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Society Disgusted by Website Attacks on Teachers

The Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc.

Press Release 19 July 2006

Society Disgusted by Website Attacks on Teachers

The Society is disgusted that many New Zealand secondary school teachers (all named) are being subject to a range of personal attacks and abuse on a new website where New Zealand students are encouraged to rate their teacher's ability and post anonymous comments. The Secondary Teachers Union (PPTA) has also expressed disgust at the growth of this expoitative and pernicious website that has already attracted 165,000 visitors and 80,000 ratings on more than 18,000 teachers at nearly 1500 schools, since it began last month. Howerever, it says it is powerless to close it down and will only get involved in supporting its members "in cases where the website is being used to terrorise, intimidate or attack them."

Society President Mike Petrus, a retired secondary school HOD, says the Union must do more to rectify this problem. The Society is calling on the Minister of Education and Minister of Communication to work with the PPTA and Secondary Schools Principal's Association, to investigate ways of closing down this site. Petrus says: "...teachers who face a professionally demanding and exhausting job and who sadly often have to deal directly with student abuse and defiance, should not have to be subject to insult and professional humiliation from students posting anonymous assessments on such websiites. There are proper channels available in schools for pubils to give vent to their genuine concerns over a teachers' poor performance and these can be redressed justly, fairly and appropriately."

The Society agrees with Wellington College Headmaster Roger Moses who was quoted by the NZ Herald (17 July) as being highly critical of the website: "There is the potential here of some teachers being utterly destroyed without any ability to clear their names... [people's reputations could be] "torn to shreds" [on the website]. "There needs to be accountability. But when you're dealing with teenagers in particular, obviously there can be huge dangers with unsubstantiated, anonymous assertions that may have no basis whatsoever."

On the website one pupil writes of her science teacher at a central co-ed Wellington Secondary School: She's "rude, snappy, arrogant and belligerant.. my main concern is her complete absent mindedness. She seems to forget what she's saying before she's even finished. How she got to HOF [Head of Facuty], I do not know.... try and lighten up" (the pupil advises). The teacher gets rated at one out of 5 for "easiness" (to get along with).

The womnan principal of this school is described by one of her pupils as "all talk, no action, mediocre at best in desprite [sic] need of replacing" and given a lowly rating of 3.6 for her overall performance.

A male teacher at another Wellington school is described as "totally and utterly useless. he sucks!.. a nitemare [sic] teacher.. as soon as I hear his name I get bored". A female teacher at the same school is described as "utterly useless. She should be fired. She is passed her used-by-date".

Another pupil names the experienced science HOD at his large co-ed school in Lower Hutt and states: "god Mr [X] sux, like he screams @ us nonstop and our class isn't that bad, he just can't control the kids at all".

The NZ Herald (7 July) reported other derogatory comments from a student concerning a woman teacher:

"I would rather eat broken glass than sit through (her) lesson," "I can't look at her for more than a few seconds before I have to hit something," says another. "I genuinely hate her. I have nothing but contempt for this woman."

The paper notes: "The comments have confirmed fears raised that ratemyteacher.com would lead to uncensored, anonymous personal vendettas, putting skilled candidates off the profession."

The Society is asking what the Ministers of Education and Communication is doing to protect teachers from such abuse and hate-filled messages. It is also asking what the secondary teachers' union that says it is "horrified" at the website's content, is doing about the matter. PPTA president Debbie Te Whaiti told the NZ Herald (17 July) that it knew of "horrifying" examples of teachers being targeted but said the union was powerless to have the website closed down.

The website site has a "wall of shame" listing schools that have blocked pupils' access from school computers. Scots College is the only Wellington school to have done so. The Society applauds the College Principal and its Board for taking this action and calls on ALL NZ Secondary Principals and school boards to do the same so that tax-payer funded school computers are not used to demean, degrade and dehumanise teachers. "Tax-payers have a right to receive Ministerial assurances that students cannot use school computers to access such sites and attack our teachers," says Society President Mike Petrus.

The NZ Herald reports that a female Wellington College teacher is described as "egotistical, megalomaniacal, cruel, deluded, boring" and a "despot who rules with an iron fist".

A comment about a teacher at New Plymouth Girls High School reads: "Mi (sic) friend . . . needs concilling (sic) has done drugs cut hurself coz of (the teacher)."

Petrus says: "While the Society supports freedom of expression - there are limits to free expression. It cannot see why society should put up with our dedicated professionals who serve our children and young people, being subject to vilification and grubby personal attacks of this nature."

"The website promoters no doubt will defend the site by saying that many students have the opportunity to post positive comments about their teachers" says Petrus, "Have such pupils not learnt that positive feedback can be expressed directly to teachers, in a personal way (rather than anonymously) that enhances teacher-pupil relationships?" he asks.

The Society has written to the Ministers of Education and Communication and the Chairman of the Secondary Schools Principals Association, expressing its concerns over the website. It is calling on them to do all within their powers to take immediate action to rectify the problem.


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