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EDUC 525

Ethics: Learning Task #2

Karen Goodwin

Kristi-Mari Fedorko-Bartos

Raveena Kaur Sandhu

Alex Black

Graeme Black

November 9th, 2018
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In the Alberta Teachers’ Association Code of Conduct, it states:

In relation to the profession

18 The teacher acts in a manner which maintains the honour and dignity of the

profession.

19 The teacher does not engage in activities that adversely affect the quality of the

teacher’s professional service.

Items 18 and 19 clearly outline the standards that teachers must meet to maintain their

Code of Conduct, and thereby uphold their status as members of the teaching profession. Item

19 in particular implies that the activities in which the teacher engages in -- be it on school

premises or off; during school hours or outside of school hours -- must not adversely affect the

quality of the teaching, nor in fact the quality of the teaching environment. Researchers into

these ethical implications behind teaching, such as Buzzelli, C. & Johnston, B. (2001), have

found there to be a “general agreement” amongst scholars: “teaching itself involves moral

action. Teachers are moral agents, and education as a whole, and thus classroom interaction in

particular, is fundamentally and inevitably moral in nature” (p. 876). It is hard to argue that a

teacher would not be held to significant moral and ethical standards, as a member of a

profession with monumental influence, and thus in a position to be judged for what ‘activities’

they choose to engage in.

No other professional activity outside of teaching has such extended control and

influence over minors. Therefore, parents and the community have a legitimate concern about Deleted: Therefore

the qualifications and actions of those individuals the school district places in positions of

power and trust over their children (DeMitchell, T.A. 2011).
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This ‘extended control’ does not cease to exist when the school bell rings at the end of

the day. Therefore, the role of the teacher, his/her realm of influence, is on-going and cannot

be reasonably seen as solely occurring during school hours and on school premises. The

teacher is in a position and duty of care similar to a parent; both containing moral and ethical

implications, and both existing with unending zones of influence.

What constitutes “immorality” can be perceived differently from person to person or

school board to school board and can been dependent on social context. Two courts could

interpret “immorality” as encompassing different conduct (Fulmer, 2002); sexual orientation or

choice of living arrangements have been deemed immoral in the past and still today in certain

communities and with certain religious school boards. The ethical implications of off duty

behavior of teachers are subject to the social context to which they reside and work.

The teaching profession involves molding the minds of the youth and taking care of

student’s in the stead of the parents to help create responsible and moral citizens. “Many people

regard a teacher as an exemplar, whose words and actions are likely to be followed by the

students coming under his care and protection” (Fulmer, 2002). Off duty conduct which is

deemed immoral within the social context they are in, can undermine the confidence the

students, parents, and school community have in a teacher’s ability and merit to remain in the

role of an educator and shaper of young minds. As a role model, teachers have a reasonability

to conduct themselves off duty in a manner which would not be deemed as immoral as their

actions and behaviour outside of school can challenge their authority and merit inside of school.

In consideration of the ethical implications involved with teacher behaviour after schools ours

and off school premises, our opinion is that both the virtue and deontological school of ethics

are the best approaches to this matter. Nicely done!
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Virtue Ethics

Virtue can be simply defined as having or showing high moral standards. The practice

of Virtue ethics therefore “relates to predispositions of the person’s character which have

developed over time and resulted in virtuous habits of action exemplifying a virtuous character”

(J. K. Donlevy, personal communication, October 23rd, 2018). Aristotle argued that for all the

virtues to be present, the characteristic of practical wisdom must be present. Practical wisdom is

critical in the school of thought regarding Virtue Ethics and is essentially the capacity to do the

right thing, at the right time and for the right reasons. With section 18 and 19 of the ATA Code of

Conduct (2018) in mind, it can be argued that those wishing to become part of the teaching

profession should be inherently predisposed to practical wisdom and upholding the ethical values

of Virtue Ethics. As DeMitchell (2011) states, teachers are in loco parentis, generally spend more

time with students over the week than any other authority figure and are part of the only

profession that has power and control over minors with the full extent of the government laws

behind them. Because of this, the ethical implications of teachers off-duty behaviour are of great

concern to parents and the greater community. Referring to the Code of Conduct (2018), it can be

argued that actions aligned with maintaining the “honour and dignity of the profession” require a

teacher to possess a certain virtuous character, and therefore ethical decisions made regarding

conduct both during and outside of school hours originate within one’s fundamental, true

character. In addition, teachers are in a position to not only role model ethical behaviour and

decision making, but to teach moral and ethical awareness to their students (J. K. Donlevy,

personal communication, October 23rd, 2018). Hence, the Virtue School of Ethics approach is

best suitable in the matter of ethical implications involved with teacher behaviour after school

hours and off school premises. This is very well done.
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Deontological Ethics

Deontological Ethics is based on whether the action itself is right or wrong rather than

being based on the consequences of the action (J. K. Donlevy, personal communication, October

23rd, 2018). Therefore, a person adhering to a Deontological approach in ethical decision making

must always “do the right thing” even if it produces more negative outcomes than doing the

“wrong thing” would (J. K. Donlevy, personal communication, October 23rd, 2018). This

approach operates with the categorical imperative, where an ethical decision made “must be

universally applicable to all persons including the decision maker” (J. K. Donlevy, personal

communication, October 23rd, 2018). This school of ethics reinforces that all people have inherent

value and worth and should not be not be treated as a means to an end, but rather as an end in

themselves. The Alberta Teachers’ Association Code of Conduct (2018) states that teachers must

act in a manner that maintains the dignity and honour of the Profession, and therefore, teachers are

bound to make sure their actions uphold the honour of the profession whether it is during school

hours or off duty regardless of what the consequence might be. As teachers are in loco parentis

where parents entrust their children to teachers for majority of the day (DeMitchell, 2011), they

owe a duty to students, parents and the public. Teachers are held to a high standard in society, as

they are role models and authority figures for students. If the teacher’s immorality off hours

negatively impacts the school community, what they stand for, and the perception the students

have of them, then their interests are superseded by that of society and the school community

(Fulmer, 2002). Hence, the Deontological School of Ethics approach is a best suitable in the

matter of ethical implications involved with teacher behaviour after school hours and off school

premises.
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In summary, we find Deontological and Virtue Ethics approaches are most suited to

addressing the ethical behaviour of off duty teachers. The teaching profession is held at a higher

moral standard than any other profession due to the very fact that teachers act in loco parentis. It is

a difficult line to walk, however those wishing to become part of the profession must accept that

their behaviour outside of school hours has implications on their relationships with students,

parents and the community as a whole. Whether teachers wish to accept this or not is a personal

choice. However, trust is imperative in the teaching profession, and once lost it is very hard to

gain back. Those wishing to join the profession must take this into heavy consideration.
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References

ATA Code of Professional Conduct (2018) Retrieved from:

https://www.teachers.ab.ca/About%20the%20ATA/UpholdingProfessionalStandards/Profes

sionalConduct/Pages/CodeofProfessionalConduct.aspx

Buzzelli, C. & Johnston, B. (2001). Teacher and Teacher Education. Retrieved from:

http://media.journals.elsevier.com/content/files/s0742051x10001587-04220948.pdf

DeMitchell, T.A. (2011). “Immorality, teacher private conduct, and adverse notoriety: A needed

recalculation of nexus?” Journal of Law and Education, 40(2), 327–339.

Fulmer, J. (2002). Dismissing the immoral teacher for conduct outside the workplace – Do current

laws protect the interests of both school authorities and teachers? Journal of Law and

Education, 31(3), 271.