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Educator Ethics

Iowa Board of Educational Examiners

Why Ethics?
• Educators today face increasing and more
complicated ethical dilemmas
• Educators often think that it “won’t happen
to me”
• Ethical standards protect students and the
• Transparent conversations help us to hold
one another accountable
• New national standards – Model Code of
Ethics for Educators
• Discover the difference between morals,
codes of conduct, and ethics

• Review the Iowa Code of Professional

Conduct and Ethics

• Explore the national standards – Model

Code of Ethics for Educators

• Analyze new dilemmas concerning

educators, boundaries, and technology
• Practical, shared
promoting Code of
fairness and
• Specific behaviors that
we can/cannot do
More abstract,
subjective, personal,
may or may not be
∙ A principal decides not to drink a
beer when he sees a student enter ∙ A teacher inflates a grade,
the same restaurant. wanting a student to feel a
sense of accomplishment
• A teacher changes dates and
updates other information on
his letters of ∙ A principal calls in sick to
recommendation. extend his vacation.

∙ A coach becomes “friends” with

students on Facebook
Is it possible that our
most caring teachers
are more vulnerable
to ethics violations or
professional risk?
Our greatest risks as a profession:
1. We don’t acknowledge that there are risks
2. Assumption that educators should “know
3. We don’t learn to navigate risk
4. We don’t recognize ethical dilemmas
5. We have “blind spots” (often from caring)
Iowa Code of Professional Conduct
and Ethics
Ethics violations may be reported to the BoEE by:
A. A parent of a child directly involved
B. Department of Education, BoEE, Department of Transportation,
Department of Revenue
C. Anyone holding a BoEE license (teachers, administrators,
coaches, etc.)
D. School Board (typically in the case of a superintendent)
Mandatory Reporting Items
School districts are required to report every instance of
disciplinary action in four areas:

including flirting NEW – signed into
law 2017

Falsification of
documents Consumption of/or
having consumed
alcohol or drugs on
Misuse of
public funds
and property
BoEE Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics
Standard 1 – conviction of Criminal convictions,
crimes, student abuse, sexual inappropriate relationships,
misconduct abuse
Standard 2 – alcohol and drugs Under the influence on school
property or school event
Standard 3 – falsification of Special education IEPs, test
information scores, HR documents
Standard 4 – misuse of funds or Stealing or converting money or
property equipment, false
Standard 5 – contractual Leaving a contract without being
violations released

Standard 6 – general unethical Failure to protect child, bullying,

conduct financial gain, improper
Standard 7 – debts to local Failure to pay state taxes,
government student loans, child support

Standard 8 - incompetence
Case Scenarios – which standard was violated?
1. A teacher begins dating a former student of his the day after
the student graduates from high school.
2. A special education teacher falls behind on progress
monitoring and enters random (false) scores.
3. On a school trip, a teacher leaves students with parent
chaperones at a hotel and goes to a bar with a friend.
4. A student reported to a teacher that another teacher had sent
explicit photos to the student via text message. The teacher did
not report this to anyone.
5. A school computer has a virus and it is discovered that the
teacher has been viewing non-work related websites.
Mr. B is a first year high school teacher who also coaches football.
During summer football camp, his best player is caught sneaking alcohol
into practice. Mr. B hasn’t even begun teaching yet and already has a
difficult dilemma. Who do you think will most influence his next step?

Student: I’m so sorry, I’ve never Parent: My son is a great kid and your
done anything like this before, and best player. He’s a wonderful student
I did it on a stupid bet. I'll never do with scholarship opportunities and
anything like this again. may even have some college scouts
coming. Please don’t report him and
Mentor Teacher: Everyone ruin his future over one mistake.
deserves a break, and aren’t
you glad that others have Principal: The student broke
probably showed you the rules and the law and must
compassion in the past? Don’t be reported.
report him.
Model Code of Ethics for Educators
Codes of ethics are commonly agreed upon standards that inform
the course of action related to ethical practice.

