Teacher's Personal Freedoms and Their Limits

Teacher's Personal Freedoms and Their Limits
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Storyboard Description

This storyboard covers content relating to what freedoms teachers have or do not have in their personal lives and behaviors.

Storyboard Text

  • Freedoms and Limitations for Teachers
  • My name is Miss Lincoln, a prospective teacher in 2019. Let's talk about what teachers today can and cannot do. 
  • What is "immoral" or "unprofessional?"?
  • "Your homosexual relationship is immoral and unprofessional! The school board believes your teaching credentials should be removed."
  • "It's my own personal life!"
  • Sexual orientation, Age, & Characteristics
  • Can they fire me because of my sexual orientation?
  • Can they force me to retire because I'm 60 years old?
  • In the past, the school and community greatly defined what teachers could and couldn't do based on what they believed was "immoral."  What counts as immoral or unprofessional behavior has changed over time, been influenced through court cases, and sometimes varies depending on the community.  This storyboard will describe some of the freedoms and limitations teachers have and how the courts have ruled in various cases. 
  • What about teacher's sexual conduct?
  • "The Court finds that you were justly removed."
  • Morrison v. Board of Education (1969) was one of the influential court cases to clear up some of the ambiguity over the meaning of “immoral conduct." The California Supreme Court decided "immorality" couldn't be so broadly defined and based on opinion. Furthermore, there must be a nexus, or connection, that would affect Morrison's work as a teacher for him to be fired. The court ruled in Morrison's favor. 
  • Can Teachers Use Profanity?
  • "Mr. Ware, you are dismissed. We have already warned you to stop using profanity when dealing with students!"
  • "Hey kid, you are an S.O.B. and a disgrace to the band!"
  • Today, teachers have freedom from being discriminated based on sexual orientation by the Equal Protection Clause, and freedom from age discrimination from the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Teachers also cannot be fired if they become obese provided that they can still perform their teaching duties.
  • What about marital status or cohabitation?
  • "What if I am unmarried and have a child? Can I still teach?"
  • "What if I live with my girlfriend? We aren't married."
  • Sexual conduct or relationships with students is definite grounds for dismissal. Even in the above case, Lehto v. Board of Education of Caesar Rodney School (2008), when the relationship was consensual, the court found there was a nexus between Lehto's behavior and his effectiveness to be a teacher. 
  • A 2008 Delaware decision found a teacher had been justly removed even after he had a consensual relationship with a 17 year old student in a different district.
  • "But it was consensual!"
  • Profanity toward students may result in dismissal, as illustrated by the case Ware v. Morgan Colorado School District (1988). Vulgar or obscene language outside the school is generally not grounds for dismissal. Even in a case where a teacher sent vulgar letters to a graduated student, the court protected him, because his private conduct did not adversely affect the school or his teaching (Jarvella v. Willoughby–East Lake Sch. Dist. (1967)).
  • As late as 1986, an Illinois teacher was fired for being pregnant and unmarried, but a federal court said this was unjust and she had a right to conceive and raise a child without being married (Eckmann v. Board of Education, 1986)). Cohabitation with members of the opposite sex is generally allowed in most school districts. Your private and sexual life is your business provided it does not hinder your effectiveness as a teacher.
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