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School CP - September 2005

Corpun file 16747

The New Paper, Singapore, 28 September 2005

Whack - Student defames teacher on top school's online forum

Student gets publicly caned

Whack Back

Schools are coming down hard on students who make defamatory comments about their teachers on the web. But how tough should they get?

By Liew Hanqing

cane and computer

THINK twice before you bad mouth your teacher online.

You might be in for a nasty surprise.

One student at a top boy's school learnt it the hard way - he was publicly caned.

The student hacked into a teacher's iLearning account - which is used to post homework and other information for students - and made defamatory comments about a teacher on the school's online forum.

The comments made were highly visible as the forum is accessible by all the school's students and teachers.

Three students and a source from the school confirmed the public caning. The headmaster of the school could not be reached for comment this morning.

Even the personal blog is no longer safe.

While a lengthy blog tirade about the nasty teacher who sent you for detention might be cathartic, your teacher could well be reading your entry - and getting really angry.

Some teachers have confessed to searching for and reading their students' blogs regularly.

And they've not hesitated to speak up when they deem the remarks offensive.

Several students at the same top school, for instance, were reprimanded about offensive blog posts about the schools' teachers.

Said Jonathan Au Yong, a Secondary 3 student at the school who knows one of the students involved: 'My friend was asked why he posted such a hurtful comment. He posted a public apology on his blog and removed the post.'

One teacher at a secondary school in Jurong who declined to be named told The New Paper that she often does online searches of her name.

She said: 'I found one of my student's blogs - he commented on what I wore to class one day. It was pretty offensive, but I didn't want to make a fuss about it in class.'

She said that the first blog she found through an online search contained links to other blogs that belonged to students in a history class she is teaching.

She added: 'I read their blogs quite often just to see what's going on with them.'

But not all teachers are as restrained.


One Sec 2 student at a top girls' school in the Orchard Road area said that her teacher told off her class for using foul language in their blog entries.

According to the student, who declined to be named, the teacher even left comments on some of her friends' blog tagboards - message boards allowing visitors to post responses to blog entries.

While students generally agree that there is a need for responsible writing even though blogs are personal domains, some feel that teachers should mind their own business.

Said Joy Quek, 15: 'The whole idea of having a blog is being able to write down my thoughts on what goes on in my life. If the teachers want to hear only nice things about themselves all the time, then maybe they shouldn't be prying into our blogs.'

Student Wu Yiling, 16, added: 'I'm not surprised if teachers are reading my blog - so now when I write about them, I use code names instead of their full names.

'That way, I can still write what I want to and, at the same time, be ambiguous enough to avoid getting into trouble.'

Said Vanessa Tan, 15, a Sec 3 student: 'Being students, teachers are a natural part of what we write about in our blogs.

'Schools should lay down the ground rules on what's acceptable and what's not, so we don't get taken by surprise.'

Suspended for flaming teachers

CASES of students being punished for flaming teachers are hardly isolated ones.

Five junior college (JC) students were punished for posting offensive remarks about two teachers and a vice-principal online. They were made to remove the remarks from their blogs, and suspended for three days last month.

Eighteen out of 31 secondary schools and JCs contacted by The Straits Times said they're seeing more such incidents.

Lawyers say students can be sued for defamation even if a teacher's not named.

None of the schools contacted has banned blogging. Teachers encourage it to improve students' writing skills.

The recent cases of youths charged with making inflammatory remarks online have led to teachers discussing the dos and don'ts of blogging with students. The MOE said it does not issue guidelines to schools on blogging, but leaves it to them to take appropriate action.

Copyright 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.

blob Follow-up: 1 October 2005 - Boy's caning sends right signals

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