Ethical Scenarios

Empaneling the “Ethic Jury” to Review Mock Case Studies

The study of morality in professional decision-making is essential to pre- and in-service training of music teachers. Our goal should be to reinforce recommendations for the avoidance of inappropriate behavior (or even the appearance of impropriety), and defining and modeling the “best practices” of a “fiduciary” by promoting trust, fostering a safe environment for learning, acting in the best interests of our students, and upholding the overall integrity of the profession.

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Full discussions and samples of “the codes” (ethics and conduct), professional aspirations, and government policies/statutes – a proverbial “curriculum” exploring ethics for music educators – have been posted at this blog-site. You should peruse these first before proceeding further:

In addition, articles cautioning educators’ use of social media are offered:

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All of these should be “required” reading. Few of us have ever received a full-blown class or induction program on ethics. Now is the time to study this topic, and as ethics expert Dr. Troy Hutchings would say, to view it through multiple perspectives – “the lens of…”

  • “Ethos of care”
  • “Educator risks”
  • “Consequences”

The purpose of this blog is to provide supplemental materials for personal reflection, possibly inspiring thought-provoking group dialogue during methods classes, professional development workshops, or music staff meetings.

 

Degrees of Misconduct

The Rubric

It is more important to know why something is wrong, rather than simply labeling the degree of misconduct or likely discipline action. However, for the purpose of introspection during this exercise, we will first recognize “the problem” presented in each re-enactment. We will use these “color-coded” criteria, and allow “snap judgments” in the simulated evaluation by a “jury of our peers.” Put on your thinking caps! You may be surprised with the incongruities of your first impressions once the likely outcomes of these stories are revealed!

Use this tool to judge the severity of the upcoming case studies.

DEGREES OF MISCONDUCT (from bad to worst)

  • GREEN (not illustrated)  = not a misconduct
  • BLUE (not illustrated) = inappropriate, unwise, or “bad for appearances” – but no consequences
  • PURPLE = “Unprofessional” – unlikely to result in serious consequences except possible damage to one’s professional reputation
  • GOLD = “Immoral” – no guarantee of consequences except may result in lowering the year-end teacher evaluation score, earning a “warning” or “write-up” by the principal/supervisor, or consideration for a job re-assignment
  • ORANGE = “Unethical” – which will result in discipline action and possible loss or suspension of certificate
  • RED = “Illegal” – which may add criminal penalties, fines, jail time, etc. All it takes is a felony or misdemeanor conviction to lose your job… and your certificate… even if it is unrelated to your employment or taking place at school.

 

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Essential Ethical Questions

It is important to analyze your response to these reflections during your assessment of each ethical dispute:

  1. What possible issues/concerns might this scenario raise?
  2. How could this situation become a violation of the law, the “Code” or other school/district policies?
  3. In this situation, what are some potential negative consequences for the teacher, students, parents, and/or school staff?
  4. How would this episode affect a teacher’s efficacy in his/her classroom, demean the employing school entity, or damage her position as a moral exemplar in the community?

 

Mock Scenarios

CASE #1

Melissa S. was a 23-year-old high school music teacher who also supervised the production of the school musical. After months of practices, Miss S. became very close to several seniors including David, the male lead in the musical.  She and David began sharing emails and texts with one another.  Most of the communications were playfully flirtatious but not overtly sexual.  Immediately after graduation, however, Miss S. and David began dating and became sexually intimate. After discovering the relationship, David’s parents filed a complaint against Miss S. with the district superintendent.

CASE #2

My drum major was suspended because she smoked pot and was caught. I needed her to run the half time show we had been practicing for months and so I attempted to convince administration that she had to participate because it was part of my curriculum and part of her grade. I decided the other kids shouldn’t be punished because of her idiocy so I worked hard to keep her in the show.

This assumes the principal will make the ethical decision in allowing or prohibiting the student leader to participate.

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Let’s put this choice squarely on your shoulders (where it usually sits). What would you do if you were the one that discovered your soloist, lead, accompanist, or drum major was drinking on a school music trip? What if he or she was the one performer you counted on for an outstanding adjudication?

You walk into the Disney World cafeteria, see your student has a wine cooler on his/her tray sitting at the tables. Since no one else sees you standing there, you walk out as if nothing has happened.

CASE #3

You are taking your high school music department to Orlando. Because of the size of the trip, you have to put it out on bid. One company offers a generous “under the table” deal: “If you choose our travel agency for the Florida trip, we will throw-in the gift of a new conductor’s podium and set of two dozen music stands.” You decide to go with them.

CASE #4

James C. is a middle school music teacher who was arrested for drunk driving. After several months, the teacher goes to court and is convicted of the offense. When the district moves to have Mr. C fired for his conviction, he argues that this offense has no influence over his ability to instruct his students. Also, the episode happened during the weekend on his private time.

CASE #5

Mrs. K is a high school choral director whose husband recently divorced her. During a lesson one day, she breaks down in front of her class. In an attempt to calm the students, she explains her emotional state and discusses the end of her marriage. After school that day, a male student visits Mrs. K to see if she has recovered. The student explains that his parents are also divorcing and he understands her feelings. The student begins stopping in to see Mrs. K more frequently and the pair begins spending more time outside of class supporting each other. Mrs. K’s colleagues start to become suspicious of her relationship with the student and report the teacher’s actions to their principal.

 

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Food for Thought – Suggestive Answers

Please keep in mind my disclaimer, “I am not an attorney, a member of a human resource staff, nor a research scholar or expert on school ethics.” However, although retired, I continue to teach (part-time) and face day-to-day decision-making… now for more than 40 years.  These are my responses to the above cases. I welcome your comments, and any input from highly respected leaders in the field of educator ethics like Dr. Troy Hutchings (Chair of Education, University of Phoenix) and Dr. Oliver Dreon (Associate Professor, Millersville State University of Pennsylvania).

RESPONSE TO CASE #
  1. ETHICS VIOLATION: In my opinion, this would likely result in loss of employment and revocation of her certificate. The debate in some areas of the world supports that it may be permissible to have an intimate relationship with a former student as long as it did not start while the student was at school. We have learned that the American Psychological Association has an ethical guideline of non-fraternization for at least two years post-treatment, while the National Association of Social Workers has a one year moratorium for sexual involvement with a client. However, frankly, in the teaching profession, due to the inherent power imbalance that can influence inappropriate relationships between teachers and students or former students – even after graduation: Are either of these models relevant?
  2. ETHICS VIOLATION: Most would say this was a serious noncompliance with the school district’s drug and alcohol policy, violation of the local laws governing underage consumption, and likely breach of your fiduciary responsibility. No decision is a decision… walking away means you condone the behavior. What if the drinker becomes sick or has an accident and gets hurt “on your watch?”
  3. ETHICS VIOLATION: Better check your state’s code of ethics. From the Pennsylvania Code of Professional Practices and Conduct, “No educator is permitted to accept personal or financial gain or advantage (other than their contractual compensation package) through their work in a school system.” Interpretations may disagree on a “true-life” experience: At a music conference, I was invited to a special dinner celebrating the “best clients” by a vendor representative who insisted on picking up the tab. Minimal infraction?  Would you change your misconduct rating if the party took place at Hooters? How about at a strip club?
  4. ETHICS VIOLATION: The convicted drunk driver did not win his argument. He probably would lose his job and faced criminal penalties! Although he may still hold his teaching certificate, it is unlikely he will ever be considered for employment as a teacher in any state.
  5. ETHICS VIOLATION: Did you initially interpret this as the choral director being misguided, emotionally immature, and only exhibiting unprofessional conduct by allowing the sharing their mutual feelings and experiences? According to the author of this scenario, after investigation, she was asked to resign from her position, and she complied. She did not lose her certificate… but could have depending on state or district regulations and the extent of her off-school behavior.

