Students and Teachers: A Code of conduct
©May 19, 2012 purplmama
Inappropriate Student Teacher Relationships: the Role of Technology and Social Media…
In part one of this article, we looked at recent cases of inappropriate student teacher relationships. By looking at the trends that influence these inappropriate relationships, we see a common thread: technology. Please do not misconstrue this statement or misunderstand me, for I am not saying that technology use by students and teachers is bad, but rather that today’s easy access to social media and personal use technology, such as Facebook and cell phones for texting and calls, can direct teachers and students onto a slippery slope that is extremely difficult of which to climb back up. Outside of the classroom, today’s teachers and students are able to “rub elbows,” so to speak, by way of the current social media platforms, including Facebook and MySpace. Since so many students now own cell phones, teachers and students can also text and call each other privately. All of these opportunities make for a dangerous combination: easy access and privacy. At least some semblance of privacy, since at any point, someone somewhere can read their Facebook wall or their texts, if they are determined. Social media and personal use technology have become a catalyst for casual and dangerous behaviors, resulting in grave errors of judgment.
Teacher Conduct Revealed:
What makes a teacher cross the line, into that questionable area? Dive into those murky waters, taking his or her student along? What makes a teacher cast aside the professional and personal ethics that make the teaching profession so noble? What on earth, I ask, is that teacher thinking?? Or is it a case of simply not thinking? I want to repeat what I stated in the first part of this article: that most of these teachers did not start out with the intention of having sex with a student, or otherwise developing an inappropriate relationship. Most of these teachers are good people who made tragic errors in judgment. Somewhere along the line, the teacher and student felt comfortable enough to start discussing personal matters; intimate behaviors that made their way outside of school. There is also the matter of teachers’ perceived questionable conduct outside of the classroom, which he or she makes public via Facebook and/or MySpace. However, this usually has little to do with inappropriate student relationships, but does reflect poorly on a teacher’s character, whether or not it is deserved. Teachers must be always diligent in guarding themselves and their students against any questionable behaviors, whether real or imagined. Like it or not, we educators are—at least should be—held to a higher standard.
Prescribed Code of Conduct:
It is common knowledge that many students and teachers can connect through social media platforms or share personal information through this technology; something that was not available in the past. This is why there should be school policies and personal practices that prevent and guard against the development of inappropriate relationships between students and teachers. The school district, as many have already, should prohibit teachers and students from “friending” each other on Facebook and MySpace, as well as sharing personal cell phone numbers. This, to most of us, seems to be common sense, but unfortunately, it is not common. What is suggested here is the development of a strict code of conduct that could be implemented state-wide for all school districts. This code would monitor, thereby helping to safeguard, personal interactions between students and teachers. It would monitor all online and personal communications as well as interactions at school that do not take place in the classroom, during class time, in the presence of others. It would also make the teacher accountable for all documentation of communications and interactions with all students, requiring him or her to record and report to the administration when necessary. I am not implying that teachers must be “chaperoned” on their interactions with students, or that they cannot handle themselves and need constant supervision. What I am saying, is that given the current trends of teachers becoming overly casual, therefore blurring professional boundaries, this has become a liability issue, and one that needs to be addressed, for the welfare of all concerned. We must face the fact that we are in the age of modern education, a new era of reformed attitudes concerning student and teacher interactions. The ruler has been put away and a cell phone has taken its place. If we can create and implement a common-sense code of conduct governing interactions between students and teachers, then we can help protect students, teachers, staff, administration, schools and communities. Following a code of conduct, with clear standards for procedure, can actually take the weight of worry off of a teacher and his or her school. Clear boundaries give us a sense of security. This recommended code of conduct includes the following:
1. All email communications will be conducted through the teacher’s designated school email account. Every email sent to, or received by, a student or parents will be printed out and placed into the student’s file.
1. All spoken communications will be done via the school phone. Under no circumstances will the teacher use his or her own cell phone to speak to a student or to send or receive text messages. All phone communications will be noted in a memo and placed into the student’s file.
1. All personal communications between students and teachers conducted online through forums or social media is strictly prohibited.
2. Teachers are allowed to create classroom websites or blogs—through the school’s server—that operate in real time, incorporating similar features to those on social media sites. These sites can update students and parents on classroom activities. Communication with questions and answers, chat and open discussion and posting approved images/videos are acceptable. All activity on these sites will be school-monitored. In the case that a website is not feasible, the teacher can create a classroom Facebook page that is monitored by the school, with access being given to administration.
A. Student Teacher Conferences:
1. All conferences will take place with the door open and colleagues will be notified.
B. Tutoring/Extra Help Sessions:
1. All private tutoring and extra help meetings will be conducted in the library/resource center with others present.
C. Non-Academic Meetings:
1. All meetings with students that are not based on academic need are intensely discouraged.
2. In the case that a student needs counsel not based on academic need, the teacher will enlist the presence of support staff. All meetings will be noted in memo form and placed into the student’s file.
III. Teacher Agreement
Teachers will be required to sign an agreement recognizing their adherence to this code. Parents will also be given a copy of this code.
This code may seem rigid, but considering the trends and social norms in America today, if followed, it can help prevent the growth of inappropriate student-teacher relationships. People today are exposed to a disturbing amount of sexual content, whether on the internet, theatre or television, and this, combined with the easy discourse that social media allows, makes for a dangerous cocktail. Add this to the highly sexualized adolescent mind and body, and we have the potential for trouble. In modern education, the stress is for teachers to be accessible, real and open, but some teachers cannot differentiate this between having “friendships” with students. This Code of Conduct gives student-teacher relationships very clear boundaries that are easy to stay within.
Will this suggested code of conduct solve all of our nation’s problems concerning teacher-student relationships? Will it completely prevent all future problems regarding questionable teacher behaviors? No.. However, by following current trends and comparing them to psychological data, plans for preventing the development of inappropriate relationships can be implemented. Districts and communities must be willing to exert the effort necessary for monitoring teachers’ behaviors as well as investing in solid teacher training, which includes a one day workshop addressing this issue. Part of this training is making teachers realize their humanity and facing it head on, including taking steps to safeguard themselves, their students, their school and their community. I do believe that by helping teachers make better decisions, and supporting them through aggressive ethics training, we can help prevent the development of inappropriate student teacher relationships, which can only better serve our schools, our students, their families and the community.
Are you a teacher, a student teacher, administration or staff member? Are you a parent or student? Do you have suggestions for, or opinions on, this code? Please let me know what you think!