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Schoolgirl aged 15 left humiliated when teachers showed her bikini photo in assembly

Remember when you were a teenager?

And you had thousands of friends on Facebook?

No?

That doesn’t describe my childhood, either, but it rings true to many of today’s teens.

According to a survey, a child’s social media development begins at nine and over the next four year period, their online activity evolves from just viewing online content to using social media platforms.

Social networking safety issues have, of course, become a big concern – meaning parents and schoolteachers are trying to regulate young people’s internet usage.

However, controls are often poorly reinforced, as evident by teachers who decided it would be a good idea to copy a photo of a schoolgirl from her Facebook profile, in order to demonstrate the dangers of posting private images online to an assembly.

Oh, and did I mention? The 15-year-old schoolgirl was wearing a bikini in the photo.

Pupils at Eggbuckland Community College in Plymouth, Devon, were shown the blown-up image at a packed assembly, alongside a portfolio of other images scooped up from Facebook. The tactic at the 1327-pupil specialist arts school reportedly left the girl dismayed.

The schoolgirl’s mum was furious and slammed the teachers. She also complained to the school head and education watchdog Ofsted. Talking to a local newspaper, she stated:

“They took the photo from her Facebook profile – she put it on there last year. They used other photos of kids from the neck up but for some reason they thought it was OK to use a picture of my daughter in her bikini. Why did they have to use an image like that to make their point? Then they pointed her out in the assembly.”

“I got a phone call from my daughter in the afternoon. When she told me about it I went from nought to 60 – I was so upset at work I was sent home. She’s really upset and hurt and this has knocked her confidence. She’s not the type of girl who likes attention like this. “She’s a tom-boy, she doesn’t wear make-up and she doesn’t even have her ears pierced. It’s not often you even get her in a bikini.”

“I’ve now written to the school, Ofsted and the governors about it. The headteacher has since phoned me and couldn’t me more apologetic. I don’t think she was aware it was going to happen.”

This isn’t the first time that an incident like this occurred.

A student sued her school in an almost identical incident a year ago.

Fair enough that kids are warned about the dangers of social networking, and the importance of choosing privacy options carefully… but really??? A bikini picture to demonstrate the issue???

A useful lesson could have been planned for the students about how to prevent certain images from being publicly viewed, but the teachers seem to have placed the entire focus on a girl wearing a bikini… It’s hard to believe that pupils coming out of that assembly learned a valuable lesson.

The school’s response to the mother of the girl was apologetic, but equally dumbed down.

A Plymouth City Council spokesperson said on behalf of the school, whose motto is ‘Learning, caring, achieving’:

“We cannot comment on the incident itself. The advice given to children and parents is that it is very difficult to ensure any picture is completely private and it is important to positively manage their online identity and profile and think carefully before sharing personal content.”

There’s a multitude of ways to preach social networking privacy best practices. Does a schoolgirl in a bikini picture qualify?

About the author

Graham CLULEY

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

12 Comments

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  • No. It most certainly doesn’t qualify.

    The young lady in question has every right in the world to post a picture of herself in a swimsuit wherever she likes. Doing so does not negate her reasonable expectation that others respect her identity and privacy.

    It is absolutely unacceptable that school employees would re-share ANY of her images in a public assembly without her explicit consent. The teachers involved should be reprimanded and be required to create new training materials on the proper uses of images belonging to others and on how to respect another person’s human dignity.

    Fair use of images on the Internet is all for the greater good — but that doesn’t mean that any and all images are therefore “fair game”.

  • With respect Sean, that is just pious cant. The situation is the exact opposite of what you say and to suggest otherwise gives young people exactly the wrong view of the workings of the Web. Regardless of what OUGHT to be the situation with regard to respect of images, the truth is that once kids hi that send button they have absolutely no control on how the image will be used. IMO the teachers at this school have inadvertently taught the kids a lesson. A rough lesson, yes. But I bet from now on everyone of them with be cautious posting to Facebook.

