The problem with ethics: Their place in public education
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Aug 17, 2009 | 1695 views |  20 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Alabama Board of Education drew up an ethics code for teachers in 2005 and made it a board regulation. It required that teachers obey all laws, maintain professional relations with students, be honest and responsible in handling public money and using public property, not use tobacco and alcohol while in a professional capacity and stay away from illegal drugs altogether.

The code made perfect sense. No one seemed to object.

Then the Board of Education asked that the ethics code be put into the Alabama Administrative Code, which would give it the force and authority of law.

At that point Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, objected. According to Hubbert, the code, when first adopted as a regulation, "was designed to inspire and to describe aspirational and/or inspirational goals for educators," he wrote in the latest issue of the Alabama School Journal, an AEA publication. However, Hubbert said, if put into administrative law, "it can be used in a punitive manner to suspend or revoke one's certificate as an educator."

The problem, it seems, was that the code was poorly worded, and as law it could be used in retaliation by school administrators.

State legislators apparently agreed. When the matter came before the Legislative Council, a 31-member joint committee selected to review such things, it voted it down.

In the purest sense, it is difficult to argue the logic of Hubbert's objections. Still, it is appropriate to question why it came to a showdown between the AEA and the state Board of Education.

The code has been part of board regulations for four years; that's plenty of time for interested parties to determine how well it has worked and what needs to be done to make it work better. During that time, if adding the ethics code to the Alabama Administrative Code was determined to be a good idea, then interested parties should have met, gone over the places deemed vague and potentially punitive and worked out the problems before it went before the Legislative Council.

When the proposal was voted down, the state Department of Education was given a list of amendments that would have improved the situation. Why weren't those amendments presented earlier?

Everyone says they want a code of ethics. If that is the case, then why handle it this way?

Paul Hubbert, state school Superintendent Joe Morton or their representatives should find the time to sit down and work this out. That would be the right thing to do.
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The problem with ethics: Their place in public education by The Anniston Star Editorial Board

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