REUTERS | Fabrizio Bensch

Internet abuse: schools hotline FAQs

Practical Law Public Sector addresses the questions that schools may ask local authorities regarding day-to-day school management and sets out the legal issues to consider when responding:

This FAQ looks at what a school can do when a pupil has written lies about one of its teachers on a social networking site. For details of all our school hotline queries, please see Practice note, Schools hotline FAQs.

Q: One of our teachers has seen some disgusting lies written about him on a social networking site. They appear to have been written by one of the pupils in the school but it is unclear which one. What should the school do?

A: The teacher is likely to have been defamed and the school should alert the internet site moderator and request that it removes the offending content (see Practice note, Defamation on the internet). The school has a duty of care to the teacher as his employer, so it should do what it can to ensure that the children understand the seriousness of such abusive behaviour and the action that could be taken if the identity of the pupil responsible is discovered.

If the perpetrator could be identified, the school could take disciplinary action against the pupil (including exclusion even though the action took place outside school), provided that there is a clear link between that behaviour and maintaining good behaviour and discipline among the pupil body as a whole (see Practice note, Pupil exclusion and discipline).

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