Pitfalls and Precautions is a series that aims to educate teachers on professional conduct issues by highlighting situations addressed by the ATA Professional Conduct Committee.
At a recent hearing of the Professional Conduct Committee, a teacher was charged with butting his head against a student’s head, thereby failing to treat the student with dignity and respect.
The hearing committee heard that the teacher, who was covering a class for a colleague, directed a student to stop fooling around with a ball. When the student refused to follow the teacher’s direction, the teacher approached the student and placed two hands on the student’s head and slammed his forehead against the student’s forehead. The student fell out of the chair and struck his head on the floor. The student immediately tried to contact his mother on his cellphone, but the teacher yelled at the student, then swore at the student when the student refused to surrender the phone.
The student was ultimately diagnosed with a mild concussion. The teacher apologized to the student.
The teacher was found guilty of unprofessional conduct, and was subject to employment action undertaken by his employer. The teacher was deemed to have failed to treat the student with dignity and respect. The teacher was declared ineligible for Association membership for a period of one year, and a recommendation was made to the minister of education to suspend the teacher’s certificate for a one-year period.
Teachers are regularly advised and cautioned not to make physical contact with students. This is always problematic, and is more significant when that physical contact is due to anger. In this case, the teacher was responding to a defiant reaction from the student, and acted out in a physical way. This is unprofessional. Teachers are expected to provide an environment where students feel safe. The teacher did not provide a safe environment for this student, or others in the class. He failed to treat the student with dignity and respect. ❚
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