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Ethical Decision-Making--Specific Cautions

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Jeffrey Haverland

on 8 November 2015

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Transcript of Ethical Decision-Making--Specific Cautions

Decision-Making for Educators

Dress professionally. Clothing that looks great when you’re out on the town may not be appropriate in the classroom. Low-cut, hip-hugging, short and tight, or ultra-casual may not be your best options when dressing for success.
Meeting alone with students after the workday. If you intend to provide some type of assistance to students after the work day, keep your classroom door open or meet in a very public area like the commons or library. Inform the building administrator that you will be working with students and provide a list of names prior to the date. If you are in the gymnasium over the weekend with students, keep a list of the students who participated and their approximate arrival and departure time.
Offering to drive a student home from an event. Many times it’s easier to offer a ride to a student than to wait for a parent’s arrival. Be careful about providing students with rides in your personal vehicle. Your personal car insurance may not cover transporting students if in your original application you answered that you do not use your car for work purposes. Also, a car is a confined area. If you and the student are the only people in the car, you may be placing yourself in jeopardy.
Showing that movie. Be sure to preview any movie you intend to show in class. A movie shown in class should directly relate to the curriculum. Movies which include scenes involving sex, drugs, or violence are inappropriate. It is doubtful that any rationale will be accepted by the administration. If it isn’t “G”-rated, you may be asking for trouble regardless of the grade level. Students should have the option to opt out of any movie with questionable content. Clear movies with the administration.

Posting on MySpace, Facebook, or dating websites. Social networking and dating websites are very popular with some school employees. However, participation in the websites may be harmful to your career. Administrator
s, students, parents, and community members may access personal information not meant for their viewing.

Text messaging students or colleagues. It is inappropriate to text message students at any time. If students obtain your cell phone number and you receive messages, do not respond.Text messages to students or colleagues can be misinterpreted. Would the text message receive the “Grandma Seal of Approval” (in other words, would you want your grandma to read it)? Your phone can save up to 1500 text messages and those messages can be retrieved just like information from your computer.

Providing students with your cell phone number. Education employees should monitor access to cell phone numbers. Many newer employees have only cell phone service. Encourage students to use school phone numbers for contacts. Cell phone numbers may be abused.

Hitting the “reply to all” button. Think before you “Reply to all.” Messages may be sent to unintended individuals. Many listservs include employers within the list without the knowledge of the employee. What was meant to be read by a select group may ultimately be read by a much wider audience. Hitting the “Reply to all” button may result in some very unpleasant responses.

Allowing students to use your computer and password. Student access to an employee’s computer should be limited. The employer perceives that any use of your computer is with your permission. If students use your
computer, carefully monitor its use. Be sure to keep the monitor in sight. Students should not have access to the password for your computer. Do not post it where it can be readily accessed. If you detect inappropriate use, report it immediately to the administration and who may be responsible. If you don’t, you may suffer the consequences.

Discussing personal issues with students. A very distinct boundary should exist between the employee’s and the student’s personal lives. It is inappropriate to discuss personal problems, partying, and other similar issues with students. Many employees’ job status would not have been placed in jeopardy if he/she had refrained from discussing personal life issues with their students.

Speaking in anger at a faculty meeting. Professional conduct is important at any meeting. Having a confrontation in the presence of other staff members may not be in your best interest. If you have a disagreement with another staff member or an administrator, that disagreement should be discussed privately rather than in some type of open session. Think before you speak or at least count to 10!

Touching a student. Any touching—no matter how innocent—may place your career in jeopardy. Never touch a student if you are angry. Even if you think you’re consoling a student be cautious; the student may perceive your empathy as something very different.

Attending public events where alcohol may be served. It may sound archaic to avoid public events where alcohol may be served, but education employees are 24/7 employees; what happens off the job matters. You’re an adult and expected to behave in a responsible manner; you are a role model for students. Inappropriate behavior in any setting may jeopardize a career.
Inviting students to your home. If you wish to have students attend a function in your home, be sure to include other adults (preferably parents) in the activity. Do not have students in your home with out the participation of additional adults. Even if the situation is perfectly innocent, it may not be considered so by outside observers. If you wish to have a social activity involving team members, hold the function at the school or some community building. Your home is not the appropriate location.
Participating with students on the gym floor or field. A coach has the responsibility to instruct, demonstrate, officiate, and provide feedback to student athletes. It may be tempting to get out on the floor and participate; however, that decision may place you in jeopardy during a practice or in a PE setting. Remember, you are the adult. You or the students could be injured. Your actions may be misinterpreted as too aggressive or inappropriate. It only takes one student’s allegation to damage a career.
Collecting money from students. Maintain accurate records of who gave what, how money was utilized, and who it was given to for field trips, book orders, sports camps, fund raisers, etc. Never commingle personal and work-related funds. Check for a district procedure for handling money. Teachers can lose their jobs and teaching licenses for misuse of public funds.
Responding to an email. Consider carefully your response to a parent, student, or staff email. Be courteous and professional. Check for spelling. Avoid using all capital letters (implies shouting). Monitor the tone of the email. Could it be misinterpreted or misunderstood? When in doubt save a draft copy on your computer and re-read it the next day prior to sending. Have an objective reader review it and offer suggestions. Think before you click. Professionalism is displayed in many ways—including via email!

