DEBD-AP: Staff-Student Relations & Ethical Boundaries
For the purposes of this policy, an “educator” is any person employed in any capacity by the district, who has the opportunity, privilege, and responsibility of interacting with students on behalf of the district. Educator–student relationships are important in creating a productive school or classroom climate and to the individual success of students. The educator–student relationship is a reciprocal relationship that is continually developing. In fostering these developing relationships, staff must be aware that there is a line between a relationship that promotes motivation and learning and one that hinders motivation and learning. As the professional and the adult in these relationships, the staff member must be prepared to set parameters and limits to maintain an ethical relationship based upon trust.
It is this foundation of trust that creates the duty of teachers to act as a fiduciary in their students’ best interest and to create and maintain a safe classroom environment for their students.
Educators develop a foundation of trust and healthy relationships with students through ethical behavior. Ethical behavior is acting conscientiously within appropriate boundaries.
Although there are certain behaviors between an educator and student that are always appropriate or inappropriate, sometimes what is appropriate in one instance may not be appropriate in another. Boundaries exist to distinguish between what is appropriate and what is inappropriate in relationships. Boundaries are established to protect both educator and student from the potential, or supposed, abuse of power, control and influence.
The following are examples of boundaries. This list is not all inclusive and is set forth as a guideline only to help teachers in maintaining an appropriate relationship with students. As professionals, educators are called upon to make judgments, and these guidelines are designed to assist such judgment regarding ethical boundaries.
What is presented in the classroom must be appropriate for the age and maturity of the students.
Educators need to control their emotions and resist acting in anger; avoid sarcasm, or demeaning and insulting behavior toward their students; and avoid cursing at students or in front of students.
It is always inappropriate for an educator to engage in a romantic or sexual relationship with a student; intimate gestures and language are to be avoided. Meeting one on one with a student for an educational purpose may be appropriate, but meeting in a private or secluded setting for a non-educational purpose is inappropriate. Complaints or allegations of an inappropriate relationship are investigated per administrative regulation DEBD-AR: District Action & Investigative Process.
Educators may not use their authority to harm a student nor allow a student to violate school rules or law; and may not reward or punish a student based on their relationship with the teacher, their popularity or favors done by the student for the educator.
Educators should use caution and judgment with contact outside of the school or activity setting. Educators should use caution both outside of school and even within the school or activity setting in spending time alone with individual students. Educators should avoid transporting students alone, except in case of emergencies and/or with full knowledge of a supervisor and/or parent/guardian.
Except for such personnel as trained counselors, psychologists or social workers in the school setting, other educators’ conversations about highly personal matters with a student are generally inappropriate and should be avoided. Engaging in conversations with a student when the student is sharing information that does not benefit the student crosses ethical boundaries. Breaches in confidentiality and offering advice on personal matters should be avoided. Telephone conversations with students should be limited to school related topics, be of short duration and should be limited to daytime or early evening time periods; and, since educators are mandated reporters, they should make it clear to students that there are conversations that cannot be kept confidential. Engaging in friendships with students through the use of email, texting or social media should be avoided. Staff should also avoid the sharing of highly personal information about their own private lives with students.
Spending too much time with one student detracts from time available for other students and gives the impression of favoritism, and may create the potential for or perception of violation of other ethical boundaries.
Only educators trained to do so may act as a counselor, therapist, or social worker. Educators’ mentoring of students should be limited to academic or activity-related roles. In other matters, educators may listen to and encourage students and, when appropriate, should refer students to school professionals who are trained to deal with serious issues.
Every decision made by an educator with respect to her or his students should be prefaced with the question “Whose needs are being met by my course of action?” The only acceptable answer is “the needs of the student.” When teachers become, confidants, friends or counselors of students, a dual relationship exists which creates an ambiguity in the teacher – student relationship where roles are less defined. This ambiguity can foster inappropriate actions and the potential for educator misconduct.
Alleged violations of this policy will be investigated following district policies and state law and, if it is determined a teacher has violated this policy, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.