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Beyond the Obvious: The Intersection of Educator Dispositions, Ethics, and Law Troy Hutchings, Educational Testing Service David P. Thompson, The University of Texas at San Antonio AACTE Professional Development Webinar October 20, 2016
Our Case Study for Today Texas high school varsity women’s basketball coach approached the freshman women’s basketball coach (female, age approximately 24 -25) to ask her if she and her husband would take into their home a freshman varsity “star” player who was having family difficulties • The “ruralish” school district had, at the time, roughly 7350 students and one high school of about 1950 students, with a town population of about 30, 000 •
Case Study (cont’d) While the coach and her husband agreed to take the player into their home, the player did not move in, as her mother moved back into the school district • However, the freshman coach discussed the possibility of this arrangement with the player • This conversation led to what was termed as the coach’s “intensely emotional and passionate feelings for” the player that formed over a five month period (as per the hearing officer) (“big sister/little sister”) •
Case Study (cont’d) Player’s “step-grandfather” discovered 24 letters that the coach had written the player • Player’s cell phone records uncovered over 2, 000 text messages per month, many with the coach; as well as several phone conversations lasting from 2 to 4 ½ hours • Traveling together to the state girl’s basketball tournament (with another coach and player), the coach and player shared a room with another player and coach at a local hotel •
Viewing this Case through Multiple Lenses Ethos of care lens • Educator risk lens • Consequence lens • Contextualize/change the variables •
Coming to Terms with the Terms
Let’s Clarify the Lexicon… Personal Morality Personal values and beliefs derived from one’s life experiences… subjective and may/may not align with community mores. Regulations or Law Policies, statutes, and judicial activity that articulate conduct absolutes. Professional Ethics Professional ethical standards that assist practitioners within situational 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.
Ethical Equilibrium Frameworks to Guide Professional Decision-Making Clinical Judgment Considerations Dispositional Framework Regulatory Framework Professional attitudes, values and beliefs that guide decision-making Policies, statutes, and case law that guide decision-making (sanctionable conduct absolutes) Preservice Licensure Implicit cognitive assumptions Personal Values Considerations Inservice Risk Management Considerations Students, schooling community, self Ethical Framework Professional ethical standards that guide decision-making Individual decisions ~ Situational contexts ~ Systemic variables Trajectory of decision-making Personal-professional considerations (Hutchings, T. 2016)
Nexus Between Ethics and Conduct Professional Ethics Codes of Conduct • Guide Decision-Making • Mitigate Risks • Protect the Profession • Protect the Practitioner • Protect Student Welfare • Defines the Boundary • Possible Sanctions Vulnerabilities Nuanced & Complex Multiple Stakeholders Emotional & Acting in the Power Absolutism Intellectual Intimacy Public Interest Competing Tensions In loco parentis / Agents of the State 1000’s of Daily Decisions Lowest Standard of Acceptable Behavior Operate within the gray. Navigate the gray. Embrace the gray (Hutchings, T. 2016)
Current Qualitative Research • 52% of the participants’ ethical dilemmas fit into category of: “Caring for others and adhering to formal codes” Shapira-Lishinsky, O. (2009). Towards professionalism: ethical perspectives of Israeli teachers. European Journal of Teacher Education, 32 (4), 473 - 487. • “… the participants discussed difficulties in defining boundary lines, and the dilemma of negotiating that line with students. ” Aultman, L. , Williams-Johnson, M. , & Schutz, P. (2009). Boundary dilemmas in teacher-student relationships: struggling with “the line. ” Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 636 -646.
Figure 1. Frequency distribution (n and percentage) of the aggregated (elementary and secondary) ethical dilemmas identified by teachers. Categories Colleagues 38 = 19% 35 = 17% Students Building Administration 24 = 12% Extent of Duties 23 = 12% Policies 31% of all ethical dilemmas involve licensed educators 22 = 11% Implicit Norms 19 = 10% 18 = 9% Curriculum/Instruction/Assessment Parents 11 = 6% Self Total n = 10 = 5% Mentoring 2 = 1% 0% 2% 4% 6% 8% 10% 12% 14% 16% 18% 20% Hutchings, T. & Norris, A. (2014). Categorical domains of ethical dilemmas faced by teachers: A typology. Unpublished raw data.
Without a Common Framework of Decision-Making … • • • Implicit norms develop within the learning community and vary by teacher grouping, administrator, school, and district. Teachers rely on a personal morality and life experiences to guide their decision-making. Teachers' roles are not clearly defined, and the extent of their duties not delineated, which results in arbitrary boundaries. There is a collegial loyalty in not reporting perceived misconduct. There is often a deference of responsibilities by teachers. Teachers often feel as though they are placed in positions of powerlessness when faced with ethical decisions that might conflict with supervisors. Hutchings, T. & Norris, A. (2014). Categorical domains of ethical dilemmas faced by teachers: A typology. Unpublished raw data.
