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Irish schools ban campus photos in cyberbullying crackdown

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Schools in Ireland have been ordered to ban students from taking photos on campus to help cut down on cyberbullying.

Guidelines sent by the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) to 400 secondary schools say that students must not be allowed to snap images of other students or staff unless it’s a requirement of a school project.

Cyberbullying is linked with at least two recent teen suicides in the country. Several principals have had to deal with incidents where photos taken in school have ended up online.

Teachers were also warned not to use personal Facebook or Twitter accounts for school projects and to set up dedicated accounts. They were also urged to avoid interacting with students directly by using Facebook pages and to make their tweets private so only approved followers can see them.

"Connecting with students on social media sites can seem like an effective means of communication,” the JMB said, according to the Irish Independent. "However, this gives students potential to access personal information about teachers and the opportunity to target them with abusive behaviour."

In April, four students were suspended after harassing three teachers on Facebook.

Other school management boards in Ireland are taking steps against cyberbullying.

The Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) urged its 93 schools to be more stringent when disciplining over the misuse of social media or online data. The body’s general secretary noted incidents where students set up false Facebook pages for a principal and a student.

The Irish Vocational Education Association plans to have ready cyberbullying guidelines by the end of the year for its 258 schools.

Last month, Ireland’s minister for children & youth affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, met with Facebook officials to discuss safeguards for children. Meanwhile, a group led by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is working on new bullying rules for schools.

Photo by ErinEB/Flickr