 

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More ethical dilemmas and case studies for discussion are available here, the second page of a handout distributed at one of my teacher ethics workshops.

Of course, ETHICAL ISSUES are not always black and white… no one will ever agree on one definitive set of moral standards. My purpose here was only to inspire thinking and a fresh perspective on this topic… probably succeeding in creating more questions than answers in your mind.

 

business-1753098_1280_ Mary Pahlke

Definitions and Revisiting MCEE

To summarize, lets review the well-stated foundations of “right or wrong” making up our “ethical equilibrium,” and these concepts that represent the compass of decision-making in education:

  • Personal Morality: “Personal values and beliefs derived from one’s life experiences… subjective and may or may not align with community mores.”
  • Regulations of Law: “Policies, statues, and judicial activity that articulate conduct absolutes.”
  • Professional Ethics: “Professional ethical standards that assist practitioners within situation and systemic contexts in choosing the best course-of-action.”
  • Professional Dispositions: “Agreed upon professional attitudes, values and beliefs to be held by educational practitioners.”

 

MCEE

Finally, at this juncture, it would be most appropriate for you to recap your thoughts and correlate your “judgments” of the above scenarios with the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification Model Code of Ethics for Educators. If you have not read this comprehensive document, “do it now!” You should also review your own state’s code of ethics.

This is all about BALANCE and exercising extreme care and sensitivity in meeting the needs of our students. Keep “fighting the good fight” and your commitment to ETHICS and the highest standards of what E.A. Wynn refers to as “moral professionalism” in his research article, “The Moral Dimension of Teaching.”

PKF

Special Thanks to These Sources of Mock Scenarios
  • Pennsylvania Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit by Dr. Oliver Dreon, Sandi Sheppeard, and the Professional Standards  and Practices Commission
  • Nebraska Professional Practices Commission
  • Connecticut Teacher Education & Mentoring Program

 

Featured photo credit from FreeImages.com:
“Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal

 

Remaining photo credits in order from pixabay.com:
“ethics-right-wrong-ethical-moral” by Tumisu
“mobile-phone-smartphone-keyboard” by Gerd Altmann
“question-mark-pile-question-mark” by Arek Socha/qimono
“choice-arrow-question-mark-path” by Eric Leroy/Kingrise
“business”-idea-style-concept-goals” by Mary Pahlke
“wooden-train-toys-train-first-class” by Couleur.

wooden-train-2066492_1920_Couleur

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

Ethics Follow-up

 

Part IV: More Perspectives and Resolving a Few “Loose Ends”

Prior to this article, I recommend reading the following:

 

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Just when you thought it was safe to read another of my blog-posts… you bump into another one on ethics and music education!

When my colleague and friend James Kimmel, PMEA District 7 Professional Development Chair, approached me to consider doing an “ethics workshop” for his annual in-service conference (October 9, 2017 at Ephrata Middle School), two questions immediately popped into my mind: “Why is this necessary?” and “Who would want to attend a session on ethics?”

Of course, being retired and having a little more unassigned time on my hands, I took it as a challenge and began some preliminary research.

The first thing I discovered is that almost no one in the public-school music education sector has had formal ethics training (myself included), unless you count a couple thirty-minute segments at a teacher induction or staff in-service program on sensitivity training, nondiscrimination and diversity awareness, anti-bullying or workplace sexual harassment policies, or a review of FERPA (family educational rights and privacy act) and HIPAA (health insurance portability and accountability act) as “ethics!”

Okay all you Pennsylvania music teachers: Before this blog series, did any of you ever see a copy of the Pennsylvania Code of Professional Practices and Conduct for Educators? Prior to working on this project, neither did I, nor did a single band director to whom I spoke at two large fall marching band festivals and several football games! Do you know that earning a teaching certificate from your state and becoming eligible to be hired as an educator means you automatically agree to be legally bound by the prevailing government’s “Code?” The ethical or discipline code of your state will define the proper interactions between the individual teacher, students, schools, and other professionals, and make explicit the values of the education profession as well as regional standards and expectations. Wouldn’t you agree that NOW would be a good time to learn the details of these inherent responsibilities?

 

What is a Fiduciary?

club-2492011_1920-qimonoEducators are among the singular professions which have a “fiduciary” responsibility. The term “fiduciary” can be defined as “a person or organization that owes to another the duties of good faith and trust, the highest legal duty of one party to another, and being bound ethically to act in the other’s best interests.” Joining doctors, lawyers, clergy, and mental health therapists, educators ascribe to the highest standards of training, moral decision-making (“code of ethics”), behavior (“code of conduct”), and self-regulation and assessment of the “best practices” regarding the mastery of skills and subject areas necessary to their field. However, unlike these other professionals, teachers do not receive regular and systematic pre- and in-service training on ethics, and our “clients” are a “captive audience.”  Regardless, the duty of all teachers is to act as a fiduciary in their students’ best interest and to create and maintain a safe environment for them at all times.

 

Ethics Violations in the News

You must have seen the news stories! In a word, the trending statistics of state and USA teacher ethics violations and misconducts are abominable! For example, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) where I taught and currently live, in the year 2015, there was a 200 percent increase in PA educator misconduct investigations (768 reports) compared to the number of complaints filed in 2011 (256). Within PDE disciplinary case resolutions in 2015, 41% resulted in job loss and a permanent revocation or surrender of the teaching certificate.

If your curiosity is a little on the morbid side, you can look up on the PDE website and find the names of more than 1740 educators (“offenders” and their “offenses”) who have violated their ethics and received discipline and/or criminal prosecutions or civil proceedings from March 2004 to June 2017.

Well, we don’t have to just pick on Pennsylvania “bad-boys” (and girls). According to https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/01/20/more-teachers-are-having-sex-with-their-students-heres-how-schools-can-stop-them/?utm_term=.6ee23703b040, the following statistics give teachers everywhere a black eye from shore to shore!

  • Texas had a 27% increase over 2015-17 of alleged inappropriate teacher-student relationships
  • Kentucky schools reported more than 45 sexual relationships between teachers and students in 2011, up from 25 just a year earlier.
  • Alabama investigated 31 cases during the year ending July 2013, nearly triple the number it had investigated just four years earlier.