Discussing personal issues with students. A very distinct boundary should exist between the employee’s and the student’s personal lives. It is inappropriate to discuss personal problems, partying, and other similar issues with students. Many employees’ job status would not have been placed in jeopardy if he/she had refrained from discussing personal life issues with their students.

Using slang. There are many terms acceptable in an informal setting that are not appropriate in the classroom. Education employees should avoid using terms and phrases accepted in student circles (“sucks,” “bites,” “blows,” “you’re a hottie,” and “slut”). Depending upon your community, there may be other terms equally inappropriate. Think before you speak. Students should know that you understand their language, but you don’t have to use it! Be professional at all times.

Ethical Decision-Making for Preservice Educators
Tammy Duehr
Jeffrey A. Haverland

Due Process
Danielson (1996) estimates that an educator makes more than 3,000 nontrivial decisions every day.
Moral Turpitude
Data shows that there are more complaints being filed for sexual misconduct than ever before, but it is difficult to say with certainty that the problem is worse than years past (D. MaGee, personal communication, February 26, 2015).
School and District Implications
Case Studies
What is your role and responsibility in maintaining the high ethical standards that define our profession?
When seeking guidance on ethical decision-making, teachers often rely upon opinions that lead to situational, subjective, arbitrary, and inconsistent resolutions.
There is a culture of silence that exists among teachers regarding ethical decision-making due to a fear of consequences.
Ethical tensions exist in all facets of teachers’ roles.
Teachers are often placed in positions of powerlessness when faced with ethical decisions that might conflict with administration.

A Climate that Contributes to Misconduct...

Teachers rely on a personal morality and life experiences to guide their decision-making.
There is a collegial loyalty in not reporting perceived misconduct.
Implicit norms develop within the learning community and vary by teacher grouping, administrator, school, and district.
Alliances often dictate the implicit norms that occur within the learning community.

Without a Common Framework of Decision-Making and Conduct…
We Must Get Our Priorities Straight!
I have rights...

Suspensions and revocations are posted on the National Association of State Directors for Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Website.

Working Together...
Board of Educational Examiners
Teachers' roles are not clearly defined, and the extent of their duties not delineated, which results in arbitrary boundaries.
There is often a deference of responsibilities by teachers.
There is a high degree of frustration among teachers regarding the variability of their actions ("We just need to be on the same page").
Knowledge of the rules (explicit or implicit) often occurs by transgressing the rules.
Ethical boundaries are not clearly defined
Colleagues are unaware or choose to believe otherwise
Laws that govern behavior are not understood
Assumptions of morality,

Why Things Go Wrong...

Standard I: Conviction of crimes, sexual or other immoral conduct with or toward a student, and child and dependent adult abuse.
Standard II: Alcohol or drug abuse.
Standard III: Misrepresentation, falsification of information
Standard IV: Misuse of public funds and property
Standard V: Violations of contractual obligations
Standard VI: Unethical practice toward other members of the profession, parents, students, and the community
Standard VII: Compliance with state law governing student loan obligations
Standard VIII: Incompetence

What’s so difficult about knowing right from wrong?

An Example That We Can All Relate To…
Learning to Drive—rules, permit, test, etc.
We demand you know everything on the very first day
Driving Decisions—numerous, overwhelming, and not instinctual
Bad Habits Compound

Interactions with students
Knowledge of school policies and procedures
Reputation in the community

Think About Your…

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time,
will that it should become a universal law.