They set a higher threshold than codes of conduct, help guide

discussions of ethical dilemmas, and establish a framework for
ethical decision-making. The MCEE was created in 2015 through
NASDTEC collaboratively with professional education organizations.

• promote student safety and welfare,

• guide educator decision-making,
• foster public confidence in the profession
Model Code of Ethics for Educators
• Responsibility to the Profession
• Responsibility for Professional Competence
• Responsibility to Students
• Responsibility to Parents/Guardians, Colleagues, the
Community and Employers
• Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology
Model Code of Ethics for Educators
Principle I:
Responsibility to the Profession

The professional educator is aware that trust in the

profession depends upon a level of professional
conduct and responsibility that may be higher than
required by law.

This entails holding one and other educators to the

same ethical standards.
Model Code of Ethics for Educators
Principle II: Responsibility for
Professional Competence

The professional educator is committed to the highest

levels of professional and ethical practice, including
demonstration of the knowledge, skills and
dispositions required for professional competence.
Model Code of Ethics for Educators
Principle III:
Responsibility to Students

The professional educator has a primary obligation

to treat students with dignity and respect. The
professional educator promotes the health, safety
and well being of students by establishing and
maintaining appropriate verbal, physical, emotional
and social boundaries.
Model Code of Ethics for Educators
Principle IV:
Responsibility to the
School Community

The professional educator promotes positive

relationships and effective interactions, with
members of the school community, while maintaining
professional boundaries.
Model Code of Ethics for Educators
Principle V:
Responsible and Ethical Use of

The professional educator considers the impact of

consuming, creating, distributing and communicating
information through all technologies. The ethical
educator is vigilant to ensure appropriate boundaries
of time, place and role are maintained when using
electronic communication.
The following situations increase risk for
educators, especially when they fall outside the


Case Study Sample (fictional, based on similar cases):
• Read the sample full case. This is a condensed version of
what our board might see.
• Note all boundary issues or other concerns you find.
• At what point did the teacher open the door to risk?
• For each of the issues you found, how might the teacher
have done things differently while still showing that he
was a caring, trusted adult?
• How might the teacher have thought he was doing the
right thing?
For each of the next scenarios, consider the following
• What possible issues/concerns might this scenario raise?

• What are the possible MCEE ethics or BoEE code of

conduct issues?

• What are the other negative consequences, or what is

“the worst that could happen?”

• What are some possible responses/actions, or proactive

measures that should be considered?
MCEE Principle 1 – Responsibility to the Profession
Scenario 1: Online Discovery – Should I say something?
Mr. Y is a first year high school teacher. Mr. Z is his mentor. He received a
link invitation to view Mr. Z’s “bashing” blog. There are several teachers in
the building who also follow the blog. Mr. Z kept his blog "as anonymous as
possible" and never named students or disclosed his location. In one post
he offered fellow teachers alternative ways to describe students on report
cards, such as "rat-like," "dresses like a streetwalker," and "frightfully dim,”
and "the trash company is hiring.“

