Inappropriate Relationships

We are asked in assignment 3 to comment on an aspect of professional ethics. Immediately my mind drew back to a situation that occurred in my High School. There was a girl in my grade 12 class. She was a popular girl with many friends, but she was the only daughter in a very large family of boys. Her dad lavished attention on her brothers and was extremely involved in their extra circular activity of wrestling. This girl was into wrestling too, maybe because it was a family sport or maybe to get attention from her father. I cannot comment as to any accuracy there as I do not personally know, but am simply commenting from observation. One of our English teachers at the school was also our girls wrestling coach. He was a younger teacher maybe in his early thirties, recently married with a brand new baby. As the year progressed the girl started needing a lot of extra coaching in wrestling. I am sure everyone assumed that she was simply a passionate athlete, and he as the trusted mentor simply going the extra mile for a good student. As this went on people talked and made the typical jokes about this girl and the teacher being intimate, but no one paid much attention as it was just high school rumors after all. Then one day in the spring, weeks before the end of school the teacher all of  sudden had to leave. They brought in substitutes and one of the other teachers took over the wrestling team. The girl stopped coming to school as well, electing to finish out the rest of the year in home schooling. Everyone stopped and held their breath and waited for what we knew was coming. It wasn’t silly high school rumors after all, they had in fact been involved in an intimate relationship. He was found out through inappropriate correspondences intercepted on the high schools e-mail server and she was pregnant. Obviously this is a blatant example of violation of professional ethics. One which you would think only happens in movies and on TV, but it happened in my sleepy little town. I begun trying to search for the news story on this as I do remember it being reported on but I could not locate it. Instead a ran across an article written by Matt McClure for the Calgary Herald about how dozens of teachers have had sexual allegations filed over them in the past five years. Since 2014 there have been 334 complaints filed against teachers. Of these 95 have had sufficient evidence to be validated and of those 95 22 have been inappropriate sexual relationships. Of course this is not the only issue there have been allegations of abuse, pornography, financial abuse and tampering with student evaluations to name a few. It surprised me however how high the number of sexual complaints there were. It is such a position of trust and authority to be a teacher, especially when you are working with children and young adults that I feel using that power to elicit sexual acts has to be one of the most perverse violations. I found that The Alberta Teachers’ Association has a code of professional conduct and they do not come out and directly say teachers may not engage in sexual activity with students (maybe they assume that is just universally understood) but they do outline that there needs to be respect and dignity paid to the students. Taking advantage of a student sexually in my opinion is not showing respect or dignity, it is being a predator. This got me thinking about the issue of this in adult education. When educating adults you are still in a position of authority but your students may not be minors. I did a quick search and found multiple stories about university and college professors and instructors being charged for sexual misconduct with a student. So I looked in my own schools policies and procedures and I found that we do indeed spell it out in black and white.

“Employees and Others” shall not engage in any sexual activity or intimate conduct with any student over whom they have influence or could be perceived to have influence, regardless of consent and the age of the student. Because of possible adverse consequences in Criminal Law, such intimate relationships between “Employees and Others” and students are explicitly prohibited in all cases where the student is under the age of 18 years.”

I can see how this could be a problem though. Some people find authority very attractive, having power can corrupt you and being admired by someone can be intoxicating. If you mix any personal problems into the mix or a weak will power I can see how people can fall into violating this ethical principle.

McClure, M. (2014, May 17) Dozens of sexual allegations filed against Alberta teachers over past five years . In  The Calgary Herald. Retrieved from http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Dozens+sexual+allegations+filed+against+Alberta+teachers+over+past+five+years/9848666/story.html

The Alberta Teachers Association, (2004). Code of professional Conduct. Retrieved from https://www.teachers.ab.ca/About%20the%20ATA/UpholdingProfessionalStandards/ProfessionalConduct/Pages/CodeofProfessionalConduct.aspx

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (1996) HR. 4.2.1 Ethical Behavior. Retrieved from http://www.sait.ca/Documents/About%20SAIT/Policies%20and%20Procedures/Human%20Resources/pdf/HR-4-2-1_Guidelines_for_Ethical_Conduct.pdf

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