Without a Common Framework of Decision-Making … • • • There is a high degree of frustration among teachers regarding the variability of their actions ("We just need to be on the same page"). When seeking guidance on ethical decision-making, teachers often rely upon opinions that lead to situational, subjective, arbitrary, and inconsistent resolutions. There is a culture of silence that exists among teachers regarding ethical decision-making due to a fear of consequences. Ethical tensions exist in all facets of teachers’ roles. Teachers are making decisions in isolation and without transparency. Hutchings, T. & Norris, A. (2014). Categorical domains of ethical dilemmas faced by teachers: A typology. Unpublished raw data.
Quantitative Research in Texas
Overview of Research at UTSA Context • 80 percent increase in the number of investigations opened by the Texas Education Agency into inappropriate educator-student relationships over last 8 reporting years Chang, J. (2016, Sept. 21). Cases of improper teacher student relationships hit 8 - year high. Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved from http: //atxne. ws/2 c. Sv. Ues
Overview of Research at UTSA Problem • “Educator sexual misconduct is woefully understudied” (Shakeshaft, 2004, p. 51) (and it still is today) Shakeshaft, C. (2004). Educator sexual misconduct: A review of existing literature. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http: //bit. ly/1 Qf. W 0 bp Our purpose • To systematically describe, explain, and perhaps predict the phenomenon of educator sexual misconduct (called inappropriate relationships with students and/or minors) in Texas
Overview of Research at UTSA Three facets 1. Collect through public information requests all Texas educator discipline agreed final orders and associated documents from 1/1/1999 through 6/30/2016. Data received. 2. Collect Texas certified educator employment data from school years 1995 -1996 through 2015 -2016 (and subsequent years as available). Data requested. 3. Collect Texas certified educator certification data from school years 1995 -1996 though 2015 -2016 (and subsequent years as available). Data requested.
Preliminary Findings 2067 discipline sanctions examined spanning 2009 – 2014 (roughly 5. 5 years) for two-thirds of the alphabet • 29. 1% of sanctions issued for IRWSM (inappropriate relationship with student or minor); next closest misconduct involved drug related offenses (19. 4%) • When combined with the offense category of sexual misconduct, (7. 5%) (outside of the school or minor setting), over 36% of educator sanctions were for either IRWSM or sexual misconduct • Thompson, D. P. , & Robert C. (2016). Educator sexual misconduct in Texas: A review of educator discipline data, 2008 -2014. Unpublished raw data.
Preliminary Findings 70% of educators who engaged in IRWSM either voluntarily surrendered their certificates or had their certificates permanently revoked (IRWSM does not always mean sexual contact) • 82% of educators who engaged in sexual misconduct either surrendered their certificates or had their certificates permanently revoked • Complete database should be constructed by early 2017 • Thompson, D. P. , & Robert C. (2016). Educator sexual misconduct in Texas: A review of educator discipline data, 2008 -2014. Unpublished raw data.
How this Research Will Inform… • Backward mapping The quantitative research will permit us to describe, explain, and predict the phenomenon of IRWSM on a large-scale statewide basis • Having access to the original source documents will permit us to examine each case on an individual basis to gain a sense of the critical decision points in the case, to examine the “gray” areas that led to the fateful decision(s), and to apply principles of professional ethics to educator decision-making •
Backward Mapping our Case Study Professional Ethics Codes of Conduct • Guide Decision-Making • Mitigate Risks • Protect the Profession • Protect the Practitioner • Protect Student Welfare 1000’s of Daily Decisions Emotional & Intellectual Intimacy • • Vulnerabilities Nuanced & Complex Defines the Boundary Possible Sanctions Event Multiple Stakeholders Acting in the Public Interest In loco parentis / Agents of the State Power Absolutism Competing Tensions Operate within the gray. Navigate the gray. Embrace the gray (Hutchings, T. 2016)
Model Code of Ethics for Educators “Emotional Attachment…” Principle II: Responsibility for Professional Competence A (4): Accepting the responsibilities, performing duties and providing services corresponding to the area of certification, licensure, and training of one’s position; (nasdtec. net)
Model Code of Ethics for Educators “Emotional Attachment…” Principle III: Responsibility to Students The professional educator promotes the health, safety, and well-being of students by establishing and maintaining appropriate verbal, physical, emotional and social boundaries. A (2): Interacting with students with transparency and in appropriate settings; A (7): Avoid multiple relationships with student which might impair objectivity and increase the risk of harm to student learning or well-being, or decrease student effectiveness; (nasdtec. net)
Model Code of Ethics for Educators “Emotional Attachment…” Principle V: Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology The ethical educator is vigilant to ensure appropriate boundaries of time, place and role are maintained when using electronic communication. A (1): Using social media responsibly, transparently, and primarily for purposes of teaching and learning per school and district policy. The professional educator considers the ramifications of using social media and direct communication via technology on one’s interactions with students, colleagues, and the general public; (nasdtec. net)
Case Study: The Rest of the Story Texas State Board of Educator Certification brought contested case against teacher seeking to revoke her certificate for engaging in a sexual or romantic relationship with the student • The administrative law judge in the case recommended that the certificate not be revoked, as the evidence • demonstrated that the teacher did not have a sexual relationship with the student, and • did not rise to the level (at that time) of the teacher engaging in a romantic relationship with the student (ALJ strongly suggested that the conclusion would have been different under the current code) • • As best as can be determined, teacher completed that school year in the district, taught one subsequent year in another district, and then left the profession in 2007