Abusive Facebook pages target schools

A school Facebook page that compares one of its teachers to a paedophile displays a Palmerston North school’s logo and is among a rash of viral ‘‘meme’’ pages being circulated among students.

A number of Facebook pages with links to Manawatu and Palmerston North schools have been set up, taking aim at teachers and pupils via ‘‘meme’’ images – a type of internet in-joke in vogue – that run the gamut from witty to cruel to ridiculous.

Awatapu College’s staff are the latest victims, with one such page’ attracting almost 300 ‘‘likes’’ on Facebook.

Memes published on the page name a teacher, labelling them ‘‘as sweaty as a pedo in a playground’’ [sic], another took aim at two other staff, speculating on whether they engaged in sexual activity on school grounds.

All posts are visible to the public.

Awatapu College staff did not respond to a request for comment, but school students spoken to by the Manawatu Standard said they were aware of many such pages.

Some had taken part in them, but the worst of the pages had been shut down. 

Another page, mentioning Horowhenua College, uses the school’s logo, while a page that featured a Palmerston North Boys’ High logo and information was cited as one of the more offensive pages, but has since been blocked. 

Netsafe operations manager Lee Chisholm said meme and confessional pages with links to schools were popular, and its help centre received up to three notifications a day about such pages. 

Solutions included calling Netsafe to alert it to potentially harmful material. Some schools had identified the page administrators and asked them to monitor what material was published, encouraging them to delete cruel or defamatory comments. 

But those who felt their reputation had been smeared on the pages had few legal options, Ms Chisholm said.

Lawsuits were expensive but, alternatively, pages or fake profiles that violated Facebook’s terms and conditions could usually be shut down.

Manawatu Standard