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‘Heartbreaking’ – teacher speaks of cyberbullying

A Dublin secondary school teacher has described his experience of being cyberbullied by a student in his school.

In an address to the annual convention of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) in Wexford, Ciarán Kavanagh said a student took his photo from his LinkedIn profile and used it to create a fake TikTok account.

“They used my image and the images of other teachers in my school to make what they thought was a humorous video,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“They shared it amongst other students in the class and that spread throughout the year,” he added.

Mr Kavanagh said school management were very supportive. The gardaí became involved and the student who made the video was eventually identified, but Mr Kavanagh said he chose not to find out who was behind the incident.

“You lose all sense of logic,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“You think that you have a thicker skin but when you hear kids laughing, and you know that a video of you is circulating, you automatically think that they’re laughing at you.”

“You feel like every time you turn a corner and somebody looks your way, that they’ve seen this video, this concoction that was made just for somebody’s amusement, you feel like it’s directed at you.”

Dublin secondary school teacher Ciarán Kavanagh addressing the ASTI Convention in Wexford

Mr Kavanagh said he considered leaving the school but was talked out of it by management.

“It was something that I never want to go through again and I wouldn’t wish on anybody because it hits you in the heart.”

“When it happens in such a public sphere, in such an open way, it’s heartbreaking,” he said.

“Every part of your heart and soul goes into the job and then you start to question what did I do and how did I upset them to make myself this figure of ridicule,” Mr Kavanagh added.

ASTI delegates have voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling for stronger legislation to deal with online harassment.

Almost one-in-five secondary school teachers who responded to a recent ASTI survey said they have experienced some form of work-related cyberbullying.

Yesterday in her address to the convention, Minister for Education Norma Foley said she was “deeply concerned” by such reports.

“There is no place for such behaviour against teachers who are simply doing their job,” Ms Foley said.

500 second-level teachers from across the country have gathered for the ASTI conference which began yesterday in Wexford.

More than 80 motions are being debated over the course of the three-day convention on pay, pensions, working conditions, student welfare and school resources.

One of the motions focussing on working conditions and pay calls on the ASTI to ballot members on industrial action, up to and including strike action, if unpaid ‘Croke Park’ hours are not terminated before the beginning of the 2025/26 school year.

A separate motion seeks the restoration of teachers’ sick leave entitlements to the arrangements that existed before the economic crash of 2008.

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