US-Based Website Leads to UK Cyberbullying Investigation

UK Police have said they would investigate the US-based website Little Gossip after Andre Sohatski, headteacher of Priory School in England, was told by his pupils that children were being targeted with homophobic, racist and sexist abuse, writes Donna Bowater at the Telegraph.

The site contains abusive and explicit messages written by schoolchildren that can be rated "true" or "false" by their peers. While the user and poster can remain anonymous, the targeted pupils are named.

Mr. Sohatski called for the site to be shut down:

"I think it's irresponsible. It is a form of internet bullying. Any kind of comment posted anonymously about somebody is basically unfair and sometimes cruel."

Police said they would investigate the US-based website, which has previously faced heavy criticism, and said the consequences of online bullying were "worrying".

The comments often revolve around crude sexual slurs and judgmental remarks about each other's appearances.

Entries for The Priory Church of England school included:

"[Girl's name] needs to loose (sic) weight? True or false."

Another said: "[Girl's name] is a big [w****] who has make up like a clown and is a [w****] who thinks she is pretty when she isnt and cheated on me …"

Others made claims of derogatory and racist remarks, leading to many to voice concerns that the site could lead to children committing suicide over the comments.

One post said:

"i didnt realise how fake and disgusting our school now poeple (sic) think they have the right to post awful things on here. this is gunna cause some serious damage so everybody just grow the f*** up and learn to have some respect for people."

The site has drawn criticisms in the past for appearing to encourage salacious and unfounded gossip about pupils and staff at schools, colleges and universities.

Emma-Jane Cross, chief executive of Beatbullying, said earlier this year:

"To take down specific extreme comments is not enough as the site is still left to be abused, leaving further teachers and students victimised."

This comes after a new report by Plymouth University found that teachers are subjected to cyberbullying from both pupils and parents.

The results of the study showed that 35 percent of teacher-professional participants said either they or their colleagues had been subjected to some form of online abuse.

72% of the abuse is said to have came via pupils, but over a quarter was initiated by parents. The majority of teachers claiming online abuse were women, according to the BBC's analysis of the research.

01 3, 2012
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