Some teachers are leaving the profession after being labeled as pedophiles on TikTok, a union says.
A craze for the social media app has seen kids sharing staff videos with inappropriate hashtags and comments, and sometimes superimposing their faces on pornography.
A Swansea Valley school said it called the police after staff were secretly filmed and tagged as #paedo on the app.
TikTok said it has no room for hateful behavior, bullying and harassment.
Gemma Morgan, assistant principal of Cwmtawe Community School, Pontardawe, said a fake school TikTok account was created.
It contained edited videos of virtual parenting evenings and lessons, as well as secret footage of the staff that had been uploaded and retouched.
“They had edited them, put hashtags on them, created memes … there were several hashtags with ‘pedo’,” he said.
“Some of the staff were discreetly filmed in the classrooms.”
He said there were “extremely derogatory comments” and “very bad language”.
“In all fairness, things that were of great concern and we have engaged with the local police.”
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The situation had been “very upsetting” for the staff, he said.
“Especially for the families of these staff members … it’s a big, huge concern.”
Helen Jones, principal of Bridgend’s Maesteg Comprehensive School, said her teachers’ videos were used to create memes, some of which were “relatively innocent.”
“But where they were unpleasant it was pretty cruel and it’s easy to be cruel when the account holder is anonymous,” he said.
He said a meme’s “implication and nuance” suggested that the teacher in question was a pedophile.
“This kind of thing is causing great upset and distress,” he said.
He said everyone had been exhausted by the pandemic and that the absence of both staff and pupils was “at an all-time high”.
Neither school excluded students but focused on educating pupils and parents.
A number of councils and some Welsh police have written to parents to inform them of the craze and ask them to discuss the appropriate use of social media with their children.
“I don’t think they realize the consequences of their actions, they are still children in the end,” said Ms. Jones.
Ellis Lloyd Jones, is a TikTok content creator with over 190,000 followers.
23-year-old from Treorchy to Rhondda Cynon Taf has discouraged schoolchildren from taking part in the craze.
“As a kid, you might think the teacher won’t care and won’t see it, but that will likely affect them behind closed doors … it could really affect them,” he said.
“They’re just keyboard warriors, people think ‘I’m behind a screen, I can say whatever I want’.”
He doesn’t think media interest around the craze will harm TokTok: “The more controversy comes, the more people talk about it, the more popular it will become,” he said.
Neil Butler, NASUWT national official for Wales, said the craze is having a “huge negative impact on teacher wellbeing in schools across the UK”.
“We have examples of teachers getting sick, under stress, we have examples of teachers leaving the profession, which of course is the biggest concern – we can’t afford to lose experienced teachers from the classroom,” he said.
“It’s really the last straw – it was bad enough what they faced during the pandemic… and now [they’re] having to face this “.
He said he saw a post encouraging pupils to beat up a teacher.
“We will make sure that the full force of the law is exercised, if the law is violated, because we have to protect our members,” he said.
“Shabby and sorry business”
Eithne Hughes, director of Cymru at ASCL, said she also saw examples of racial slurs and teachers accused of having affairs.
“It’s just awful bad terrible stuff,” he said.
“Teachers look back … it was a very bleak and sorry business.
“It’s cruel and useless and the profession shouldn’t put up with it frankly.”
He said complaints to TikTok were met in two ways: “No response or that it doesn’t violate TikTok’s protocols, which is extraordinary.”
He said after the talks with the company they still needed to do more: “We don’t need nice words, we actually need some action,” he said.
Ms. Morgan said TikTok took “a long time” to remove the videos.
Ms. Jones said she received “a rather quick response” from TikTok, adding that she provided useful general advice to the school’s head of media marketing.
“I am well aware of the lack of speed reported by other schools,” he added.
A spokesperson for TikTok said: “We are very clear that hateful behavior, bullying and harassment has no place on TikTok.
“We apologize for the inconvenience caused to some teachers due to offensive content posted on our platform.”
He said the company implemented additional technical measures and guidelines and continued to “proactively detect and remove hacked content and accounts.”
He said the partner has partnered with the Professional Online Safety Helpline (POSH) to provide teachers with an additional way to report content and has written to all UK schools to ensure all staff have access to the resources they have. need.
Butler said a letter was sent by his union’s general secretary to the education minister of each nation in the UK and called for intervention from the Welsh government.
“I don’t think any government is doing enough on this,” he said.
“The Welsh government has total control of education in Wales, it is becoming an extremely serious problem, so we would now like to see a stronger response from them to this problem.”
The Welsh government said: “It is completely unacceptable for teachers to be targeted with abuse on social media.”
He said he asked TikTok to immediately remove any instances of inappropriate or offensive content and advise affected personnel to report any instances directly to TikTok and contact POSH.
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