    • I had a small discuss with Sean about that case. My first thought was that the girl probably should not post her spicy photos in public places if she feels pain when people see such pics. I used following logic: if you are shy then don’t post you naked, don’t give people a matter for future attacks, to avoid harm that not ideal people in not ideal world around us could do. But then I have eventually come to conclusion that this logic does not fit for this case. We all can be shy in some extent. It could be ok for you to play the fool in the company of familiar people and noone would say that you are shy, but on the other hand you could be totally dismayed in the middle of scene in front of full stadium. I shifted the situation with that girl onto myself and found appropriate scenario – I am not shy to post my photo in swimming trunks when I had a rest with my family or friends being on the beach last summer, for example. It’s totally ok if you accidentally or intentionally (either we are familiar or not) have landed on my page and browse my photos where I am almost naked. Just go ahead, see if you want that, I will be sleeping calm, no worry for me. But it’s totally different strory if someone would grab my facing internet photo (especially in swimming trunks) and put it on the advertising boards around the town. It’s not that attention that I search for. I am not that public person. I am not ready for that. It would demoralize me, I’d feel extremely uncomfortable with this. This is exactly what teachers did. Girl would have been probably ok if a half of world saw her photo in bikini on Facebook but she was totally unprepared that her photo was shown to the whole crowd of people during assembly. Photographs on Facebook or similar places are mostly for watching only. This is the responsibility of visitor not to misuse public photographs of other people on social platforms.

  • If you don’t want people to see you pictures, don’t put them online. All it takes is a screenshot and others have had much worse photos “stolen” or “distributed. Don’t agree with the tactics but I think the lesson is learnt.

  • In my school years I was a victim of relentless bullying, not just from the …. kids (to find the correct wording for ‘….’ just imagine some word that might be fitting for bullies and then raise it to the power of an exceptionally high number [in the millions, at least] and you’ll be getting closer – but not there yet, you have a ways to go – to understand just how foul my wording is) AND the schools… and not just bullying but irresponsible things related to known health problems (and this includes claiming that I was faking it and the doctor was lying), essentially putting me at risk of hospital[1] if not worse, and well, I’m not surprised one bit.
    [1] Indeed, at least in one case, it stopped once they were threatened – if I was in emergency one more time because of what they did, they would be facing a lawsuit.

    This was many, many years ago. Schools don’t care at all and as far as I am concerned (and perhaps because I experienced it first hand) any claim to the contrary is a poor attempt of a lie and a lie in order to save their hides from lawsuits (at the less extreme). See my reference 1.

    And I’d go further than Sean, by a lot: the teachers involved should be struck off, should not get any benefits (at all) and the school district should be sued (or go as far as the law will allow). (Although yes they should also be made to scold themselves and show every thing they did wrong there to every student, every year, for years to come… because privacy IS something that should be respected). Abuse is never acceptable, it ruins lives and for it to come from a place where you are (supposedly) being taught/mentored/etc. (indeed, were they not trying to “teach” ?) and also safe, makes it even worse. This will be something that will FOREVER affect her. Frankly, using any one else there was also wrong.

    The irony when they say “kids will be kids” as if it makes it right and yet.. here they are abusing kids… and not just abusing kids, but invading their privacy and at the same time it was all related to things that were in fact innocent (no matter how risky or bad of a decision, at least they aren’t doing something illegal… and they’ll learn on how decisions are important to consider, always, in due time…). Their apologies remind me exactly of what they argue for kids only the SCHOOL and more so the staff thereof are the kids! The apologies mean little at best and absolutely nothing at worst – they’re only sorry that there was a complaint, not what they did. I would go so far as to suggest they make it worse because they’re covering things up, they’re trying to make something okay that can never be okay (not before and not after).

  • “Fair use of images on the Internet is all for the greater good — but that doesn’t mean that any and all images are therefore “fair game” Ahh, but they are, they are…(Be careful what you post-right or wrong, this is how it is).

