The rules are different when you’re a teacher.
Your conduct outside of the school day is just as important as it is during the school day. You work with minors, after all, and you are held to a much higher standard than your friends who clock out and don’t think twice about what to do on a Friday night or Sunday morning. You have a Code of Ethics that you are asked to follow, which outlines appropriate and inappropriate actions. You are never off the ethical clock, so to speak, so it is imperative that you police yourself.
Of course, that does not always happen. This week, the principal of North Port High School found himself in trouble when it was revealed that he has been hypnotizing students. Although he has all the credentials needed to make this legal, as well as parental permission, ethically, it poses a dilemma. While it has been reported that he used hypnosis as a relaxation and confidence-building technique, performing this service is most definitely not in his job description. In fact, this is not a service that should be performed at any school, even with the best of intentions.
It appears the principal, George Kenney, did not consider the repercussions of his hypnosis sessions. His heart was in the right place, but he was naïve about what he what he was doing. Now there is some question about his role in the suicide of one of his students a few days after the student was hypnotized. I don’t see the connection, but now Kenney’s good intentions have come back to bite him in the rear. That’s what really troubles me. As the administrator of a public high school, he should have known why this was inappropriate and why it muddied the ethical waters.
And then there’s Charles Willis, former drama teacher at Braden River High School, who might lose his job over his Facebook postings. Willis was suspended without pay about seven months ago for not being smart enough to keep his students off his Facebook page, in which he talked about things that, in my opinion, he should not have.
While the School Board does not have a policy about teachers using Facebook and how they interact with students, it really seems like a no-brainer that a teacher should not have a student as a Facebook friend, at least not on a personal Facebook page. When I re-entered the school system this year, I took it upon myself to “unfriend” my childrens’ friends, even though I do not teach them. Better safe than sorry. However, I do have quite a few Facebook friends who once were my students, but they are all at least 18 and out of the school system. I don’t discuss personal matters on Facebook, but that also seems like a no-brainer to me and is just an exercise in good taste, whether you have young Facebook friends or not!
I would not be surprised to find out that the Code of Ethics is being revised to include use of social media, among other things. It’s an ever-changing world and teachers have to remember that they are always teachers, always subject to public scrutiny.