The West

Students at an Albany high school have been warned they could be putting their future careers at risk after using social networking site Facebook to make damaging comments about both the school and its teachers.

Two groups named after North Albany Senior High School, one with 286 members and the second with 134 members, have written comments which name specific teachers and make violent threats.

One comment says: “If we get over two million people saying they hate … all staff and workers involved should be massacred by chainsaws and the school should be shut down…”

Five people gave the comment their approval.

The second group goes further, making defamatory comments in relation to teachers at the school.

North Albany Senior High School Principal Sharon Doohan said the school was aware of the risks posed by social networking sites such as Facebook.

“We are working to provide staff and teachers with guidance in relation to the appropriate use of social networking media,” she said.

“Most social networking activity occurs outside school hours and away from the school grounds, which makes it difficult for the school to deal with the issues raised.

“We would urge parents to be aware of their children’s internet and mobile phone usage and remain vigilant about the potential for misuse.”

Julian Dooley, a cyber-bullying researcher at Edith Cowan University’s Child Health Promotion Research Centre, said posting information online could have a potentially damaging impact on students’ careers.

“In the US 40-45 per cent of employers are ‘Googling’ people going for jobs,” he said.

Mr Dooley said making unsavoury comments about teachers had a significant impact on the teacher and if proven false could lead to defamation lawsuits.

“When those allegations are proven false there is still a negative connotation placed around that teacher,” he said.

Mr Dooley said bullying behaviour towards teachers was not new.

But he said students did not understand the fact that that any information posted on the internet was not private.
“Slandering teachers is not new,” Mr Dooley said. “Kids have been doing that sort of stuff for years.

“It has nothing to do with teaching. They take it quite personally.

“When you actively put something online it can be traced back to you and very easily.

“There are issues around defamation. Once it’s there, it’s there forever. The audience is limitless.”

This morning Education Minister Liz Constable said the students who posted the defamatory comments should be punished.

Dr Constable told ABC radio she was appalled by the behaviour and if the school could identify those involved they should be punished.

"I think it's appalling behaviour and one which we are working very hard in our schools, and particularly North Albany, to ensure this behaviour is minimised and even stamped out," she said.

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