It is important for educators to understand the position of trust in which they are held and societal expectations concerning their conduct. Typically, educators who exercise good judgment in their interactions with students, colleagues, and the public do not run afoul of the law or the prescribed standards of conduct. In exercising judgment, you should be mindful of the values set forth in the Code of Professional Practice and Conduct as well as the following considerations:
- do not engage in activities that may reasonably raise concerns as to their propriety;
- do not engage in activities directed towards developing a relationship with a student beyond the recognized boundaries of a teacher/student relationships regardless of the student's age;
- do not make comments of a personal nature or suggestive in tone to a student;
- do not pursue any sexual or romantic contact with a student regardless of the student's age or apparent consent;
- do not invite students to your home;
- do not see students in isolated or private situations;
- do not share information of a personal nature about yourself with students;
- do not give personal gifts to a student;
- do not exchange notes, e-mails or other communications with a student of a personal nature;
- do not place yourself in situations which could be construed as posing a risk to the student or facilitating an inappropriate relationship with students;
- refer students to the appropriate resource if they are in need of counseling;
- ensure that your actions always serve the best interests of the student; and
- be mindful of your reputation in the community.
As a professional educator, you have an obligation to protect students from conditions that are harmful or unsafe and are prohibited from knowingly and intentionally withholding evidence about violations of an educator's legal obligations. In addition, you have an obligation to the profession to uphold its values. The Professional Standards and Practices Commission believes that individual educators have a responsibility to intervene when they suspect misconduct. Such intervention may involve confronting your colleague, reporting to a supervisor or the filing of a complaint.
In addition to protecting students, it is important that teachers treat each other professionally, maintain confidentiality and avoid creating a climate where colleagues feel harassed or uncomfortable. To avoid this, teachers should not engage in gossip, spreading rumors, or talking badly about colleagues or students whether in the hallways, lunchroom, grocery store or in social networks.
- What would you do if you suspected that a colleague was engaged in misconduct with a student? What steps would you take?
- Being an ethical colleague is not just about policing the profession. It is also about maintaining a professional working atmosphere in the school. What types of behavior could create an unprofessional atmosphere in a schools setting?