Legal: Imagine life without Snapchat...
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 4, 31 May 2019, page no. 29
Imagine being falsely accused when a student claims you committed a despicable act. Sent naked pictures of yourself to their mobile. You are suspended without pay and ordered not to speak to any of your former colleagues. They’re not supposed to talk either, but they do and word gets around. People know.
It’s more than a year before you get to court, and in that time, you’ve already lost your career, your reputation and your mental health. Maybe you’ll go to prison where the other prisoners know you’re a sex offender. When you get out you’re on a sex offender list. You check in with your local police station for the rest of your life. You can’t find work and you can’t ever prove you didn’t do this thing. Imagine if that happened to you.
It may sound like a Netflix thriller, but reality can be stranger than fiction. At least two Queensland teachers have experienced something similar in the past two years. The alleged pictures were never recovered but proceedings were issued anyway.
Even if you don’t go to jail, you could still lose your registration, never work as a teacher again and never regain your reputation. If deleting an app could drastically reduce the chance that this could happen to you, would you do it?
If social media is a ticking time bomb for teachers, Snapchat is a meteor hurtling towards Earth. It can destroy your world.
Snapchat is a mobile app the core concept of which is that any picture or video or message you send is made available to the receiver for only a short time, maybe 10 seconds, before it becomes inaccessible. It has other uses, but it is this core purpose that makes it so dangerous for teachers.
In recent times, Holding Redlich has acted for a teacher in his 20s who was accused of sending images of himself masturbating to a student and demanding that she send him images of herself. He had a hobby business that heavily relied on the use of social media. The more followers, friends and connections he made, the more products he sold. He’d pass his spare time adding followers, scrolling through Instagram sites, “liking” photographs, sending emojis, creating activity and driving people to his site. He even purchased software that replicated this activity. His business had thousands of followers and he and his partner could log in and like and unlike photos in their spare time. He was wasting time constructively. Absentmindedly driving customers to his site, sending “wow” emojis and love hearts to everyone.
He used mainly Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. He had no formal training in how to use any of them. His students knew about the business. Some would send him Snapchat invitations and he’d accept them not even realising who it was. Over time he realised Snapchat was too labour intensive. The activity replicating software didn’t work on it and he deleted it off his phone.
By then, it was too late.
Rumours were already rampant in the school and the Queensland College of Teachers investigated various claims. Of all the rumoured “victims”, only one was prepared to give a statement. She’d never saved any photographs, she’d deleted all their Instagram messages, she couldn’t remember times and dates. She gave investigators her phone, but their forensic analysis couldn’t find the alleged images.
But still the teacher was suspended and waited for over a year before the disciplinary matter got to the tribunal. Eventually his registration was restored but his life will never be the same.
Our legal advice is simple. Teachers, do yourself a favour. Don’t use Snapchat unless you absolutely must. It’s too dangerous for someone in your profession. And if you’re still not sure, just imagine what might happen if you don’t.