High school students in Australia have forced a Catholic teacher to resign after forcibly outing him as gay via TikTok.
“I was victim to students making a TikTok about me,” the teacher at a Catholic school in Perth shared with The West Australian. The students destroyed the un-named drama teacher’s career with videos on the social media app by participating in a “guess who” trend in which creators leave clues. Each video clue included a series of details that eventually revealed the identity of the school teacher. The news report stated:
“The video clip featured the school’s crest with clues, ‘not many people like him,’ the name of his school house group, images of theatre comedy, a tragedy mask, and a muscled male torso alongside a pride flag.”
Having taught at the school for six years, the teacher understood the school’s policy against LGBTQ+ teachers that “bans them from coming out publicly as homosexual.” However, despite the school’s policy, the teacher expressed his love for teaching and said he was disappointed by the lack of support he received from the Catholic system. As the teacher understood the policy, he shared:
“Being gay and working in a Catholic school, the scriptures and the Church believe homosexuality is wrong and that teachers may be dismissed from their role due to religious grounds.”
Given the viral nature of internet trends, the teacher noted the need for additional protections for teachers against cyber harassment committed by students.
A spokesperson for Western Australia Catholic Education noted that “it would not be appropriate to comment on matters involving individual employees or students,” but they did express their sincere concern for the “safety and wellbeing of all students and staff.” In response to questioning about the incident, the Western Australia Catholic Education spokesperson shared:
“Appropriate online behaviour continues to be an educational and pastoral focus with clear policies and procedures if student conduct does not meet the high standards expected.”
TikTok’s community guidelines state that “the platform does not tolerate any form of bullying or harassment and encourages users to report inappropriate content.” Perhaps the Western Australia Catholic Education system could learn from these guidelines, which seem more pastorally focused by directly confronting the anti-LGBTQ+ bullying, like that which targeted the teacher in this incident.
—Bobby Nichols (he/him), July 15, 2022