Further to the article which appeared in our December e-zine looking at sexting between pupil peers, schools should be aware that for the first time, the High Court recently awarded financial compensation for sexting involving a senior member of staff and a pupil.
In summary, a pupil (the claimant) who had sent explicit texts and images to her teacher, was awarded £25,000 in damages for intentional infliction of harm.
In this case Mr Whillock was the Vice Principal and Child Protection Officer at a special educational needs school attended by the claimant. In 2010, a member of staff discovered 18 sexually explicit text messages and 20 indecent photographs sent by the claimant to the Vice Principal on her mobile phone. The claimant subsequently sued both the School and the Vice Principal for personal injury caused by sexual assault, rape, grooming and being encouraged to exchange messages of a sexual nature.
In relation to the sexting, the Court found that Mr Whillock had emotionally manipulated the claimant by encouraging her to send indecent images of herself and engage in 'sexual banter' in the texts. These actions had consequences, or potential consequences, which the Court found to be so obvious that it could not realistically be argued they were unintended.
The NSPCC has warned that 'there is a danger young people could just use this as a way to get cash by suing each other'. It is important for victims to get justice but it is equally important to educate children about not sharing this kind of explicit material.
These comments and the publicity arising from the case appears to be somewhat timely, considering that judgement in this case was handed down in September. However, it appears to have only just hit the headlines at the same time as the government has announced that all schools will be required to put in place strengthened measures to protect children from harm online. These measures include cyberbullying, pornography and the risk of radicalisation, through the revisions that it is proposed are made to Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE), which is currently out for consultation. We expect to see a revised version of KCSIE in force from September 2016.
Under the new proposals, all schools will need to have appropriate filters and monitoring systems, so that no child can access harmful content via the School's IT systems and concerns can be spotted quickly, together with being required to ensure that they teach pupils about safeguarding, including online.