Deciding to be a school teacher does not mean one has to throw away their rights granted by the United States Constitution. Teachers are required to maintain moral and ethical behavior but their rights as citizens are not taken away. Teachers should understand that they are always teachers and role models whether they are in the classroom or not and should always maintain a professional demeanor when in the public eye. Teachers are held to a higher standard in their actions and behaviors because of their employment position. Teachers influence and mold the ideas and thought of young people.
There is an inherent responsibility of being a role model whether the teacher is in the classroom or in the grocery store. Teachers are granted the same personal freedoms as private citizen, but need to make sure their personal choices do not affect their ability to perform in the classroom as a school board employee. The following is a teacher handbook outlining the rights and responsibilities of teachers including: academic freedoms, freedom of association, and freedom of expression, freedom of religion, employment rights and responsibilities, and code of ethics.
Academic freedom Teachers are afforded a limited amount of freedom with regards to instruction in the classroom. This comes from a teacher’s right to teach and student’s right to learn (Essex, 2012). The idea of academic freedom is a very limited concept in public schools. Academic freedom is the idea that teachers have the freedom to decide how they teach not what they teach. Curriculums are determined by the State, what teachers have is the opportunity to bring these concepts to life and inspire learning, discovery, research, and inquisition in students.
Teachers must keep their instruction within the realm of their subject certification and age level and maturity of students (2012). In the case, Fowler v. Board of Education of Lincoln County, Kentucky, a tenured teacher was terminated because she showed an R rated movie to her student with inappropriate subject matter and nudity (Essex, 2012). The video was not part of the curriculum and it was found that the teacher did not have First Amendment rights in this circumstance (2012).
Teachers may not offer students instruction on subject they are not certified in. Teachers will not use their classroom as a platform to promote or persuade their student’s beliefs to their own beliefs. The classroom is not a place for teachers to promote their personal agendas including religious or political beliefs or opinions. Teachers must keep their instruction focused on the curriculum determined by the State. What academic freedom teachers have is in the way they present and teach the provided curriculum. Freedom of association.
Teachers have the same rights as other citizens when it comes to freedom of association as provided by the First Amendment. Teachers are free to associate with whatever groups they choose without fear of punishment. It is important for teachers to understand that although they are afforded the same rights as other individual, they do have an inherent responsibility to be cautious of their actions because of the position they hold. Teachers should avoid putting themself in a position where they have to explain their behavior or where it’s their word against another person’s word.
Maintain a professional reputation in the community. It is advised that teachers are cautious of the impressions they make in public and how their actions may affect their ability to perform as a district employee. Teachers are role models, and students look to them with respect and for guidance. The Supreme Court stated, “A teacher serves as a role model for his students, exerting a subtle but important influence over their perceptions and values” (Essex, 2012). Teachers are free to be associated with any group they wish.
However, the teacher must make sure that their association with ant particular group does not conflict with their responsibilities of being an employee of the school district and their ability to teach the state appointed curriculum to their students. Freedom of expression Teachers have the rights of freedom of expression and speech within limits. Outside the classroom teachers reserve the freedom of expression like other citizens. It is important to note that teachers are held to a higher standard than average citizens because of the impressionable role the hold and the age of the subjects they teach.
Teachers are always role models and it is recommended that teachers express themselves in a professional manner at all times. The limitations on the rights teachers have to free speech depend on not causing “material disruption” to the school board. In other words, the teacher’s speech cannot interfere with the school board or any other school entity and the education system (Essex, 2012). Use common sense and good judgment. Teacher should ask themselves how someone else could perceive their comments or actions and if they can be taken out of context and/or misinterpreted.
When teacher’s wishes to exercise their right to free speech it is highly advised that the teacher states that their statements are those of a private citizen and not an employee of the school board (2012). Although teachers have the right to free speech it is advised that teachers are cautious of statements they make in public because of the nature of their position in the community. Teacher’s statements need to be truthful and not slanderous or defaming in nature. Teacher’s wishing to make personal statements must do so on their personal time and may not use school district property or telecommunications to do so.
Teachers may not make public statements during the time period of when they are working as employees of the school district. Teachers may not use school equipment including: computers, phones, cameras, recording devices, or video cameras, to product personal statements. Using the school telecommunication means, like the school board electronic mail system, is prohibited. All email sent through the school boards is property of the school board and can be used in teacher liabilities. Freedom of religion.
Teachers reserve the right to practice any religion they choose on their free time and outside of the classroom. The school will not discriminate against individuals based on religion. Due to Title VII, the school must make reasonable accommodations for employee’s religious beliefs (Essex, 2012). Teachers may not bring their personal religious beliefs into the classroom. Teachers may not bring their religion into the classroom in an effort to persuade student beliefs. Teachers may not use their classroom as a platform to preach personal religious beliefs or discuss religion that is not curriculum based.
Employment rights and responsibilities Individuals seeking employment with the school district have the right to not be discriminated against based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (Essex, 2012). It is the responsibility of the individual seeking employment to provide the required documents required for employment including but not limited to, teaching certificates, background check, finger printing and drug screening.
Providing false information regarding teacher certification or other documentation will disqualify the application. Teacher Code of Ethics Teachers must maintain a code of ethics. Teachers have an obligation to maintain the ethical code to the students, the public, and the profession of education. The teacher’s first priority will always be the success and development of the student. It is the teacher’s duty and responsibility to provide students with a safe enriching environment where they are free to learn.
Teachers will not exploit relationships with students for personal gain. Aware of the importance of maintaining the respect and confidence of one’s colleagues, of students, of parents, and of other members of the community, the teacher strives to achieve and sustain the highest degree of ethical conduct (The Code, 2012). The teacher values the worth and dignity of every person, the pursuit of truth, devotion to excellence, and the acquisition of knowledge (2012). Teachers are private citizens and are afforded the same rights guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution.
Teachers should be cautious of the image they portray in the public eye, but they are free to make decisions on what they do, where they do it, and what they say about it. Teachers have the right to teach how they want to teach as long as the method supports the curriculum. Teachers have the right to freedom of assemble and expression, but need to maintain professional demeanor and be moral and ethical and moral in practice. Teachers also have the freedom of religion on their personal time, but may not bring religion into the classroom unless it relates to curriculum.
They following handbook provides teachers with an understanding of their rights and responsibilities inherent of being a part of the school district. References Essex, N. L. (2012). School law and the public school, a practical guide for educational leaders. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. Fowler v. Board of Education of Lincoln County,Kentucky, U. S. Court of Appeals, 6th Cir. 817 F. 2d 657 (1987). The Code of Ethics and the Principles of Professional Conduct of the Education Profession in Florida. (2012). State Board of Education Rule 6B-1. 001, FAC. www. fldoe. org.