This is the first in a series of articles that look at the principles of professional conduct in a teacher’s daily work. The series is presented by the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Professional Conduct, which is charged with ensuring that all students are served by educators committed to providing safe, supportive and healthy school environments. The OPC investigates alleged misconduct, makes recommendations for disciplinary and corrective actions, and supports school districts in their efforts to hire educators that are committed to ethical conduct.
Consider these hypothetical cases:
Teacher R planned to start a lawn mowing business so he could earn extra money during the summer breaks. He designed an advertising flyer using his school laptop and copied the flyer on a school copy machine.
Teacher W properly signed out a school camera to capture photos at a school event, but kept forgetting to return it. When her personal camera broke, she took the school camera on a ski trip over winter-break. When she lost it, she was embarrassed and told her principal she had already returned the camera.
Probably no malice was intended in either of these circumstances, yet these teachers placed themselves at risk under district policies and Ohio law governing teacher professional conduct. Because districts typically have up to millions of public dollars tied up in equipment and supplies, they rely on teachers to use these resources responsibly. The law backs them up: Ohio Administrative Code considers crimes or misconduct involving school equipment or property one area the State Board of Education may consider as “conduct unbecoming to the teaching profession.” A few simple tips can help you be a wise user of school resources and protect your professional reputation and career:
- Use school equipment and software for education-related purposes only.
- Know your districts equipment-use guidelines and follow them faithfully. If something is not specified in the guidelines, ask.
- Set a good example for students of how to use school equipment. Respecting the district’s investment builds students’ respect and qualifies a teacher as a professional.
- Log off email and computers when you finish using them, and do not allow others to use your accounts. This will keep potentially inappropriate or unlawful communication from going out under your name.
Because we all are busy doing our jobs each day, the ethical issues that pertain to our profession can drift to the back of our minds. We may not realize we’ve entered an ethical danger zone. Being reminded of these issues periodically can safeguard our livelihoods.