's impossible to look the other way given the extent of the phenomenon.

"Apparently one of the students filmed me during the course of a lesson and uploaded it on Facebook. I felt humiliated," relates a junior high school teacher form the center of the country.

Teachers who find out about these hurtful Web pages generally choose one of two reactions.

The standard, educational course involves a reprimand, a meeting with parents and the suspension of any students involved.

The more extreme response: contacting the police and filing a suit. The Education Ministry has not yet formulated procedures for addressing the problem.

Dr. Carmel Weissman of the SMART Family Foundation Communications Institute, who specializes in the connection between media and culture and wrote her doctorate on the blogs of teenage girls, explains that the repercussions of such behavior do not end in the school.

"When speech becomes written publication, it comes under the law prohibiting slander, but go try to apply the law to blogs, online comments or Facebook pages," she says. "The legal reality will have to deal differently with the implications of an [online social] network, and we will also have to get used to speech no longer being temporary or evanescent."

Just before the start of the current school year, veteran Nes Tziona high school teacher Merav Amdursky discovered that her students had opened a Facebook group called "Merav Amdursky - Wait for June 20."

The page included harsh posts put up by her students - posts containing death threats and virulent language.

The agitated teacher first contacted the police and subsequently decided to sue 10 of her students for slander, for the sum of NIS 30,000 each.

"We are living in a very violent society. As part of my educational work and as part of my civic [duties] I contacted the police, because I too am afraid," Amdursky said worriedly during an interview with Channel 2 News, explaining why she had taken such stringent steps. "There have already been cases abroad in which children have gone into their school and sprayed students and teachers with submachine guns."

The specific Facebook page in question has of course been deleted, but research conducted for this article revealed that there are still traces of activity against Amdursky on the website.

The recipe: Acetone + a lighter

For administrators, who try to quell discipline problems and maintain a positive environment for students, the school's image is one of their top priorities. But the battle to improve the image of a school has its limits.

Teachers say they refrain from joining Facebook, despite their curiosity, because they are not interested in revealing their private lives to the plethora of students on the site.

However, this reluctance also keeps them in the dark in terms of exposure to the extensive and unhindered activity conducted against them.

As of last week, 120 students were members of the group "I also Think it's Necessary to Burn Sha'ar Hanegev School!!!" One recommended the following recipe: "Acetone + a lighter + school = No school!!!"

The principal of Sha'ar Hanegev High School, Aharon Rothstein, was surprised to hear that such abusive activity was still going on.

"This is at least the third time I've encountered an invective page on Facebook directed against the school or related parties," he said. "On the previous occasions, the things said were even harsher and more targeted, but were done on a smaller level. As a means of punishment we brought in the police, we called in the students' parents and at a certain point we halted studies."

'Like' as therapy

There are many examples on Facebook of active, public groups one can join, where members can add fuel to the fire by uploading pictures and videos or writing cruel comments and curse words. For members of a group that bashes one high school gym teacher, the Facebook "Like" feature serves as therapy.

"Aren't you fed up with her yelling at you for no reason?! Insulting you?! I'm fed up with her fitness and her butt-face... It's time to resist and join the group," wrote one girl. "I feel like making her run around the school until she dies, the carcass."

Another group called "If we Reach 1,000 People, the Gym Teacher Buys Normal Clothes!!!" has 630 members. Endless discussions about a certain teacher's clothing take place on this page. For example: "He is improving, he has started coordinating colors," wrote one girl.

"His ugly clothes are simply in the laundry, so this week he came dressed alright," another commented.

"He improved after he saw that, compared to the number of Facebook friends he has, four times as many people want him to change his outfits," another student posted.

'May the school burn down, amen'

It is not only students in the public school system who go home in the afternoon to the bosom of Facebook. Many students in the religious sector, too, have found the site to be an effective forum on which to express their dissatisfaction with the academics and authority figures at school - in this case, the rabbis.

In a group opened under the name of a religious school in Ashdod, members wrote a collection of comments like "May the [school] shut down," and "What do you mean, shut down? May it burn down. Amen!"

"May the son of a bitch principal be burned and die," another student wrote.

"Hahaha .. He is seeing this now, you jerk," one friend replied, but the first boy does not let up: "Let him see it, the son of a bitch."

On the Facebook "Wall" of another group created by students at a religious elementary school, members list reasons why the teacher should be thrown in jail.

"A ) He abuses us. B ) He steals watches. C ) He hits children. D ) He was born," one student posted.

Another student invites his classmates to come to Room 2B and sign a petition for the teacher's dismissal.

For the profile picture of the group, which has 69 members, the children chose the image of a small red devil.

Lecturers at Israeli institutions of higher education are also at the mercy of embittered students, who just like the elementary schoolchildren have opened disparaging pages.

A lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, for example, found out one day that she was a member of Facebook.

Because she had never signed up to join the social network herself, she looked into the situation and found a profile in her name that depicted her in an unflattering way.

A moment after making the chilling realization that her identity had been stolen, she discovered a Facebook group called "The Association for the Cancellation of Typography," where she found extensive correspondence between some of her students after they had received their course grades.

Harsh words against the lecturer were published on the page, with curses and particularly creative images, as one might expect from design students.

The students who had posted insults were called before the school's disciplinary committee and punished in accordance with their contributions to the page. Three students were suspended for a semester; other students were suspended for four weeks. The less active members of the group received various punishments or warnings.

Source: http://www.haaretz.com/culture/arts-leisure/the-writing-on-the-wall-1.337642

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