Parents have reacted angrily to a council policy which warns that their social media posts could lead to children being excluded from school.
Headteachers were sent advice on the matter from Aberdeen City Council before the end of school term following “a number” of incidents where pupils and staff members were mentioned in public comments online.
The local authority’s legal department has warned that criminal charges could be launched against parents posting abusive or offensive comments, and that they “may also result in their child being excluded from school due to the actions of their parents.”
According to the policy there are two grounds for a child’s exclusion: If a parent or pupil fails to comply with the rules of the school, or if the child’s continued attendance would be “seriously detrimental to order and discipline”.
The city council is the only authority in the north of Scotland with such a policy, which it implemented several years ago.
The Press And Journal contacted seven others across the country, which all confirmed they do not have a similar procedure in place.
Parents said they were surprised to hear the actions of adults could affect their children’s education.
Bucksburn dad Martin Macdonald said: “I think it’s quite ridiculous.
“Children shouldn’t be missing out because of their parents’ actions.”
Shop worker Christine Dines, who has school-aged children, said: “I think it’s a bit extreme and the kids shouldn’t be punished for this.”
And father-of-two and minister Barry Douglas, of Bridge of Don, agreed that the children should not be affected.
He said: “I don’t think the kids should be excluded for this.
“We live in a world of social media where things happen quickly, so it could be a heat of the moment thing of frustration where a parent has a rant.
“So we all have to learn to stop and think about these things.”
The council’s Liberal Democrat education spokesman Martin Greig said he believed the schools should be working on building trust with parents.
He said: “Parents have a right and a duty to express their views about their child’s education.
“If there are any concerns or questions these need to be encouraged and taken seriously.
“The council should not try and stop parents from giving comments.
“Their attitude is setting up barriers instead of building up trust.”
It’s understood that posts have been uncovered involving adults ranting about educational facilities on parenting groups online.
The city council stressed that other options would be considered before exclusions took place.
Ron Constable, joint secretary of the Aberdeen branch of union EIS, said: “It is particularly troubling that this abuse is being conducted where children and young people are able to witness this behaviour including inappropriate language and intimidation.
“The abuse of members over social media is a major concern for the EIS in Aberdeen and we have experienced a significant increase in the number of members seeking advice about this issue.
“We would welcome the opportunity to consult with Aberdeen City Council on a policy to address this matter.”
A city council spokeswoman said: “The council’s policy, which has been in place for a number of years, states that ‘It should be noted that the inappropriate use of social media by either pupil or parent making derogatory comments in relation to a pupil, staff member or school is likely to lead to exclusion.
“We always encourage parents to use social media responsibly and we would only consider exclusion as a last resort.”