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Sunday, 11 November, 2001, 11:12 GMT
Classmate website angers teachers
FriendsReunited has become a hugely popular site
A teachers' union is considering taking action to shut down a website that reunites old school mates, amid claims that it is being used to make allegations of alcoholism and paedophilia against its members.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, says the union has received "a lot of complaints" from colleagues concerned about comments made by former pupils.

We have had a lot of complaints from our members on behalf of themselves or their teachers about allegations that have been made

David Hart NAHT

FriendsReunited encourages people to register their names and previous schools so they can find out what their old school and college friends are doing now.

Each school has a notice board where memories from school or about teachers can be recorded.

It is here that the union claims defamatory remarks are being made about its members.

The website makes it clear that abusive, libellous or hurtful comments can be removed if a complaint is made.

But Mr Hart told the BBC: "We have had a lot of complaints from our members on behalf of themselves or their teachers about allegations that have been made.

'Alcoholism and paedophilia'

"They are now extending into allegations of alcoholism, paedophilia and so on.

"Obviously, the vast majority of people using a website are using it for quite good purposes and I certainly wouldn't want to take any action unless we felt it was unavoidable."

FriendsReunited boasts a database of 40,000 UK secondary and primary schools, colleges and universities.

It says that more than 2.5 million people have registered so far and this figure is growing by more than 20,000 registrations a day.

The NAHT has a membership of over 30,000 people and is the largest organisation of its kind in Europe.

The BBC's Ed Stourton
discusses the website with its owner Julie Pankhurst, with a clip from the NAHT's David Hart
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