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Eric Simpson shared more bad news in the Journal of Music Teacher Education. His study, “An examination of the relationship of teacher certification area to sexual misconduct: Florida as a case study,” analyzed 383 samples of FL teacher discipline cases in 2007-2010 and their area(s) of certification, with these results:

  • Teachers with multiple-certifications = 35.51%
  • Music teachers ~5%
  • Most frequent offense = sexual misconduct 25.77%

But, 60% of the offending music teachers in the sample were disciplined for sexual misconduct!

Can the data get any worse? In 2004, the U.S. Department of Education released the results of the Shakeshaft national study by the American Association of University Women, with 9.6 percent of students reporting that they had suffered some form of sexual abuse during their school careers. According to http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2012/02/is_sexual_abuse_in_schools_very_common_.html “the list of such conduct included lewd comments, exposure to pornography, peeping in the locker room, and sexual touching or grabbing. Around one in 10 students said they had been the victim of one or more such things from a teacher or other school employee, and two-thirds of those reported the incident involved physical contact.”

If these numbers are accurate and truly representative of the student population nationwide, 4.5 million students currently in grades K-12 have suffered some form of sexual abuse by an educator or school staff member.

 

Mandatory Reporting

Another area I did not dive into during the last three articles is our legal mandate to report colleagues who violate “The Code,” especially for sexual misconduct. My own state’s regulations (similar to most) are as follows:

“All educators who know of any action, inaction or conduct which may constitute sexual abuse or exploitation or sexual misconduct are now required to file a mandatory report with the Department and shall report such misconduct to his or her chief school administrator and immediate supervisor.”

― Pennsylvania Department of Education: http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Educator-Discipline-System-and-Reporting/Mandatory-Reporting/Pages/default.aspx

 

If you are an administrator, the statute is more wide-ranging:

“Specifically, whenever you believe that an educator is involved in misconduct that implicates his or her fitness to serve children in the schools of Pennsylvania, you should report the misconduct to the Department…”

“Reporting to PDE does not relieve [the administrator] of any other duty to report to either law enforcement and/or child protective services.”

― Pennsylvania Department of Education: http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Educator-Discipline-System-and-Reporting/Mandatory-Reporting/Pages/default.aspx

Another moral obligation is to simply look out for our student’s welfare and keep our eyes open for any unusual behavior, conflicts, or inconsistencies.

questions-2212771_1920-geralt_euAlways looking for the signs of…

  • Physical abuse
  • Self-abuse or thoughts of suicide
  • Sexual abuse
  • Signs of neglect
  • Patterns of abuse

Teachers are required to report any suspicions of child abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol use, and mental health problems.

Most school districts have an internal mechanism of reporting to school counselors or administrators any observations (or suspicions) of these issues… everything from falling asleep in class, being “accident-prone” (lots of unexplained injuries), confirming a high absentee rate, exhibiting mood swings (up and down), and coming to school with blurry or blood-shot eyes, etc. No accusations! You just handover your comments to the authorities, and report on what you see, not necessarily what your interpretations are for the causes of the problems.

Music teachers often work with students in close proximity before or after-school hours, and sometimes on weekends. As a marching band assistant, musical producer, festival chaperone, or trip sponsor, I always had the personal or cell phone number of my building principal in case I needed to reach out for help.

 

Confidentiality

These are the regulations on protecting student privacy rights, and violations of which (even unintentionally) are “breaking the law.” (Sources: www.pc3connect.org/otherdocs/confidentiality%20and%20the%20law.pdf and http://searchhealthit.techtarget.com/definition/HIPAA.)

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 sets parameters on accessibility and disclosure of students records.
  • Grassley Amendment (1994) details privacy of student participation in surveys, analysis, and evaluation.
  • confidential-cropped-1726367_1920-HypnoArtHealth Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.
  • Drug and alcohol treatment records of students kept by any institution receiving federal assistance are protected under Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act (1976).
  • Records of students in special education are affected by the above laws plus Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 1997).

Here are few additional ethical “conundrums” on which to reflect:

  • Discussing student information in open or common areas
    • How many times have you walked through a busy hallway discussing news or concerns about a student with another colleague or family member?
    • Avoid inadvertently disclosing any personal information about students and staff members “in public.”
    • Also, one should resist speaking to students in these areas as it could become violation of student confidentiality if overheard.
  • Sharing information with other colleagues who are not directly related to the student’s situation.
    • You might be tempted to reveal interesting cases or anecdotes to colleagues… DON’T!
    • FERPA regulations state that school officials must have a “legitimate educational interest” when sharing information.
    • Just because someone is employed in the district with you does not mean they have lawful access to student info.
    • There is a great risk of others passing on this information… like gossip!
    • Rules of thumb: Ask yourself, “Why am I sharing this information?” and “How will it benefit the student?”
  • However, you should be aware of exceptions to student privacy concerns.
    • Reporting of physical abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sexual violence.
    • Suspicion of serious mental health issues that may result in danger to the student (such as suicide)
    • On the occasion when a staff member working with a student is unsure how to proceed (e.g. seeking advice on disability)

 

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The “Grandma Litmus Test”

We have talked about many principles in this series on “Ethics for Music Educators.” Here is something about the “process,” an “ethical decision-making model” based on…

  • “What would grandma think about my action, behavior, or decision” and
  • “How would I feel if my actions are tomorrow’s breaking news?”

Answer the following questions about the contemplated activity or decision:

  1. Is it legal?
  2. Is it consistent with the profession’s values?
  3. Is it consistent with the teacher’s code of conduct?
  4. Is it consistent with your district’s policies?
  5. Would you be comfortable if this decision was published online or in the newspaper (or made known to your “grandma”)?
  6. Does it feel right? (Is it the right thing to do?)

If you answered “NO” to any one of the questions (1, 3, and 5), do not engage in the contemplated activity and seek additional guidance.

If you answered “YES” to all of the questions (2, 4, and 6), then you may proceed with the contemplated activity. However, if you have any lingering doubts, do not hesitate to seek additional guidance.

http://www.royceassociates.com/the-grandma-litmus-test-for-ethical-behaviour/

 

Final Thoughts

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

– Rear Admiral Mary Brace Hopper, an early computer programmer

board-1848717_1920-geraltProponents of this belief will tell you to go ahead and stick your neck out, feel free to do something “for the good of the order,” and later “beg for forgiveness” if/when it goes south and your administrators say they do not approve.

This may or may not work, and I cannot label this orientation as “ethical!”

Music teachers are usually the “lone rider” in their building when it comes to doing their job. Music directors, especially those who are involved in extra-curricular activities, are deluged with making many decisions every day… sometimes even on the hour. Few people (models or mentors) will be there to help guide you in your content area.

My advice: Less experienced teachers, run everything through your fellow colleagues (informally) and principal (formally). Don’t fall back on the lame “oops” and “beg for forgiveness.” I may have felt differently when I had twice as many years of experience than the building administrators who were assigned to “supervise” me… but, even then, “venturing out without a paddle” usually did not serve the best interests of the students… There’s no reason to place “the teacher’s convenience” over the safety/welfare of the students, without first obtaining the legal and political “backup” of your bosses. “Better safe than sorry!” (I am running out of cliches!)

