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.
Recently the Professional Conduct Committee heard a case in which a teacher created a fraudulent email account and used that account to communicate for personal business. The teacher created a fake email address representing the supervisor of the district’s payroll department and then used that email persona to communicate to a person to whom the teacher owed some money. The teacher lied by stating that they had not been paid due to an error in the district’s payroll system. The lie went further to elaborate about issues that the district had been having with the payroll system. Finally, the teacher urged the reader of the email not to contact the payroll department, because it was too busy trying to rectify the problem and any contact would only serve to disrupt that process.
The Professional Conduct Committee found the teacher to be guilty of unprofessional conduct. In its decision, the committee found that the teacher failed to maintain the trust relationship that needs to exist between the district and teachers. It was also determined that the teacher failed to maintain the honour and dignity of the profession by impersonating a district employee and by lying. The teacher received a letter of severe reprimand and was fined $2,000.
The public expects teachers to be role models and exhibit a high standard of behaviour in their personal lives and in how they conduct themselves outside of the classroom. Additionally, the behaviour of the teacher was premeditated and executed over a period of time. Further, impersonating a district employee and using that persona to lie about district processes and procedures cast that payroll employee in a negative light for the recipient of the emails. All of this was done in an effort to circumvent a lawful requirement of payment from the teacher to a third party. ❚