Mr. Y is concerned, but he isn’t sure if he should speak up since the other
teachers don’t seem to have a problem with it.
MCEE Principle 2 – Responsibility for Professional
Scenario 2: Special Education
Optional follow-up scenario:
Mrs. T teaches special education. She loves Studenthaving student
R has been teachers
acting out in class. His teacher
so that she can take a break and leave informs
Optional follow-up scenario:
the classroom forthat
the parents a while eachtheir son has
he thinks
day. Most
In April, days she
a principal feels
hires soteacher
a new overwhelmed ADHD
to start andshe
that should
hasbe medicated. The teacher also
in August. When school administer
begins, thethe recommends
principal that student
assessments R’s cell phone be taken
and also
finds out that the new teacher has not yet away, and that he should be removed from all
enter and track the progress monitoring data.
sports until student R’s behavior improves in this
passed the required Praxis tests, and
consequently does not yet hold an Iowa class.
teaching license. The principal fills the position
with a substitute teacher to serve alongside the
unlicensed teacher to start the year. What are
some possible issues and solutions?
MCEE Principle 3 – Responsibility to Students
Scenario 3: Ride Home
Mrs. R is a very successful coach who often gives rides to students in her
own car. She drives them home after school, after practice, or after games,
which can be very late at night or on weekends. She enjoys spending extra
time with the students to get to know them better. She feels that this is
helping students to participate who may not otherwise be able. She is
Optional follow-up scenario:
concerned about students who have to walk home in the dark or when it is
Due to budget cuts, district
cold. to events is limited.
When events occur less than 20 miles
away, the district decides to have
students transport themselves. What
are some possible issues and solutions?
MCEE Principle 3 – Responsibility to Students
Scenario 4: Student Crush
Mr. H is a high school English teacher. A student turns in a poem for extra
credit that he soon discovers is a love note to him. Mr. H thinks about
seeking help from his principal or colleagues, but he is worried that they
will think that he “led her on” or that he was otherwise at fault. He decides
Optional follow-up
not to say scenario:
anything to anyone, including the student, and gives her the
Classmates are worried about a
extra credit.
student who has been absent for a
few days. Her teacher tells the class
that she has been having some
mental health issues and is seeking
private counseling. What are some
possible issues and solutions?
MCEE Principle 3 – Responsibility to Students
Scenario 5: Online Bully
Mr. G notices that a student is suddenly quiet and withdrawn at
school, and her grades are starting to slip. The student discloses to Mr.
G that she is being bullied online through Instagram, and that the
have all scenario:
created fake accounts (“Finsta” accounts) to hide
A teacher hears a student laughing
their activities from their parents.
and saying “that’s so gay” (in the
The student has since written a
contextabout harming
of something herself.
negative) during
a group discussion in her classroom.
The teacherignores
the not to report
comment and this to anyone since it is happening
online,tries to move
at night, andon not
to the next school hours.
topic. What are some possible issues
and solutions?
MCEE Principle 3 – Responsibility to Students
Scenario 6: Marker Joke
Mr. M is a 15-year veteran middle school teacher known for his humor and
sarcasm. When students fall asleep in his class, he writes “ZZZZZ” in
permanent marker on their arms and hands. The other students in the class
watch and laugh along with Mr. M when this occurs. Mr. M believes that he
is sending an effective message since students never fall asleep twice. The
other teachers and administrators dismiss the behavior because it’s just
“Mr. M.”
MCEE Principle 4 – Responsibility to the School Community
Scenario 7: Party Bus
The teachers at Snowy Meadow Middle School meet at a local sports bar
for appetizers and drinks each Friday after school. Teachers describe the
time as “social
Optional therapy,”
follow-up scenario:and it gives them a chance to vent about their
A veteran including sharing
coach working in astories about students and parents. This year,
they community
small decided toknowsrent amany
“party bus” and invited any teacher in the district
andthea families personally.
few favorite The to join them on their bar crawl in Des Moines.
families expect their children to
They created
have more a Facebook
playing time etc. event with the title “No Pint Left Behind.”
since they know the coach.
What are some possible issues
and solutions?
MCEE Principle 5 – Responsible Use of Technology
Scenario 8: At-Risk, Texting
Ms. B works for an at-risk program where teachers are encouraged to
provide their cell phone numbers to students, including sending frequent
text messages to make sure they are coming to school, completing
assignments, etc. Ms. B is worried about a particular student, so she sends
him text messages with encouraging phrases such as, “I hope to see you at
school today – you know you are my favorite student!”
MCEE Principle 5 – Responsible Use of Technology
Scenario 9: Email Rant
Mrs. D is an elementary special education teacher with 30 years of
experience. She is greatly looking forward to meeting other teachers
after work for some adult beverages and food after a very tough week
with students. She sends an email to the other teachers with the
following text: “Hey all – I will probably be late after school ☹ I have
Optional follow-up
an IEP meeting scenario:
for John Jones because of his so-called “learning
A district is getting
disability” rid of
(cough), andsome
his older
motherlaptops. A teacher
is totally is in
crazy charge
of donating them to a local charity. He decides to keep one of the
laptops because it is better than what his son has at home, and the
district has already removed them from the inventory anyway.
What are some possible issues and solutions?
MCEE Principle 5 – Responsible Use of Technology
Scenario 10: Texting and Social Media
Ms. F has been teaching for 10 years and is very popular with students. She
frequently offers students extra help after school, so it’s not uncommon to see
students visiting her classroom after school. She has tutored one of her HS
students in a variety of subjects over a two-year period. During that time, Ms. F
has usedfollow-up
Optional Facebook private messaging to communicate with the student. At first,
A helpful
the teacher were
exchanges leavesvery
her cell phone unlocked
general; sometimes on the corner to school work (e.g.,
of her desk so that students can use it as a calculator or to
asking the student about his family, or how he was getting along with friends).
connect to the internet. What are some possible issues and
solutions? the student began to text the teacher about more personal feelings,
including romantic feelings that he has for her.
How does free speech affect an educator’s rights on social