“Perception is reality.”

– Lee Atwater

Perceptions/appearances vs. motivation and reality: It means that your behavior and its results matter infinitely more than your intentions.

It is the responsibility of the teacher to control his or her “public brand” – how he or she wants to be perceived by students, parents, colleagues, and the public. One’s public brand can and does impact perceptions, which in turn can impinge upon effectiveness.

males-2110573_1920-3dman_euMy advice: “Forget your rights” and be more aware of your image and how your actions will look to the public. Reputations are hard to restore. Being an effective teacher is all about trust and integrity, and (sorry, one more cliche) “your actions speak louder than words!”

 

Teaching is the most honorable and rewarding career on this planet. The rewards far outweigh the challenges and additional responsibilities. “Making a difference” in the lives of our music students has always inspired me, and the fact we have to uphold the highest standards in moral professionalism and behavior does not phase me in the least.

 

The purpose of these blog-posts on ethics, sort of a “refresher” course to reflect on our internal decision-making compass, was to reinforce Lawrence Kohlman’s sixth stage of moral development – principles of conscience – and the “best practices” of professional attitudes, values, and beliefs that guide the problem-solving we face in their daily work. Hopefully this content will promote thought-provoking discussion about doing what’s right when no one is looking… because, your mother would say, “You know better!”

Please feel free to comment… I would appreciate hearing from you!

business-1753098_1280-Maialisa

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits (in order): from FreeImages.com: “Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal; from pixabay.com “Ethics” by 3dman_eu, “Club” by qimono_eu, “Cube” by 3dman_eu, “Questions” by geralt_eu, “Confidential” by HypoArt, “Woman” by geralt_eu, “Board” by geralt_eu, “Males” by 3dman_eu, “Business” by Maialisa.

Ethics for Music Educators III

Part III: Case Studies

If you have not previously read them or need a review, please revisit Part I: “Back to Basics” and Part II” “The Nitty Gritty” in this series on Ethics for Music Educators.

Like professionals in other disciplines, music educators are expected to observe certain behavioral standards. In addition to teaching musical skills, concepts, and context, music educators are also expected to protect the welfare of children, serve as trustworthy stewards of public property, and generally behave responsibly and professionally within the context of the school and local community. Despite these expectations, many music educators have engaged in unprofessional, unethical, or illegal conduct.

― Joelle L. Lien, “Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators” in Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 2012.

colourful-xylophone-1424837 0 14 Henk L

Music teachers often have busy professional lives, many spending large amounts of time back at school for extra-curricular activities, individual practices, ensemble rehearsals, events from marching band to musicals, and travel to/from festivals, conferences, concerts, adjudications, and itinerant school assignments. Also unique is the fact that some music educators participate in after-school programs and see their “charges” as much or more often their parents. These once-in-a-lifetime musical opportunities inspire the growth of student artistry, leadership, creative self-expression, and teamwork. They also expose music teachers to more frequent contact with potential ethical issues ― inconsistencies, dilemmas, and problems.

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From a “crisis of conscience” to political nightmares, there are no easy right or wrong answers to many of these ethical “conundrums!” Full discussion and disclosure with the goal on addressing “the needs of the students” are mandatory with the quick educational sketches depicted in the following scenarios.

Pedagogical Problems

  • kids-listening-to-music-1374340 Ted HortonAdministrators, parents and public’s interpretation of “separation of church and state” or “perceived emphasis” on Holiday vs. Christmas music (with sacred text) at December concerts e.g. Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, Hatikvah, and/or John Rutter’s Oh Come All Ye Faithful & Joy to the World as the finale
  • Defending a music educator’s grading criteria: daily performance evaluation vs. lesson or concert attendance (pass/fail?) and other non-musical requirements
  • Identification of the poorest singers or instrumentalists in our ensembles and limiting their enrollment or participation in ensembles that regularly attend adjudications or competitions: “Do the needs of the few less proficient performers out-weigh the benefit of the many?” or “Are our ethical obligations met if a large non-auditioned ensemble is open to all and an auditioned group is provided for exclusive use of the best students?”
  • Rationale for the unbiased selection of solos, leadership positions, drum majors, leads in the musical, etc. for the music program: perception of teacher favoritism or the “rights of seniority” vs. “best one for the job!”
  • Incidents relating to a music teacher’s struggle over whether to be “blatantly honest” regarding a student’s chances at a music career: “Is it ethical to allow a private music student to continue the study of music performance based on their desire, when it is clear they do not have the talent, work ethic, or overall aptitude to succeed in the music profession?” The other side of this issue, can we ever say, “You do not have enough talent to go into music.”
  • Maintaining balance between the pursuit of competitive performance excellence (repetitive programming of a limited number of major works) with appropriate teaching practice (survey, reading, and performance of a wide variety of selections in the folder)

Enforcement Problems

  • Quandary whether it is ever in the students’ best interest to ignore an existing policy or rule, for example, staff noncompliance of “no smoking on campus” or other school regulations.
  • Holding a student accountable for breaking a law or rule, when doing so would jeopardize a musical group’s performance: “My drum major was suspended because she smoked pot and was caught. I needed her to run the half time show we had been practicing for months and so I convinced administration that she had to participate because it was part of my curriculum and part of her grade. I decided the other kids shouldn’t be punished because of her idiocy so I worked hard to keep her in the show. In my heart, I would have preferred she not participate, but not at the expense of the other kids’ performance.”
  • “Fair use doctrine” and photocopying music

DCF 1.0

It should be mentioned here that there are a number of misconceptions regarding the Copyright Law:

  • Copyright law does permit copying music in the emergency of an imminent concert date, but it also requires that the same music be purchased regardless of whether it is needed after the performance.
  • The law prohibits purchasing music but then making copies to preserve the original scores.
  • The law does not permit photocopying more than 10% of a complete work, even for educational purposes.
  • Out-of-print music may not be photocopied without explicit permission granted by the publisher of the work.
  • Compositions with an expired copyright or that never had a copyright are considered “public domain” and are free to copy.

 

Finances and Resource Allocation Problems

  • Hundred Bill CornersCompetition for the enrollment of the same students (band/string/choir) within the music department
  • Private lesson prerequisite for participating in an honors ensemble, music director giving them, and charging a fee for his/her “off-school” time
  • (Lack of) equity in school budget allocation (inconsistencies within different academic areas and within the music department itself, not defending per-pupil costs and enrollments, etc.)
  • Receiving special favors or kickbacks from the music industry (touring companies, riser/music stand distributors, instrument rental companies, etc.): “If you choose our travel agency for the Orlando trip, we will throw-in the purchase of a new conductor’s podium and music stands for your band room!”

