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Boundaries in Teacher-Student Contact

29 September, 2010

Ethics can be tough for teachers.

It’s changed over the decades, too – what is and is not acceptable, particularly in regards to discipline.

One thing that won’t change any time soon is the whole ‘relationships with students’ prohibition.

According to Victorian County Court judge Liz Gaynor, more should be done to tell teachers that it is illegal to have sexual relationships with students at their school (even if they don’t teach them).

Maybe this is just me, but I’d like to think that this is obvious. Relationships with students would create huge problems – the relationship itself will always have a power problem because of the teacher’s standing in the classroom, but more than that, teachers have enough troubles with allegations of favouritism as it is. It boggles the mind to think how many allegations could come up there.

There’s a common thread in ethical student-teacher relationships that i’ve seen – never be in private, always at least be visible. Preferably, you should be audible and visible; but at least, you should be visible to someone (i.e. to a particular person) and anyone (e.g. passers by).

It’s my opinion that, ethically, this carries for Facebook friendships as well. On a blog, everything is public; on Facebook, there are enough privacy settings to make sure that what you do can’t be seen by others. And, for people in relationships of trust (i.e. teachers), that’s an ethical problem – and a legal problem waiting to happen.

All I’m saying – we not only have to be careful, but we have to be beyond reproach.

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