German court rejects appeal against website ranking teachers

31st January 2008, Comments 0 comments

A German court ruled the evaluations were protected as free expression.

Cologne -- A German court Wednesday rejected an appeal by a teacher against a website that allows pupils to "mark" their teachers, ruling that the evaluations published were legitimate expressions of opinion.

The ruling, seen as significant in the conflict between freedom of opinion and privacy rights, was the second against the woman teacher from Moers on the Lower Rhine.

She claimed that her rating on the website "spickmich" infringed her personal rights. Another Cologne court rejected her case in November last year.

The teacher has indicated she intends to take the case further, ultimately to Germany's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.

Speaking to national commercial broadcaster n-tv ahead of the ruling, educationist Peter Silbernagel said evaluating teachers on a public website was "inappropriate" and undermined proper communication between teacher and pupil.

He warned against the dangers of manipulation, saying the internet represented a kind of communication "dead-end" as the teacher concerned was unable to react.

Users have to register as pupils with the website, both to vote and to see the rankings.

The pupils vote on a scale from 1 to 6 in several categories, such as, "motivated," "highly prepared in class" and "gives fair marks," as well as fun categories such as "cool" and "sexy."

There are also categories likely to cause offence, such as "ugly."

One teacher interviewed by n-tv noted that pupils would object if they were evaluated on how "sexy" they were.

The site's founders, three Cologne university students, say that at least four voters are required for a valid poll. They note that the rankings given are generally high - with an average of 2.7.

More than 250,000 school pupils have registered as users on the site, which offers a range of services of interest to teenagers alongside its teacher ratings.

Founder Tino Keller described the site as a channel of communication that made teacher assessment transparent. Another founder, Bernd Dicks, said the rankings showed pupils were generally satisfied with their teachers.

DPA with Expatica

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