Responsibility of the Teacher

Subject: Education
Pages: 8
Words: 1393
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: PhD

Teacher liability

We all can agree with Tom and Marsha Savage’s (2010) statement that teaching is one of the most exciting and rewarding professions (p. 3).

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To bring up the act of negligence against a teacher, it should be clearly established that the care duty indeed existed. Then, it should be proven that the care duty was breached which caused the student damage or injury (Newnham, 2000, p. 46). A teacher in a classroom may be vulnerable to liability in cases of intentional and non-intentional (negligent) torts.

The higher risk of danger, the greater care duty is placed on the teacher. Because of a variety of dangers and complications caused by the teacher and student relationship, there is an imposed care duty on the teacher.

However, the teacher’s care duty is only applicable to cases where the protection risk can be predicted.

Prevention of personal legal litigation

A teacher is responsible for acts that can result in liability charges, so it is crucial for the teacher to protect himself or herself (Essex, n.d., para. 3). The following 5 steps are targeted at minimizing the risk of potential liability charges:

  • Learn from the experiences of fellow teachers that work under similar conditions.
  • Make a class a safer place: proper supervision combined with the warning and protecting students from potential harm.
  • Predicting and understanding possible harm or damage. Once the danger is determined, take proper action.

Be cautious to avoid negligent behavior. Teacher negligence involves:

  • Duty of care.
  • Breaching of the duty.
  • An injury.
  • Connection between the injury and the breaching.

Using good judgment to avoid intentional acts that can potentially cause harm to the students.

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Libel vs slander

When it comes to the teacher’s reputation, the concept of libel and slander is to be examined. Both libel and slander are defamation types linked to the action of communication that can cause harm to one’s reputation. The difference between these types of defamation is that slander relates to the harm to the reputation caused by misleading or false while libel is the harm caused by the documented information rather than verbal assaults.

Libel and slander damages

The damages of slander and libel may be divided into economic and non-economic consequences. Economic damages include loss of earnings caused by the damaged reputation as well as loss of earning capacity: employment benefits, insurance, pension, vacation time, etc. Non-economic damages are damages caused by pain or suffering. The pain or suffering is primarily psychological. Moreover, the damages also include anxiety, loss of life enjoyment, and mental distress.

Failure to report child abuse

Child abuse is a problem that should be addressed by teachers and school counselors and reported when it occurs. However, even when mandated by law, many cases of child abuse and neglect remain unreported. Thus, to protect children and encourage punishment for the crime, nearly every U.S. state imposes penalties for failure to report. The penalties vary from fines to imprisonment. Moreover, to prevent intentional and malicious reporting, according to the Children’s Bureau many states impose penalties against those who file false child abuse reports.

Social media risk management

Nowadays social media is everywhere. However, it bears risks when it comes to the communication between students and teachers online. Thus, the need for social media risk management is high due to the teacher’s and students’ interest in sharing life experiences and ideas that can be seen by anyone. The biggest risk is connected with the lack of control over where the shared information is going and who will be able to see it.

According to McCrea (2009), To avoid potential issues linked to the use of social media by teachers and students, the following steps can be undertaken: Paying attention to the posted photos, linked or attached pages. Setting up guidelines for the teachers’ and students’ use of social made. Make sure that every party understands that posted information ‘remains’ online even when deleted. Paying intention to the feedback about the school, teachers, and students posted online. Check the content before it goes online for everyone to see. Paying attention to the information that can be deemed offensive, negative, or controversial (p. 2)

Media report

According to the Examiner.com article Teacher Fired for Posting Vegan Views on Social Media (2015), a second-grade teacher and a vegan advocate were fired for posting a picture on his Facebook page (para. 1). The picture taken on the dairy farm depicted the teacher with baby calves allegedly separated from their mothers and put into crates. Because the students were concerned about the safety of the baby calves, the Facebook post caused a controversy. Moreover, the farm owners declined all of the claims about calves being harmed. Thus, putting out controversial information on social media can be harmful for the teacher’s reputation and eventually may result in dismissal.

The dangers of friending a student online

The dangers of friending a student online should be evaluated to eliminate the further problem. Because students look up to their teachers, the teachers become role models. This should be kept in mind as not all teachers think about all possible consequences while posting a photo online or commenting on someone’s post. Questions like ‘What will my 7th-grade students think about this?’ rarely cross their minds. Because on social media boundaries are blurred, the student will not think twice about friending a teacher online, so the final decision is placed on the teacher’s shoulders.

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Social media advantages

According to the First Amendment, as private citizens, teachers have a right to express their thoughts and opinions no matter of the medium: a newspaper column or a Facebook post (Akiti, 2012, p. 126). Despite social media being a place for controversy in the teacher’s practice, it is a classroom tool for learning and teaching. Nowadays many teachers expand their classroom interactions by reaching students via social media that can be a supportive environment for interactions between students and teachers.

Free speech rights

According to Akiti (2012), The teacher’s right to the freedom of speech is protected only in cases when they speak as citizens on public matters. However, their speech should not interfere with their school activities (p. 140). In Pickering v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court put forward a test for determining whether a teacher can be dismissed for his or her speech. According to the Supreme Court, “The problem, in any case, is to arrive at a balance between the interests of the teacher, as a citizen, in commenting upon the matters of public concern and the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public service it performs through its employees”.

Common sense rules

When dealing with social media, some common-sense rules can be applied. The teacher should check the school policies about the use of social media. If there are no specific policies, ask for advice from management. Moreover, it is crucial to be professional and avoid posting inappropriate content as well as ensure owning rights to content to avoid any complaints. According to the article What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Social Media (2013), when using social media as an additional teaching tool, be sure to let parents and other teachers know. If required, ask for permission (p. 3).

Facebook case study

To see the consequences of friending students or their relatives online, a teacher can examine the following case study. A high-school teacher was a Facebook friend to some of the students’ parents before becoming a teacher. After a minor disagreement, one parent decided to copy all of the teacher’s photos from Facebook and post them on another site with inappropriate captions. Although there was nothing wrong with the photos, the situation caused distress for the school management (What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Social Media, 2013, p. 5). In case of any new professional links, it is advised to use some privacy settings.

Conclusion

When it comes to being a teacher and a regular person at the same time, it is not easy to avoid every situation linked to the teaching process. The main thing to remember is that common sense and the ability to foresee some problematic situations come with practice and experience. It is important to recognize that every teacher makes mistakes and learns new things, the same way their students do.

References

Akiti, L. (2012). Facebook off Limits? Protecting Teachers’ Private Speech on Social Networking Sites. Valparaiso University Law Review, 47(1), 119-167.

Children’s Bureau. (2013). Penalties for Failure to Report and False Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect. Web.

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Essex, N. (n.d.). Don’t Get Sued: 5-Step Guide to Teacher Liability. Web.

McCrea, B. (2009). Managing Social Media Risks. Web.

Newnham, H. (2000). When is a Teacher or School Liable in Negligence? Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 25(1), 45-51.

Savage, T., & Savage, M. (2010). Successful Classroom Management Discipline. Teaching Self-Control and Responsibility. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Teacher Fired for Posting Vegan Views on Social Media. (2015). Web.

What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Social Media. (2013). Web.