A categorical imperative, on the other hand, denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that must be obeyed in all circumstances and is justified as an end in itself.
It is best known in its first formulation:

Immanuel Kant

Think Twice Before...
• 1991-1994: 19 cases of sexual misconduct (12%)
• 1995-2004: 43 cases of sexual misconduct (27%)
• 2005-2014: 96 cases of sexual misconduct (61%)

158 Founded Cases of Sexual Misconduct in Iowa
Increase in reporting, not necessarily an increase in cases
Technology (such as computers and smart phones, social media, text messaging, and other means of recording and memorializing inappropriate educator behavior has led to more criminal convictions and founded BoEE Code of Conduct and Ethics violations because there is clear evidence of educator misconduct
(D. MaGee, personal communication, February 26, 2015)
A study by a Hofstra University researcher, 9.6 percent of students in eighth through 11th grade have experienced some kind of unwanted, physical or nonphysical sexual contact (American Association of University Women 2001, 1993)
4.5 Million Students
As educators, what protections do you legally owe to your students?
In loco parentis...
In loco parentis
has long been an assumption placed on educators for the role that they fill in the absence of a parent or guardian
The key here is that control is limited and child abuse is prohibited whether it is committed by a parent or a teacher. (Alexander and Alexander, 2009).
A teacher is assumed to stand in loco parentis unless state law or school board policy removes that authority (Rumel, 2013)
Fiduciary Duty
Fiduciary responsibility is defined as a legal duty to act solely in another party's interests. Parties owing this duty are called fiduciaries. The individuals to whom they owe a duty are called principals. Fiduciaries may not profit from their relationship with their principals unless they have the principals' express informed consent. They also have a duty to avoid any conflicts of interest between themselves and their principals or between their principals and the fiduciaries' other clients. A fiduciary duty is the strictest duty of care recognized by the US legal system. (Fiduciary Duty, n.d.).
[Educators] should onlyhave a fiduciary duty to their students when they engage in conduct completely beyond, but made possible by, their educational mission (Rumel, 2013)
…at least nominally, this Court has continued to recognize the applicability of the in loco parentis doctrine to public schools. See Vernonia School Dist. 47J v. Acton, 515 U. S. 646, 654, 655 (1995) (“Traditionally at common law, and still today, unemancipated minors lack some of the most fundamental rights of self-determination … . They are subject … to the control of their parents or guardians. When parents place minor children in private schools for their education, the teachers and administrators of those schools stand in loco parentis over the children entrusted to them” (citation omitted)); Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser,478 U. S. 675, 684 (1986) (“These cases recognize the obvious concern on the part of parents, and school authorities acting in loco parentis, to protect children—especially in a captive audience—from exposure to sexually explicit, indecent, or lewd speech”).

Morse, et al., v Joseph Frederick (2007)
Arthur and Lewis (2005), morality is about rules, principles and ideals which have the potential to guide the choices of our actions and which provide a basis for justifying or evaluating what we do while refers to the moral standards that apply to teaching as a profession.
Standards of Conduct (IAC Chapter 25 282—25.3(272)
Board of Educational Examiners
Iowa Code 272.2
The board of educational examiners is created to exercise the exclusive authority to develop a code of professional rights and responsibilities, practices, and ethics, which shall, among other things, address the failure of a practitioner to fulfill contractual obligations under section 279.13.

Standard VI—unethical practice
Standard I--conviction of crimes, sexual or other immoral conduct
Personal Morality
IOWA CODE 272.15
Iowa Association of School Boards
Level One Investigator
Level Two Investigator
The Perks of Providing Paid Leave
Safety, Legal Protection, Stigma if Unfounded
Regulatory Framework

Professional Code of Conduct

A "continuum-of-responsibility" within the profession is non-existent.
Teachers are making decisions in isolation and without transparency.
Teachers are "... at odds with a natural human reaction... and we are being asked to challenge that reaction. We're being asked to put that aside in the face of a rule or a dictated principle, or something opposed to simply just responding the way humans should respond."

Ethical Standards
Iowa Board of Educational Examiners
Continuum Activity
Professional ethics are cultivated through personal experience…not teacher prep programs…greater need for transformational teaching and less theory
Professional conduct, ethics, and teacher law is typically not part of pre service prep
Teachers are not prepared for interpersonal relationships in teaching…ethical readiness is subjective
We must encourage ethical development
Dr. Troy Hutchings
Dispositional Framework

Attitudes, values, and beliefs that guide decision-making
Policies, statutes, and case law
that guide decision-making
Hutchings, 2013
Hutchings, 2013
Hutchings, 2013
The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices.
Title IX
A body of statutes, regulations, policies, and case law that provides the framework governing school operations, including the conduct of teachers. This may include school or district policies, state statutes, or criminal codes.
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