The first amendment can protect you in most cases from

getting charged with a crime, but there can still be
consequences (getting fired, etc.)

Cybertraps for Educators by Frederick Lane is a good

resource for examining the issues surrounding social
media, texting, email, and other electronic concerns.
Social Media Examples (educators were fired for these

“I guess that’s what happens when you flunk out of school

and have no education…I’m almost to the point of wanting
them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt
each other and leave the innocent people alone.”
When the student asked @FCPSMaryland over Twitter on
Jan. 5 for school to be closed “tammarow,” Katie Nash, 33,
replied, “but then how would you learn how to spell
‘tomorrow’? :)”
“I don’t know him, but I hate him #pothead #STEM
Other Social Media Examples (educators were fired -

"The funny thing about immigrants staying home is the rest of

us who pay for them are at work like we've always been. Looks
like less mouths to feed today. Have fun while you still can. So
glad to hear about massive deportation. Let's make America
great again. Thanks Donald Trump!!"
“Field day with my little [expletives] that I somehow still love.”
A student wearing a traditional Mexican hat or sombrero- is
captioned: “This is an African American Mexican.”
Other Social Media Examples – planning a “sickout” in reaction
to recent legislation:
“If blacks in this country are so
offended, no one is forcing them
to stay here,” Rone posted, “After today, I am thinking the
according to screenshots beach sounds like a wonderful
captured by parents of students at idea for my 5th graders!” the
the school. “Why don’t they pack teacher, Christine Rubino, wrote
up and move back to Africa where after a student died on a trip to a
they will have to work for a living. I beach. “I HATE THEIR GUTS! They
am sure our government will pay are all the devils spawn!” She
for it! We pay for everything else.” added, concerning one student, “I
wld not throw a life jacket in for a

• Foster an environment that encourages open and

collaborative discussions around ethics. Continue to
facilitate conversations on a regular basis.

• Review district and state policies and guidance around

hiring, state reports, transportation, technology, and
other commonly reported areas

• Emphasize that caring and connecting with students

is still important, but that educators also have the
responsibility to do so within professional

• Encourage transparency, which is usually the key to

Resources and Acknowledgements

National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and

Certification (www.nasdtec.net)
Model Code of Ethics for Educators (2015)

Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (www.boee.iowa.gov)

Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics
Board Decisions

Lane, Frederick. (2015) Cybertraps for Educators. Frederick Lane (self-

www.fredericklane.com – Cypertraps Blog

Connecticut Code of Professional Responsibility for Educators (and

sample scenarios)