Scrutiny and sample audits of music educators and other school professionals in this category have included the following:

  • Accuracy of teachers’ absence reports and itinerant staff sign-ins to their daily building assignments: “I saw the music teacher eating lunch at a local restaurant.”
  • Balancing of school purchase orders and activity fund invoices with existing instrument, equipment, or music inventory
  • Management of school activity funds (tickets, marching band shoes/accessories, honorariums, and “under the table” compensations)
  • Inspection of music libraries for evidence of illegal photocopying

 

parade-band-1421028 Sarah DeVries

Problems in Relationships

  • Perception of “being knifed in the back“ by colleagues teaching other academic subjects (advising students to drop music)
  • Disagreements with administrators on “the right thing to do” (everything from grading to attending PMEA workshops)
  • Incidents involving gossip or divulging confidential information about students
  • THE BIG BOO-BOO: Dual or conflicting relationships and inconsistent maintenance of clear, responsible, and professional boundaries between teachers and students. Most of the incidents in violation of “crossing the line” of “student-teacher boundaries” would be complications that arose when the teacher-student relationships became “too close.”

Was Mr. Holland a hero or a villain in the 1995 movie Mr. Holland’s Opus? Certainly, many would agree that the acclaimed motion picture starring Richard Dreyfuss as “Glenn Holland” depicted a struggling composer who reluctantly becomes a teacher and eventually learns the value of his profession and his family. However, many say he is a model example of the “slippery slope” of blurred student-teacher boundaries and that he seriously breached the ethical standards of teachers.

It wasn’t Mr. Holland’s in-class performance that concerns Troy Hutchings, director of Student Services in Northern Arizona University’s College of Education and a faculty member in the college. It’s his relationship with Rowena, one of his students. In a famous scene at a bus stop, Mr. Holland and Rowena kiss.

“He should be fired,” Hutchings said. “That’s sexual misconduct—a violation of his fiduciary position.”

Mr. Holland’s situation isn’t atypical. The Richard Dreyfuss character had a troubled marriage and a difficult home life. “Right or wrong, he found something with his students that he felt he didn’t have at home,” Hutchings said.

http://www.newswise.com/articles/ethics-training-is-key-to-fighting-teachers-sexual-misconduct-professor-says32

Imagine if one of us drove our “star pupil” to the bus stop on her way to “make it big on Broadway” without the direct support of her parents!

 

Problems in Diversity

  • Sensitivity in meeting the needs of ALL students: no discrimination on the basis of race, gender & gender identity, ethnic origin, religious beliefs, socio-economics, etc.
  • Balanced representation of lesson targets and course material on multiculturalism
  • “Many of our students see music education as ‘white privilege’ and we have to do a lot of convincing to get the kids to participate…”

For all music teachers, it is recommended you peruse the position statement on the NAfME website: “Equity and Access in Music Education” https://nafme.org/about/position-statements/equity-access/.

 

More Issues in Music Education

Case Studies in Music EducationIf you have not had the occasion to read Case Studies in Music Education by Frank Abrahams and Paul D. Head, it would be a valuable aid to “facilitate dialogue, problem posing, and problem solving” among pre-service (and current) music teachers. Using the format of Introduction, Exposition, Development, Improvisation, and Recapitulation known by all music professionals, each chapter presents a scenario with a moral dilemma that many music educators face in the daily execution of their teaching responsibilities.

How should a music teacher balance learning and performing? What is the best way to handle an angry parent? What are the consequences of the grades teachers assign? What are the best ways to discipline students? How should teachers relate to the administrators and to other teachers? The emphasis here is not on the solution, but on the process. There are many viable approaches to nearly every obstacle, but before any meaningful long-term solutions can be made, teachers must identify their own personal philosophy of music education and recognize those traits that are admirable in another’s style.

―Excerpt from back cover of Case Studies in Music Education, Second Edition, by Frank Abrahams and Paul D. Head

Scenarios: How Would You Judge These “Misconducts?”

ethics 22For additional examples of ethical issues in education, try these links. Personally, many of these fictional video reenactments are hardcore and very painful to view… but may shed some light in any discussion of teacher (mis)behavior: actions from simply inappropriate, unwise, or “bad for appearances” to a range (from bad to worst) of unprofessional, immoral, unethical, and illegal conduct. Some of these stories you will agree should be instantly labeled as the highest degree of unethical practice ― actual “crimes against children” and should invoke punishment if found guilty ― while others may lack clarity and make it difficult in arriving to a consensus.

If you are sharing this article within a group (induction, staff meeting, in-service, etc.), besides selecting the degree of misconduct, you may also want to reflect on the following questions (and also peruse the “essential questions” following the conclusion below.)

  1. What possible issues/concerns might this scenario raise?
  2. How could this situation become a violation of the law, the “Code” or other school/district policies?
  3. In this situation, what are some potential negative consequences for the teacher and the student?

From the Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission Ethics Toolkit:

PA PSPC logo

Other sources:

 

The Ethics Equilibrium Perspective

Keep in mind, discussions about any scenarios of possible educator misconduct should be viewed through the lens of an ethical framework for professional decision-making, not just violations of regulatory policies resulting in the consequences of disciplinary action, revocation of teaching certificate, and/or criminal penalties. As mentioned before (“Ethics for Music Educators – Part I and Part II”), please review Troy Hutchings work:

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 1.39.16 PM-1

 

Conclusion

After culling through a myriad of research (see below), I summarize with a few of my quick “common sense” recommendations which I offer at music teacher conferences or in-service workshop presentations. What are your thoughts on these?

  1. Never put anything in email, text, writing, or anywhere on the Internet that can come back to haunt you.
  2. Do not engage in gossip about other students or professionals.
  3. Avoid unofficial/unsupervised meetings or off-campus personal fraternization with students.
  4. Do not transport individual students.
  5. Do not share photos or personal information on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Gab, etc.).
  6. Avoid physical contact with a student (never touch, hug, hold, push, etc.).
  7. In your presence, allow no harassment or speech/language that is of a sexual nature or can be misinterpreted.
  8. Do not provide closed-door counseling.
  9. Do not give gifts to your students.
  10. Report serious medical issues to the authorities (bulimia, abuse, alcohol-use).
  11. Report any suspected professional ethics violations of colleagues to administration.

The purpose of this three-part blog-post on “Ethics for Music Educators” and studies like “Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators” by Joelle L. Lien in Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, was to investigate the kinds of ethical problem-solving music educators face in their daily work and to promote thought-provoking discussion about these matters. Now it is your turn to face these critical issues and/or incidents, openly investigate and illuminate philosophical inconsistencies within your institutions, associations, schools, and/or colleagues, and develop your own “iron-clad” professional code of ethics that truly addresses the daily work of your music education practice.

