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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 12:38 GMT
Have you used FriendsReunited?
The National Association of Head Teachers is considering taking action to shut down a website that reunites old school mates.

The union claims that the site is being used to make allegations of alcoholism and paedophilia against its members.

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.

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

Have you used the FriendsReunited website? Did you manage to make contact with your old school friends? What happened next?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

It would be a terrible shame if this fantastic website was shut down

Jo, UK
I joined the FriendsReunited website and have found many good friends who I had lost contact with, as have many people around the country. It would be a terrible shame if this fantastic website was shut down due to a few teachers complaining that some of their pupils did not like them very much. I hated one of my teachers at school - she victimised me almost from day one. I would feel well within my rights to point this out on the website if so inclined, in the same way as she would have the right to defend herself in the same way. Closing down FriendsReunited would do little to stop ex-pupils airing their views if they were strong enough. David Hazel is right - there are plenty of places where this can be done.

Leave FriendsReunited alone - it will do far more good than harm.
Jo, UK

This is typical of the mentality of teachers. Even though decades have passed since we have left school, they are still trying to stop us having harmless fun.
Andre Toulon, UK

I have used this site, and found it great to see what old school friends were doing now, also to be reminded of all the teachers, who really make an influence in your life, whether good or bad. I would also love to hear what some of these teachers are doing now and even their memories. Closing this site would be an injustice, as it would be stopping freedom of speech, and we are a democracy, are we not? However, saying that, I do not think false allegations should be made against anybody, and was pleased to see all through this site a warning that any abusive or hurtful comment would be removed. So maybe there just needs to be more monitoring on peoples comments.
Suzanne, UK

I would like to ask the teacher's unions whether they think that any of the alleged remarks could be true.

Richard H, UK
I am a member of this group and have contacted lots of old friends. I have never seen any derogatory remarks about anyone. I would like to ask the teacher's unions whether they think that any of the alleged remarks could be true. It's one thing for a 17 year old to try and get their own back, but if a 30 year old asks if anyone else had a disturbing experience with a Mr or Mrs or Miss whoever, and if so could they get in touch, don't the union think it worrying? I cannot believe that every remark like that is a lie. Especially as people are usually quite easily traced through their email and usually use their proper name when contacting friends.
Richard H, UK

I have enjoyed using this site very much. I have been able to get in contact with some old friends, which has pleased me greatly. As mentioned by someone else, there are plenty of sites, which could be used to make comments about teachers, picking on one site will not stop the problem.

If the claims are false, the teachers have to be prepared to speak up for themselves, as they have to do now if the claim is made directly to the school or the authorities. If however the claims are correct, the teachers unions needs to be very careful in trying to remove a means by which justifiably angry people can express their hurt. Denying a 'safe' forum for victims of abuse to come forward is unfair on them and also could lead to abusers continuing in their jobs. I would also like to say that my experience of teachers was, for the most part, excellent.
Darren Strevens, uk

I found comments on FriendsReunited that accused him [my father] of all kinds of very serious crimes

Anonymous, UK
My father is a retired teacher. I found comments on FriendsReunited that accused him of all kinds of very serious crimes, including money laundering. They had given my father's full name with the comments. All the claims were completely made up and seem to have been made by people purely to cause hurt. I was very angry, but decided not to tell my father and asked the site to take the comments down, which they promptly did. I like the idea of FriendsReunited, and use it myself, but it is currently far too easy to cause major hurt to teachers who devoted their lives to education. The best solution would be to moderate all comments before they are displayed.
Anonymous, UK

Why don't the objectors use the website itself to air their disagreement, instead of running to the lawyers?

David Hazel, UK
I have used this website, and have restored contact with a couple of former friends as a result of it. Frankly, if any teachers think they are being defamed by anything on this website, they only have to go onto it themselves and use the facilities provided to indicate that this is so. The website provides the facilities both to make comments and to flag up defamatory ones. This being so, why don't the objectors use the website itself to air their disagreement, instead of running to the lawyers? Also, what is special about FriendsReunited in this respect? There are plenty of public forums on the web where such allegations could be made with equal ease. Why pick on this one web site, which is providing a very useful service?
David Hazel, UK

I have used this site and registered at my old schools and made contact with old class mate. Yes I have seen adverse comments regarding some teachers. The majority were dedicated professionals who sent many children out in the world with a sound education and good moral values. But some were the equivalent guards, who should have been removed from their position of trust and incarcerated.
David Betts, USA

I've used this site for several months and it has been a joy to see new names appear virtually every week and to renew acquaintances that would otherwise have been nigh on impossible. No-one can condone using this as an arena for deliberately gratuitous or truthless remarks, but it has to be accepted that there might potentially be some truth in what some people are saying - and you don't have to try very hard to find stories from the past couple of decades where pupils were abused (physically or mentally); and they had no union to turn to.
Neil Franklin, UK

When I looked at the 'memories' section for teaches my initial thought was "I hope my old teachers are looking at this"

Ellen, UK
When I first saw Friends reunited I thought it was the best thing I'd seen all year. I spent a happy couple of hours catching up with what classmates were up to now. I have also been reunited with the one old friend I had always regretted losing touch with. When I looked at the 'memories' section for teaches my initial thought was "I hope my old teachers are looking at this" as there were some really kind things being said. I would love for some of my old teachers to be able to see what a great impact they had on my life despite my protestations at the time.

Some teachers however are extremely destructive and make very negative impressions on their pupils. Anger and dislike for teachers can last a very long time and this area of the website allows people to publicly vent that anger. This is not an appropriate forum for personal vendettas to be aired and I believe that the messages should be proofed before they are posted to eliminate this. I don't want to read how such-and-such picked on so-and-so any more than the accused teacher wants to. It would be a real shame if the website were closed down due to the inappropriate behaviour of a minority
Ellen, UK

See also:

11 Nov 01 | Education
Classmate website angers teachers
18 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Women reconnect online
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