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. The committee dealt with the following case between May and August of 2016.
A female junior high student entered a classroom upset because some students had staged a joke about her dating another student from her class. Her teacher became aware that not only were several students involved in the situation, but a fellow teacher was as well. The embarrassed student’s teacher discovered the group waiting outside the classroom door for the embarrassed female student to return. The participating teacher, upon learning of the effect of the joke, immediately apologized for his part in the event.
The professional conduct committee found the teacher guilty of behaving contrary to section 4 of the Code of Professional Conduct, which states “the teacher treats pupils with dignity and respect and is considerate of their circumstances.” The committee ordered a letter of reprimand, noting that by aiding and abetting students in jokes that created discomfort for another student, the teacher did not observe the boundaries that teachers are expected to maintain between students and teachers.
Teachers are expected to be sensitive to the circumstances of students and avoid situations that cause students to be upset and uncomfortable. When ordering the penalty of a letter of reprimand, the committee considered that this was a singular event and that the teacher took immediate actions with the student to demonstrate his remorse.
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