Dutch school tries to block hidden camera bullying footage

THE HAGUE (AFP) - A Dutch school is going to court to stop a television channel showing hidden-camera footage shot by a victim of bullying using equipment supplied by the broadcaster.

A national furore has broken out over the programme with the privacy-sensitive country divided over the ethics of secretly filming children at school.

"We are going to court," Mr Peter Smit, spokesman for Rotterdam's Einstein Lyceum high school, told AFP on Thursday.

The school said they were taking legal action against RTL5 after the private station refused to axe the episode of "Project P: Stop het pesten" (Project P: Stop the bullying), produced by Dutch company Skyhigh.

"Video recordings made with a hidden camera within the confines of the safe environment of school is unacceptable," it said in a statement.

The school accuses RTL5 of making the programme - due to be shown on April 28 - for sensationalist reasons and violating the right to privacy of the bullies, all minors between the ages of 11 to 13.

The channel says the identities of the bullies are not revealed in the series.

"In Project P we treat the hidden images with integrity and responsibility," RTL said in a statement.

"The bullies cannot be recognised. The programme's aim is to show viewers what a bullied child has to endure without stigmatising any person," it added.

A total of four schools were filmed, and Einstein is the only one to object to footage being shown, RTL5 said.

All the schools had the right to ask for some footage not to be shown, but were only told their establishments had been secretly filmed after the fact.

At Einstein, the unnamed bullying victim spent three weeks secretly filming physical and mental abuse at school before the producers confronted teachers and pupils with the footage.

Einstein says the producers then barricaded a bicycle path near the school with a giant television screen, forcing pupils to dismount and watch footage of the bullying.

The children "felt forced to share hugs and high-fives" with the bullying victim, the school said in a statement.

RTL5 denied forcing children to do anything.

Bullying is a common problem in Dutch schools, with an online survey in 2012 finding that 12 per cent of 90,000 children questioned had been victims of serious bullying.

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