Additional Discussion: Essential Questions for All Educators

  1. What are the ethical responsibilities of teachers?
  2. How do ethics inform a teacher’s personal and professional actions?
  3. How does the PA Code of Professional Practices and Conduct (or your state’s educator code of conduct) communicate standards for appropriate behavior for teachers?kids-singing-christmas-songs-1438089 Ned Horton
  4. What does it mean to be a “moral exemplar” or “role model” in the community?
  5. What are the expectations of educators with respect to accumulating either personal or financial gain or advantage (other than their contractual compensation package) through their work in the school system?
  6. How can a teacher foster positive, professional relationships with students?
  7. How is the appropriate teacher-student boundary defined?
  8. What are the professional expectations of teachers with regard to their “electronic” interactions with students?
  9. Why and how should teachers control their public “brand” or persona?
  10. How do teachers’ use of emerging technologies such as social networking, cell phones, etc., present challenges to maintaining appropriate student-teacher boundaries?
  11. What are the professional expectations for working with diverse populations of students, parents and colleagues?
  12. How does your classroom environment promote respect for your students’ individual needs and backgrounds?
  13. What are the professional expectations of teachers regarding their relationships with colleagues?
  14. How can a teacher foster positive, professional relationships with colleagues, parents, and the community?

 

Special Thanks and Credits for This Three-part Blog-Series

  • Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit by Dr. Oliver Dreon, Sandi Sheppeard, PA State System of Higher Education, and the PA Professional Standards and Practices Commission
  • Nebraska Professional Practices Commission
  • Connecticut’s Teacher Education & Mentoring Program
  • Lien, Joelle L. (2012). Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education

playing-harp-1563567 Gerrit Prenger

References for Further Research

  • Abrahams, Frank and Paul Head. (2005). Case studies in music education (2nd ed.). Chicago: G.I.A.
  • Allan, J. (2011). Responsibly Competent: Teaching, Ethics and Diversity. Policy Futures in Education, 9(1), 130-137.
  • Assaf, L., Garza, R., & Battle, J. (2010). Multicultural Teacher Education: Examining the Perceptions, Practices, and Coherence in One Teacher Preparation Program. Teacher Education Quarterly, 37(2), 115-135.
  • Barbieri, Susan M. (2002). An elegy for ethics? Strings 16(8): 62–67.
  • Bowman, Wayne. (2001). Music as ethical encounter. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education 151: 11–20.
  • Brandenburg, Judith B. (1997). Confronting sexual harassment: What schools and colleges can do. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Brooks, David (April 17, 2015). When Cultures Shift. New York Times.
  • Campbell, E. (2003). The Ethical Teacher.  Philadelphia:  Open University Press.
  • Dreon, Dr. Oliver, Sheppeard, Sandi, and PA State System of Higher Education. Educator Ethics and Conduct and Toolkit. Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission. Online: http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Promoting-Ethical-Practices-Resources/Ethics-Toolkit/Pages/default.aspx
  • Ehrensal, P., Crawford, R., Castellucci, J., & Allen, G. (2001). The American Melting Pot Versus the Chinese Hot Spot. in J. Shapiro & J. Stefkovich (Eds.), Ethical Leadership and Decision Making in Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Elliott, David J. (1995). Music matters: A new philosophy of music education. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Fibkins, W. L. (2006)  Innocence Denied:  A Guide to Preventing Sexual Misconduct by Teachers and Coaches.  Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield Education.
  • Flusser, Victor. (2000). An ethical approach to music education. British Journal of Music Education 171(1): 43–50.
  • Gilligan, C. (1982). In A Different Voice.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press.
  • Golann, Stuart E. (1969). Emerging areas of ethical concern. American Psychologist 24: 454–459.
  • Goree, K., Pyle, M., Baker, E. & Hopkins, J. (2007). Education Ethics Applied. Boston:  Pearson Education.
  • Gregg, Jean W. (1997). From song to speech: On the ethics of teaching voice. Journal of singing: The official journal of the National Association of Teachers of Singing 54(1): 55–57.
  • Hutchings, Troy (2015). “Ethics in Education” Vimeo https://vimeo.com/126979216.
  • Hutchings, Troy and Thompson, David (2016). “Ethical Equilibrium.” AACTE Professional Development https://secure.aacte.org/apps/rl/res_get.php?fid=3005&ref=ets.
  • Johnson, L. S. (2012). Guidelines for Dealing with Educator Sexual Misconduct. National Association of Independent Schools. Retrieved from https://http://www.nais.org/Articles/Documents/Educator_Sexual_Misconduct_12_finaledits.pdf
  • Johnson, Tara Star (2008). From Teacher to Lover: Sex Scandals in the Classroom. New York
  • Jorgensen, Estelle R. (2003). Transforming music education. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Kohlberg, L. (1981). Essays on Moral Development:  The Philosophy of Moral Development.  New York:  Harper Collins.
  • Krause, J., Traini, D., & Mickey, B. (2001). Equality versus Equity. in J. Shapiro & J. Stefkovich (Eds.), Ethical Leadership and Decision Making in Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Lecroy, Hoyt. (1992). Imparting values: A challenge for educators. Music Educators Journal 79(1): 33–36.
  • Lien, Joelle L. (2012). Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education. Online: http://act.maydaygroup.org/articles/Lien11_1.pdf.
  • Mark, Michael L. and Madura, Patrice (2010). Music Education in Your Hands. Routledge.
  • MENC. (2003). The United States Copyright Law: A Guide for Music Educators. Online: http://www.menc.org/resources/view/united-states-copyright-law-a-guide-for-music-educators. December 4, 2010.
  • MENC. (May 1973). Music Code of Ethics Music Educators Journal Vol. 59, No. 9.
  • Milner, H. (2010). What Does Teacher Education Have to Do with Teaching? Implications for Diversity Studies. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 118-131.
  • Murray, Dave. (December 23, 2010). Are teachers role models outside the classroom? Unions, courts say educators deserve privacy. M Live Media Group. Online: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/12/are_teachers_role_models_outsi.html.
  • Myers, K (2005). Teachers Behaving Badly.  New York: RoutledgeFarmer.
  • National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification. Model Code of Ethics for Educators. Online: http://www.nasdtec.net/?page=MCEE_Doc.
  • Nourse, Nancy (2003). The ethics of care and the private woodwind lesson. Journal of Aesthetic Education 37(3): 58–77.
  • O’Neill, J., & Bourke, R. (2010). Educating Teachers About a Code of Ethical Conduct. Ethics & Education, 5(2), 159-172.
  • Pope, Kenneth S. and Valerie A. Vetter. (1992). Ethical dilemmas encountered by members of the American Psychological Association: A national survey. American Psychologist 47(3): 397–411.
  • Pring, R. (2001). Education As A Moral Practice.  Journal of Moral Education, 30(2): 101-112
  • Regelski, Thomas A. (2011). Ethical implications of music education as a helping profession. Nordic Research in Music Education. Yearbook Vol. 13 2011, 221-232.
  • Richmond, John W. (1996). Ethics and the philosophy of music education. Journal of Aesthetic Education 30(3): 3–22.
  • Roberts, Brian A. (2009). Ethics in Music Education. The Canadian Music Educator. Excerpt online: https://www.questia.com/magazine/1P3-1923294611/ethics-in-music-education.
  • Rodriguez, Carols Xavier. (2012). Ethics in Music Education. Action, Criticism, & Theory for Music Education. Online: http://act.maydaygroup.org/articles/Rodriguez11_1.pdf.
  • Simpson, R. Eric. (2010). An examination of the relationship of teacher certification area to sexual misconduct: Florida as a case study. Journal of Music Teacher Education 20(1): 56–65.
  • Staratt, R. (2004). Ethical Leadership. San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.
  • Stein, Nan D. and Lisa Sjostrom. (1994). Flirting or hurting? A teacher’s guide to student-to-student sexual harassment in schools (Grades 6 through 12). Washington, DC: National Education Association. (ED 380 415)
  • Stufft, William D. (1997). Two rules for professional conduct. Music Educators Journal 84, 40–42.
  • Szego, C. K. (2005). Praxial foundations of multicultural music education. In Praxial music education: Reflections and dialogues, ed. David J. Elliott, 196–218. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Volk, Terese M. (1998). Music, education, and multiculturalism: Foundations and principles. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Woodford, Paul G. (2005). Democracy and music education: Liberalism, ethics, and the politics of practice. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press
  • Wynne, E.A. (1995). The moral dimension of teaching. In A.C. Ornstein (Ed.) Teaching: Theory into practice. (pp. 190-202). Boston: Alyn and Bacon

