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As first seen on the Irish Independant

Irish social media monitoring firm RiskEye has developed a new service to help school principals facing “significant distress” as parents and pupils increasingly bring issues in the classroom onto social media.

The Dublin-based online risk and reputation monitoring firm has joined forces with international legal expenses insurer ARAG to develop the new service in a bid to protect school principals who are struggling to deal with issues arising on social media.

The new service has run as a pilot scheme since October after an agreement between RiskEye, ARAG and the National Association of Principals and Deputies (NAPD).

RiskEye CEO and founder Nicola Byrne aims to implement similar services for other professions and is in talks with both ARAG and Aviva about offerings in a number of other countries.

Byrne said that issues facing school principals online can range from unfavourable school reviews to bullying and harassment and, in some cases, to serious allegations made against teachers or principals on social media platforms.

“ARAG already provides school principals with insurance protection if they find themselves in a legal dispute. Our product adds to this package to offer social media protection with personal and emotional support for principals.”

NAPD deputy director Rachel O’Connor said that the new service was “a very solution-focused, hands-on, coaching approach –helping schools and school leaders both mitigate and moderate these online issues that can cause our members’ significant distress”.

Issues include bullying, intimidation, parody accounts, possible reputational damage

“A significant percentage of calls we receive via our NAPD Confidential Support Service are issues such as bullying, intimidation, parody accounts, possible reputational damage etc – all as a result of online activity,” said O’Connor.


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“We can help if, for example, a student in the school has targeted a teacher or if a parent is targeting the governing board,” said Byrne.

RiskEye, which was set up 10 years ago to monitor social media for problematic content for a range of organisations including Bus Éireann and Dublin City University, has the expertise and knowledge to have damaging social media posts removed by platforms, said Byrne.

“It doesn’t matter what the issue is. We have a strategy to get different materials taken down and we can guide school principals through this process. Our aim is to help stop the content happening online and to bring the issue, whatever it happens to be, back to the real world and to protect everybody on the pitch.

“We are not setting ourselves up as a referee to determine who is right or wrong in a situation. All points of view may be valid. But what we’re trying to do is to stop the internet being weaponised to cause harm.”

For example, one case where RiskEye is involved relates to a teacher who is unhappy in the classroom and who doesn’t believe the principal is looking out for his or her best interests.

Risk Eye is in talks with both ARAG and Aviva about offerings in a number of other countries

“That teacher feels they are not getting validated in the real world and has taken to certain Facebook groups of educators and used language that is causing a lot of hurt to other teachers in the school. They have named the school and so people know who the principal is.

“We have other situations where pupils are posting pictures of teachers and saying all sorts of untoward things. The problem is these things, once they are out there on social media, can then be brought up at a review board or with the Department of Education and can start casting doubt on a teacher’s performance, regardless of whether the criticisms are warranted or not.”

Other cases that have caused concern include the posting of sexually explicit material or comments about a female teacher’s physique.

“In the past, these things might have been deemed as just watercooler banter or just written on a toilet door but now they are going out across a public forum and are there for all to see – parents, fellow teachers, the department, whoever.

“People are then interpreting what they see and making judgments based on limited information and this can cause a huge amount of hurt and pain in the real world.

“We’re not there to act as a referee but we are very much experts in data and what we’re trying to do is to get everything back into the normal processes in the real world that have been developed for dealing with these types of issues before the consequences get out of control.”

According to Byrne, while the rapid proliferation of social media is undoubtedly leading to major issues, the laws and regulations needed to police it effectively are already in place.

“We can’t keep making rules that can’t be enforced,” she said. “We don’t need any more laws, rules or data protection policies. We just need to enforce the rules and policies that we have.”


Disclaimer - all information in this article was correct at time of publishing.