Risque songs, lewd texts: Teachers face harassment in online classes

Deepika Jain, a Maths teacher in Mumbai, was on a video call with class 6 students when she heard a suggestive song being played. “Warnings didn’t help and I could not identify which student was responsible. The entire class was giggling throughout.”
Gunjan Sharma, who teaches English in a private school in UP, was shocked when a stranger popped up on screen during one of her classes last month and flashed her. “We suspected that someone had shared the link of the class with him,” she said. Classes had to be suspended for a week and each student was asked to update their account with photos and full names so they could be permitted to join the class individually.
With digital classes the new mode of instruction as schools remain shut due to the pandemic, several female teachers told TOI they were facing harassment and bullying when teaching online, ranging from students calling them at odd hours and using anonymous IDs to send lewd chats to sharing links of video sessions with strangers who disrupt classes “for fun”.
A recent video that went viral on social media showed a teacher in UP’s Baghpat thrashing students for allegedly sending her abusive texts. Earlier this week, an FIR was lodged against a class 10 student in UP for sending obscene messages to his teacher during an online class.
R Kesarwani, secretary, Confederation of Independent Schools, a body with principals and management authorities from as many as 1,170 schools in UP, said awareness campaigns are on. “We are advising suspension of rowdy students, calling parents to school and reporting the matter to police,” he said.
Teachers, however, said they don’t see a way out as the anonymity the digital world provides makes it difficult to catch the culprit in most cases. Non-cooperative parents add to the problem. “There are times when fathers are roaming around in shorts while the video is on or snoozing in the background. Parents also tend to comment during classes to give their feedback or keep approaching their children to feed them,” said a chemistry teacher from Jaipur.
As the boundaries between school and home stay blurred, parents said they cannot be expected to keep an eye on their child 24×7 or maintain the same decorum as in the classroom. Ashok Agarwal, national president, All India Parents’ Association, told TOI that it is difficult to emulate classroom discipline at home. “In smaller homes, privacy will always be an issue,” he said.
Educators have now started arming themselves with tips and tricks on digital safety. “When we began online classes, many of us were unfamiliar with video calling apps. Over time, we have learned how to make the online space safer for ourselves, such as muting rowdy students, disabling chats and allowing only verified accounts to join classes,” said a teacher from Gurugram.
*Names have been changed to protect identity

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