brass-tubas-1199098 Aron Kremer

Special thanks and credits go to Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University (in Pennsylvania), and one of the authors of the Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit, the source of much of the research, quotes, and perspective of this three-part series.

 

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits (in order) from FreeImages.com: “Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal, “Colorful Xylophone” by Henk L, “Listening to Music” by Ned Horton, “Music 3” by Carol Kramberger, “Music” by Ricardo Vasquez, “Parade Band” by Sarah DeVries, “Girl with Guitar” by Stacy Brumley, “Kids Singing Christmas Songs” by Ned Horton, “Playing Harp” by Gerrit Prenger, and “Brass Tubas” by Aron Kremer

 

 

Ethics for Music Educators I

Part I: Back to Basics

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line.  — Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash sang his love song, “I walk the line…” but for teachers in the education profession, it is a “fine line” to maintain the standards and appearances of professionalism, morality, and ethical codes of conduct in the school workplace.

piano-prodigy-1508755

The purpose of this blog series is to explore an introduction to the definitions, philosophy, and practices of teacher ethics, integrity, professional standards, and behavior “codes,” and some of the available resources, perspectives, and “legalese” on proper relationships among students, parents, and other professionals, appropriate student-teacher boundaries, warnings of vulnerabilities and dilemmas at the workplace, and tips to avoid the problems of unacceptable appearances and actions.

ethics 3However, the disclaimer is that I am not an attorney, human resource manager, nor scholar on school ethics, nor was I ever trained in a single workshop, college class, teacher induction or in-service program on this subject. After reading this article, you should immediately visit the website of your state’s education department, and search on the topic of “code of ethics” or “code of conduct.” A few examples of the “real deal” are listed below, and yes, you must study “every word of” the entire document and  applicable rules from the state you are/will be employed.

Teacher Rules — The Good Old Days?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to Snopes (see http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1872rule.asp), the following “rules of conduct for teachers” — one of the similar “the way we were” documents of questionable origin — may have been circulating since at least the 1930s.

“Nobody has ever been able to verify the authenticity of this list of rules. It has been reproduced in countless newspapers and books over the last fifty years, and copies of it have been displayed in numerous museums throughout North America, with each exhibitor claiming that it originated with their county or school district.”

However accurate, one can only marvel at the real or perceived grimness of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century American schoolteacher’s lot: “the profession was lowly regarded, the work was physically demanding and involved long hours on the job, the position paid poorly, retirement benefits were non-existent, and teachers were expected to be among the most morally upright members of their community.”

Sample Rules for (Female) Teachers 1915

  1. You will not marry during the term of your contract.
  2. You are not to keep company with men.
  3. You must be home between the hours of 8 PM and 6 AM unless attending a school function.
  4. You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
  5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
  6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man except your father or brother.
  7. You may not smoke cigarettes.
  8. You may not dress in bright colors.
  9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
  10. You must wear at least two petticoats.
  11. Your dresses may not be any shorter than two inches above the ankles.
  12. To keep the classroom neat and clean, you must sweep the floor at least once a day, scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water, clean the blackboards at least once a day, and start the fire at 7 AM to have the school warm by 8 AM.

— http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1872rule.asp

Professionalism

Like medicine and law, teaching is a “professional practice,” a “conservative” occupation with high expectations and close public scrutiny. Although many have considered the 24/7 nature of a career in music education a “calling,” the true qualities of the teaching professional include these values also embraced by doctors and attorneys:

  • on-the-phone-closing-the-deal-1241406 Michael RoachAchievement of higher education, constant training and retooling, specific goals, and self-improvement
  • Adoption and refinement of “best practices”
  • Habits of creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills
  • Acceptance of criticism, peer review, teamwork, compromise, and group vision
  • High standards of behavior, etiquette, appearance, language, and ethics

According to “The California BTES – Overview of the Ethnographic Study” by David Berliner and William Tikunoff, “an effective teacher” is distinguished by exceptionally high standards:

Effective teachers score high on accepting, adult involvement, attending, consistency of message, conviviality, cooperation, student engagement, knowledge of subject, monitoring learning, optimism, pacing, promoting self-sufficiency, and structuring.

Effective teachers score low on abruptness, belittling, counting hours or “clock punching,” defiance, illogical statements, mood swings, oneness (treating whole as “one”), and recognition-seeking. — David Berliner and William Tikunoff

Referred to as “moral professionalism” (see Wynne, E.A. 1995. “The moral dimension of teaching.” In A.C. Ornstein Ed. Teaching: Theory into Practice. pp. 190-202. Boston: Alyn and Bacon),  the bar is further raised:

  • Coming to work regularly and on time
  • Being well informed about their student-matter
  • Planning and conducting classes with care
  • Regularly reviewing and updating instructional practices
  • Cooperating with, or if necessary, confronting parents of underachieving students
  • Cooperating with colleagues and observing school policies so the whole institution works effectively
  • Tactfully but firmly criticizing unsatisfactory school policies and proposing constructive improvement

 

balance-1172786 Stephen Stacey

Ethics

Webster’s definition of eth·ics is “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation” or “a set of moral principles.” Others have tried to clarify the meaning of these terms with more in depth interpretations:

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. — Potter Stewart

Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching – even when doing the wrong thing is legal. — Aldo Leopold

Ethics and morals relate to “right” and “wrong” conduct. While they are sometimes used interchangeably, they are different: ethics refer to rules provided by an external source, e.g., codes of conduct in workplaces or principles in religions. Morals refer to an individual’s own principles regarding right and wrong.

— “Ethics vs. Morals” at Diffen http://www.diffen.com/difference/Ethics_vs_Morals

According to Laurie Futterman, former Heart Transplant Coordinator at Jackson Memorial Medical Center and now chair of the science department and gifted middle school science teacher at David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center, “ethics is a branch of moral philosophy.” Futterman wrote the following in the March 31, 2015 issue of Miami Herald about how ethics “involves defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.”

“In discussion however, ethics can become eclipsed by commingling concepts of values and morals. They all provide behavioral rules, so what are the differences?

