Margaret Eby
October 08, 2014 2:14 pm

This week in messed up things, a teacher at a UK high school displayed a bikini photo of a 15-year-old student in an assembly without the student’s consent—in order to make a point about the danger of revealing too much on social media.

According to reports, the student’s image—which the teacher found on Google—was used in a PowerPoint presentation for 100 of her classmates., in an effort to teach kids not to share too much online.

The student, whose mom has filed complaints about the incident, is understandably traumatized by being publicly shamed by someone that’s supposed to have her best interest at heart. “She’s really upset and hurt and this has knocked her confidence,” her mother told The Daily Mail. “She’s not they type of girl who likes attention like that..”

The school apologized in a statement to press saying: “We are really sorry for the way in which this important message was delivered. This was an error of judgment: the member of staff had not intended to cause any embarrassment.”

Still, the administration defended the teacher’s intentions. “She wanted to illustrate how freely available such images are, through the Internet,” a spokesperson said.

It’s a good lesson to learn that social media is open to everyone—even teachers—but that shouldn’t be an excuse to shame students by projecting their half-clothed image on the wall in front of their peers. That’s exactly the kind of exploitation and coercion that the assembly was supposed to prevent. While it doesn’t sound like the teacher realized the harm she could cause by calling attention to a student in this way, that lack of sensitivity is a problem.

Lately, there’s been a heightened awareness about schools with controversial shaming policies. Last month, reports of one school’s “shame” suit—directed at students who broke the dress code—raised questions about how far schools will go to teach lessons, and whether those lessons are more damning than they are helpful.

High school is hard enough without the intervention of policies and lectures that ostracize students. If we want to instill self-esteem in students, prevent bullying and make schools a safe space for learning, administrators need to be extra-careful about the lessons they teach and how they teach them.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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