Aren't those standards already there?
In a way, yes. In 2005, the state board endorsed a set of ethics standards, but they were never added to the administrative code. The reason was fairly apparent: Because most of the ethical points are covered under other parts of the administrative guidelines, few thought it was necessary to have a separate listing for ethics.
However, there have been recent ethical lapses by public officials in Alabama — real and imagined, published and rumored. Many feel that even though there were standards — and they were enforced — not having a specific category might create the "perception that if it's not in the code, it doesn't carry as much weight as the other standards," Tony Thacker, who coordinates Gov. Bob Riley's commission on quality teaching, told the Associated Press.
What's more, Michael Sibley, a state Department of Education spokesman, said adding ethics standards "gives us a more visible and concrete guideline to go by, but it in no way indicates that we weren't holding teachers accountable …"
That makes sense. If there are ethical standards to which state employees are held, they should be clearly and openly stated so that employees, supervisors and the public can know what is expected and how well those expectations are met.
All involved need to know what constitutes good and bad conduct, how educators should handle relationships with students and colleagues, the uses and misuses of public funds and public property, and rules concerning drugs, alcohol and tobacco. They also need to know the consequences of unethical behavior and the process by which those consequences are determined.
Ethics standards should be placed in their own category. That will increase public confidence in the importance given to the ethical behavior of those responsible for teaching children and setting the example for children to follow.
When one believes in something and expects conduct to reflect those beliefs, it never hurts to let it be known — up front.
With something as important as ethical behavior in Alabama, being up front is an absolute necessity.