The Moral Life of a Teacher

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The Moral Life of a Teacher

Considered Response

In the context of professional ethics, morals refer to so much more than lessons learned from fairy tales. Greene provides that a moral refers to a varied selection of values, judgments of right and wrong, good and bad as well as relational judgments concerning peoples' actions (Greene, 1973). Many professionals, including teachers, are often held to a high standard of morality. Morals are measured through many mediums; there are personal values, professional standards, societal norms and legal statutes which are a few examples of foundations that morals are compared against. This response will examine the current legal context associated with teachers in regards to morals and ethics. The basis of this examination has stemmed from various articles addressing contemporary issues of teacher misconduct outside of the classroom, and how that misconduct is subsequently being dealt with at an appellate court level.

There is an evolving judicial construction of teachers' roles in Canadian jurisprudence. Judges continue to examine the social and educational significance of teachers through the varied misconduct cases that they are encountering in their courtrooms. There has been an increase in recent years of litigation surrounding teacher conduct. Cesare and Manley-Casimir outline three main issues that have caused controversy and debate in both judicial and educational environments. The first issue surrounds the definitions of teacher misconduct within provincial statutes. As judges are dealing with situations not outlined or clarified within the statutes, they are led to establish their own definition of the role of a teacher, thus justifying their decisions as to the conduct of teachers. Each province indeed has a professional code of conduct, yet these documents can be interpreted as quite vague and unclear in a legal sense. The second issue arises from temporal and spatial circumstances. When alleged misconduct occurs outside of school property and during off-duty hours, the justice system has an obligation to address basic rights and freedoms. There are times when these rights and freedoms conflict with the standard that teachers are held to. In such cases judges must consider the bigger picture of society and their expectations for educators. Thirdly, the issue that causes much debate is the evidence, or lack thereof that the judicial bodies have chosen as appropriate to base decisions on. Inferences have been made based on various conditions in some cases, which conflicts with decisions made in other cases (Cesare and Manley-Casimir, 2005).

As exemplified, the judicial construction of the roles of teachers is ever-changing and open to inference based on context and circumstance. When defining teacher misconduct, there seems to be some roadblocks in the way of clear standards. In accordance with the issue mentioned above of vague provincial statutes; sections dealing with misconduct often do not set spatial or temporal limits, thus making it difficult to clearly define misconduct out of the school setting. Case law, though, has provided many examples that make it abundantly clear that teachers remain teachers in their private time. Teaching is a highly public and normative occupation (Piddocke, Magsino & Manley-Casimir, 1998) and as a result, teachers are always legally considered to be on duty to some extent (Dickinson, 2003).

The British Columbia Court of Appeal defined the teachers' role as one of trust, confidence and responsibility. This court upheld the decision to suspend two teachers, husband and wife, in a misconduct case in 1987. The husband had taken partially nude pictures of his wife and they had submitted the prints to a pornographic magazine. The court stated that the behavior of a teacher must satisfy the expectations that the community holds for the education system as a whole (Cesare and Manley-Casimir, 2005). This decision made it clear that...
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