Rating website leaves teachers vulnerable to cyber bullying
A website that allows students to anonymously ‘rate’ and comment on the performance of their teachers has left staff open to cruel and potentially defamatory critique.
The US-based Rate-My-Teacher website is largely un-moderated, identifies teachers by name and workplace and allows users to post ratings out of five “stars” and include open, often profane, commentary.
According to one teacher who searched for herself on the site, much of the feedback is unrelated to teaching practice, instead denigrating a teacher’s appearance or characteristics.
She said that not only were the comments confronting for herself and affected colleagues but that teachers were forced to worry about links to the site appearing prominently in web searches that included their name.
Comments about the teacher posted to the site in 2006 still appear among search engine top results, which she worried could potentially damage her future job prospects.
Melbourne University senior law lecturer Jason Bosland said in comments to SBS that in the event of anonymous comments in the unregulated environment of the internet, there is little that teachers can do.
"If the comment is anonymous, I would think the best course of action would be to contact the owner of the website and request removal," he says.
"But other than that it's very, very difficult to have material removed from the online space."
Our union Branch Secretary Terry Burke said that the advent of online and social media has meant employees are constantly accessible and the potential for workplace bullying to occur does not end when staff leave work at the end of the day.
“Bullying has become more pervasive than ever with the increase in smartphone and internet use and it’s not just students who are at risk. Teachers are not immune to unfair and unreasonable attacks that can easily be made anonymously online at somebody else’s expense,” he said.
Mr Burke said bullying behaviour—such as that encourage by websites like Rate-My-Teacher—is often seen as too trivial to warrant attention or unimportant because the person subject to attack is unaffected by the behaviour.
“However, over time, the ongoing cumulative effects of harassment can erode the wellbeing of the individual or group targeted, undermine the work atmosphere and affect the overall performance of a group of employees,” he said.
“Workplace bullying is a significant health and safety issue which needs to be addressed. All forms of harassment, bullying and violence oppose the duty of care to provide a safe framework for an equitable work and learning environment.”
Mr Burke said Workplace Health and Safety legislation which obliges an employer to ensure the health and safety of all its workers is essential to overcoming this issue.
Members who are experiencing bullying or harassment in the workplace, or in relation to their work, are urged to contact our union for advice in the first instance.