  • So posting pictures on the web for ANYONE to find and admire, appreciate or sneer at is right for the publisher but wrong when someone else uses it to make a point?

    OK, so to do it in front of the school was a bit OTT but the girl posted the picture of herself for PUBLIC consumption, not just friends or friends of friends but full PUBLIC access. That’s dumb in the simplest sense, to complain when others view it or use it without consent is dumb too.

    If she is this “tomboy” like personality why post a nearly naked picture for all to see?

    I think the school was right to make the point but should have told her they were going to use her publicly posted picture. She could have objected and even removed it before the event.

    She HAS surely learned a valuable lesson that some MP’s should have learned long ago and others who think Social Media is private should remember.

  • It’s the method of delivering the lesson, not the lesson itself that is in question here. The sad thing is that in the South West there are world class resources freely available to teachers from www.swgfl.org.uk , an organisation at the forefront of online safety for many years and one I was proud to work for previously.

  • I had a small discussion with Sean about that case. My first thought was that the girl probably should not post her spicy photos in public places if she feels pain when people see such pics. I used following logic: if you are shy then don’t post you naked, don’t give people a matter for future attacks, to avoid harm that not ideal people in not ideal world around us could do. But then I have eventually come to conclusion that this logic does not fit for this case. We all can be shy in some extent. It could be ok for you to play the fool in the company of familiar people and noone would say that you are shy, but on the other hand you could be totally dismayed in the middle of scene in front of full stadium. I shifted the situation with that girl onto myself and found appropriate scenario – I am not shy to post my photo in swimming trunks when I had a rest with my family or friends being on the beach last summer, for example. It’s totally ok if you accidentally or intentionally (either we are familiar or not) have landed on my page and browse my photos where I am almost naked. Just go ahead, look if you want that, I will be sleeping calm, no worry on my side. But it’s totally different strory if someone would grab my facing internet photo (especially in swimming trunks) and put it on the advertising boards around the town. It’s not that attention that I search for. I am not that public person. I am not ready for that. It would demoralize me, I’d feel extremely uncomfortable with this. This is exactly what teachers did. Girl would have been probably ok if a half of a world saw her photo in bikini on Facebook but she was totally unprepared that her photo was shown to the whole crowd of people during assembly. Photographs on Facebook or similar places are mostly for watching only. This is the responsibility of visitor not to misuse public photographs of other people on social platforms and you don’t have to avoid posting stuff (with no extreme of course), this is one of the features what social networks are for, after all.

  • I had a small discussion with Sean about that case. My first thought was that the girl probably should not post her spicy photos in public places if she feels pain when people see such pics. I used following logic: if you are shy then don’t post you naked, don’t give people a matter for future attacks, to avoid harm that not ideal people in not ideal world around us could do. But then I have eventually come to conclusion that this logic does not fit for this case. We all can be shy in some extent. It could be ok for you to play the fool in the company of familiar people and noone would say that you are shy, but on the other hand you could be totally dismayed in the middle of scene in front of full stadium. I shifted the situation with that girl onto myself and found appropriate scenario – I am not shy to post my photo in swimming trunks when I had a rest with my family or friends being on the beach last summer, for example. It’s totally ok if you accidentally or intentionally (either we are familiar or not) have landed on my page and browse my photos where I am almost naked. Just go ahead, look if you want that, I will be sleeping calm, no worry on my side. But it’s totally different strory if someone would grab my facing internet photo (especially in swimming trunks) and put it on the advertising boards around the town. It’s not that attention that I search for. I am not that public person. I am not ready for that. It would demoralize me, I’d feel extremely uncomfortable with this. This is exactly what teachers did. Girl would have been probably ok if a half of a world saw her photo in bikini on Facebook but she was totally unprepared that her photo was shown to the whole crowd of people during assembly. Photographs on Facebook or similar places are mostly for watching only. This is the responsibility of visitor not to misuse public photographs of other people on social platforms and you don’t have to avoid posting sometimes even some special stuff (with no extreme of course), this is one of the features what social networks are for, after all.