Decisions by School Superintendents Improper Term Paper

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Members of the faculty are also exhorted to recognize that students are individuals and are entitled to an atmosphere conducive to learning and to even-handed treatment in all respects of the teacher-student relationship.

Improper Attitude and Unprofessional Conduct

It is no use to preach to children if you do not act decently yourself - Theodore Roosevelt in a speech to Holy Name Society, Oyster Bay, August 16, 1903.

Most educational institutions develop a set of rules governing teacher behavior that reflect the district policy. They summarily ban the obvious: harassment and sexual contact with students.

Improper attitude or unprofessional conduct. Conduct that bases a person's employment, enrollment as a student, or participation in scholastic activities on that person's age, color, disability, sex, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status; employment or academic decisions made in retaliation for a person's unwillingness to submit to such conduct, or benefits or privileges provided as a result of such submission; or Conduct of any type, whether oral, written, graphic or physical, directed against a person because of his or her age, color, disability, sex, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, and which also unreasonably interferes with the person's work or academic performance or participation in scholastic activities, or creates a working or learning environment that a reasonable person would find threatening or intimidating.

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Harassment can take many forms like:

Ridiculing a person's religious beliefs; directing racial or ethnic slurs at someone.

Touching that goes beyond acceptable workplace or classroom interaction, in a way that a reasonable person would find it objectionable.

Repeated references to sex in lectures or class assignment when there is no relevance to the content of the course

Term Paper on Decisions by School Superintendents Improper Assignment

Evaluating an employee or student more critically than performance warrants because the employee or student objected to a sexual advance.

Sending unwelcome e-mail containing sexual jokes.

Telling persons they are too old to understand new technology.

Mocking a person with a disability.

The importance of consistency in the interpretation of terminology

Teachers are admonished to avoid not only impropriety but also the appearance of impropriety in their actions towards students and colleagues. But what is improper to some teachers is not so to others -- or to their students.

Most teachers instinctively know right from wrong without needing it spelled out. But there is a gray area between the caring teacher who offers a pat on the shoulder and the teacher whose calculated motives and designs are those of a sexual predator. What makes the student-teacher relationship all the more confusing is that not all students or teachers are alike. Also, what makes one student uncomfortable seems normal to another. A Physical Education instructor may have a different relationship with students than a Science teacher does with his. An elementary teacher can offer more hugs than a teacher in junior high school. And finally, some teachers are warmer by nature than others. A teacher should be a nurturer and must be able to express caring without threatening students or allowing the relationship to grow beyond the boundaries of what is proper.

In 1998 there were two U.S. Supreme Court rulings according to which districts can be held liable for teachers who harass students. Cases in which teachers clearly abused the teacher-student relationship have been given so much publicity, as to render more acute the dilemma of teachers who are troubled by the thought of having to be constantly on their guard lest they step beyond the boundaries of what is appropriate.

The Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission has suspended or revoked 139 educator licenses since 1992. Seventy-four of the cases involved some kind of sexual misconduct. Those cases ranged from sexual harassment or contact to having too-familiar relationships with students, such as talking about sex, writing letters with sexual connotations, making sexually charged remarks in class or inappropriately hugging and touching students. Teachers accused of such misconduct typically use the same defense: "I'm just a caring, loving teacher and you're keeping me from being that way. I'm trying to show approval, trying to show I care."

Parents do caution children against the dangers of talking to strangers in general and teach them to look out for people who might harm them. But sometimes, the unexpected happens when children come to harm from teachers or employees of their own school.

Cases of sexual misconduct by teachers have been known ever since the very existence of an institution named school, but it has remained a sensitive subject that is rarely talked about or publicly acknowledged in the past. Many instances go unnoticed until the situation balloons up to such grave proportions that action against the errant teacher cannot be postponed.

Accused teachers represent a small percentage of our nation's educators. But those who indulge in indecent behavior often cause harm to more than one child and the damage so caused can be devastating.

A national study of 1,600 students done in 1993 by the American Association of University Women found that 85% of 8th- through 11th-grade girls had experienced some form of sexual harassment.

1995 survey done by Connecticut officials found similar results and further revealed that 22% of harassment reports in that state involved touching, 1% rape and 1% attempted rape.

Both studies found that many students had reported harassment from teachers. The AAUW study showed 25% of harassment was from adults at school; the Connecticut researchers found 22% of all harassers were teachers or coaches.

Meanwhile, key court decisions are holding schools increasingly liable for protecting students from harassment that occurs in hallways and classrooms.

A 1992 Supreme Court decision in the case of a Georgia teacher who had sex with a 15-year-old student cleared the way for school districts to be sued for monetary damages and has prompted many states to require schools to address sexual harassment.

Accusations of sexual misconduct surface from time to time in schools across the nation. In a decision that sent ripples across the country, the California Supreme Court ruled that school districts could be sued for "negligent references" or failing to report harassment allegations to a new school district. That case involved a teacher who molested a student and later received a job recommendation that made no mention of the allegations.

That type of quiet, out-of-sight handling of a problem is common," said an official who had worked for the Massachusetts Department of Education for several years and has testified as an expert witness in several sexual harassment cases.

Such incidents are referred to in common parlance as "the mobile molester syndrome,"

Many incidents of this nature are carefully swept under the carpet in an attempt to relegate them to the status of a bad nightmare to be forgotten about as soon as possible.

There is no clear policy on what needs to be done in such circumstances in most educational institutions, and school administrators often face the dilemma of whether or not to take the issue a step further and inform a potential new employer of the allegations. However, school superintendents do have an obligation to let prospective employers know about the questionable behavior of a former employee, from a purely ethical point-of-view.

According to Massachusetts Department of Education spokesman Rick Atkins, the state does not require a school district to inform another of allegations against a teacher. "The situation really dictates what has to happen," he said. "There is no blanket policy."

Joseph Doherty, an Avonworth School District teacher, was cleared of criminal charges but resigned under pressure after being accused of sexually assaulting a student in 1997. He was able to get a teaching job in Maryland this year even though Avonworth school officials had sent his case to the state Department of Education for review.

Dennis L. Bair, a music teacher in Burgettstown Area School District, Washington County, was convicted in June 1997 on two counts of indecent assault of a female student. However, he was allowed to surrender his license last year rather than have it revoked. That action effectively sealed his records and could enable him to teach again outside the state.

Gary Serlo taught elementary school in Westmoreland County in the early 1970s before being sent to a Greensburg prison in 1974 for child molestation. His license to teach in Pennsylvania wasn't revoked until last year, though, when he was convicted of molesting three boys in his new school district in New York. Because of an incomplete background check, school officials who hired Serlo never knew that he had served prison time for molestation.

Larry Mihalko, an elementary school teacher in Gateway School District, was charged earlier this year with indecent assault and other crimes. The charges stem from allegations brought by former students.

The Post-Gazette has examined 727 cases across the U.S. In which an educator has lost his or her license for sex offenses during the past five… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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