THE region’s education director has given an assurance that stringent policies are in place to stop the practice of students distributing sexual images of themselves or other teenagers via the internet or mobile phones to friends or classmates.
Glenn Rodger was speaking after it was revealed in a Freedom of Information response from Scottish Borders Council that five secondary pupils in the Borders had been disciplined for so-called “sexting” since September last year.
“We take incidents like these very seriously in our schools,” said Mr Rodger.
“As part of our policy for the safe use of internet technology, the use of mobile phones during school times – including taking photographs or videos of fellow pupils without approval from the subject – is strictly prohibited.
“Such behaviour is regarded as a breach of school disciplinary policy and appropriate action will be taken by the school according to the school’s behaviour management policy.”
The un-named FOI requester stressed: “Often these images come to a school’s attention when they have been used in a context of blackmailing and bullying.
“These are some of the risks ... along with the risk of grooming and of the images ending up on paedophilia websites.
“Many teenagers are unaware they are breaking the law by distributing indecent images of other teenagers, even themselves.”
Mr Rodger told us: “Our child protection officers and colleagues in police and community safety work regularly with pupils and staff in our schools to highlight the dangers of a wide range of behaviour, including the use of mobile phones or the internet.
“All schools have access to the e-safety guidance and all of this supports the national child internet safety plan.”
He said there were currently four education policies relating to e-safety in schools.
“The policy for the safe use of internet technology contains a section outlining rules on the use of mobile phones, personal digital assistants [PDAs] and digital cameras in schools,” explained Mr Rodger.
“It stresses that rules should be followed to minimise the risk of inappropriate or illegal use of these devices on school premises and that serious cases of intimidation and bullying with such devices should be referred to the police.”
Mr Rodger said that if illegal use was suspected, staff in Borders schools would forward details to the police.
But he confirmed that the five students who had been disciplined had not been referred to the police, nor had the cases resulted in suspensions or exclusions.
“The disciplinary measures involved the pupils being spoken to by staff about the appropriateness of their behaviour,” said Mr Rodger.