  • Values are rules from which we make our personal decisions about what is right and what is wrong, good or bad. Values help direct us to what is more important and past what is less important. This helps guide us when making decisions.
  • Morals tend to be broad yet are more far reaching because of their strong link to good and bad. We judge others by their morals rather than their values.
  • Ethics, in contrast, are a set of rules that tend to be adopted and upheld by a group of people. This could include medical ethics, journalism and advertising ethics and educational ethics. So ethics or intent, tends to be viewed as something upheld and adopted internally, such as professionalism, while morals are ideals we impose on others.”

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/community-voices/article17030966.html#storylink=cpy

In addition, there are distinctions between “Codes of Conduct” and “Codes of Ethics.” Although they both provide self-regulation of (un)acceptable  behaviors,  frequently the Code of Ethics outlines a set of principles that affect/govern decision making, while the Code of Conduct delineates specific behaviors that are required or prohibited and governs actions.

ethics 29

For the sake of our discussion here about ethics in education, I will add the qualifier that gavel-1238036JasonMorrisona “violation of ethics” is usually associated with significant consequences or punishment, like charges of medical malpractice or lawyers facing an “ethics committee” hearing. Confirmed unethical behavior may result in censure, suspension of license or certification, or other discipline action. Most state education governing entities post legally-binding “educator discipline acts” or codes of professional standards, ethics, and/or behavior, with extensive penalties.

 

Discipline

The grounds for imposition of discipline are broad and far-reaching, and will be governed by the state or county education system to where you are employed. As an example, “the laws” defining infractions in Pennsylvania are:

  • Immorality
  • Incompetency
  • Intemperance
  • Cruelty
  • Negligence
  • Sexual misconduct, abuse or exploitation
  • Violation of the PA Code for Professional Practice and Conduct Section 5(a)(10)
  • Illegal use of professional title
  • Failure to comply with duties under this act, including the mandatory reporting duties in section 9a.
  • Actions taken by an educator to threaten, coerce or discriminate or otherwise retaliate against an individual who in good faith reports actual or suspected misconduct under this act or against complainants, victims, witnesses or other individuals participating or cooperating in proceedings under this act.

— PA Educator’s Discipline Act: 24 P.S. §§2070.1 et seq. Chapter 237/Definition of Terms: http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/022/chapter237/chap237toc.html

For more discussion on these definitions, visit http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Promoting-Ethical-Practices-Resources/Ethics-Toolkit/The-Commission-Professional-Discipline-and-the-code/Pages/Educator-Misconduct.aspx.

Violations range from exhibiting poor behavior or even the semblance of impropriety to “breaking the code” or criminal offenses. (Yes, “appearances” can get you in trouble, due to one’s interpretations of the above charges of “immorality,” “intemperance,” and “negligence!”) In short, from bad (unprofessional) to worse (illegal), this illustration ethics 22defines misconducts.

The first two on the bottom of the figure (unprofessional or immoral incidents) may only (?) result in damage to one’s professional reputation, lowering the year-end teacher evaluation score, earning a “warning” or “write-up” by the principal/supervisor, or a job re-assignment, but unethical or illegal conduct usually results in further investigation and possible major (and often permanent) disciplinary action:

  • Private Reprimand
  • Public Reprimand
  • Suspension (temporary termination of certificate)
  • Revocation (termination of certificate)
  • Surrender (of certificate)
  • Supplemental Sanctions
  • Legal (Criminal) Action (fines, suspension, jail time, other penalties)
  • Civil Action

 

Ethical Equilibrium: Consequential “Codes of Conduct” vs. Professional Ethics

“From a decision-making standpoint, I tend to look at it from the perspective of Ethical Equilibrium (some work by Troy Hutchings). Teachers weigh the moral (personal) dimensions with regulatory ones (the law) with the ethics of the profession (ethics of teaching?). While focusing on consequences is important, I worry that teachers may interpret this to mean that as long as they don’t break the law, they can still be unprofessional and immoral.”

– Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University and author of the Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission Ethics Tool Kit.

The foundations of “what’s right or wrong” and what your mother always said was “behaving appropriately when no one is watching you” are all about professional ethical standards that guide decision-making. The work of Troy Hutchings (among other leaders in this field) helps to further clarify these sometimes blurred definitions:

  • Personal Morality: “Personal values and beliefs derived from one’s life experiences… subjective and may/may not align with community mores.”
  • Regulations of Law: “Policies, statues, and judicial activity that articulate conduct absolutes.”
  • Professional Ethics: Professional ethical standards that assist practitioners within situation and systemic contexts in choosing the best course-of-action.”
  • Professional Dispositions: “Agreed upon professional attitudes, values and beliefs to be held by educational practitioners.”

See the slide below borrowed from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education webinar presentation “Beyond the Obvious: The Intersection of Educator Dispositions, Ethics, and Law” by Troy Hutchings and David P. Thompson.

Hutchings Nexus Between Ethics and Conduct

In other words, the intent of these essays on ethics is not to emphasize the “lowest standards of acceptable behavior” or the consequences of misconduct for music teachers. We will strive to move from “obedience and punishment orientation” (stage 1) and “self-interest orientation” (stage 2) to “social contract orientation” (stage 5) and “universal ethical principles (stage 6) of Lawrence Kohlberg’s “Six Stages of Moral Development.” (See http://ww3.haverford.edu/psychology/ddavis/p109g/kohlberg.stages.html).

 

Sample Codes of Ethics

MCEEOne of the best examples endorsed by many states, college education methods programs, and other institutions, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification has published its “Model Code of Ethics for Educators” (see http://www.nasdtec.net/?page=MCEE_Doc) outlining the following principles:

  • Responsibility to the Profession
  • Responsibility for Professional Competence
  • Responsibility to Students
  • Responsibility to the School Community
  • Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology

In addition, it would be valuable to study the standards proclaimed by other organizations, such as

The latter “Music Code of Ethics” was revised and ratified in 1973 by the Music Educators National Conference (now the National Association for Music Education), American Federation of Musicians, and the American Association of School Administration (now the School Superintendent’s Association). It is worth reading mutual agreement of these parties regarding which performance events are sanctioned for music education programs and those that are only appropriate for professional musicians who make their livelihood in the field of “entertainment.”

music-1237358-1

 

To be continued…

Part II: The Nitty Gritty will review:

  • Societal Changes Promoting Ethical Disputes
  • The Role of Education in Upholding Standards of Behavior
  • Philosophies in Moral Development
  • Sample Code of Professional Practices and Conduct
  • The Teacher-Student Relationship
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Social Media

 

Special thanks and credits go to Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University (in Pennsylvania), and one of the authors of the Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit, the source of much of the research, quotes, and perspective of this three-part series comes.

 

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits (in order) from FreeImages.com: “Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal, “Piano Prodigy” by Crissy Pauley, “Old School House” by Vikki Hansen, “On the Phone Closing the Deal” by Michael Roach, “Balance” by Stephen Stacey, “Gavel” by Jason Morrison, and “Music” by Ricardo Vasquez.