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Teachers must remain professional when addressing student behaviour

October 20, 2015 Gaylene Schreiber, ATA Secretary to Professional Conduct Committees

Pitfalls and Precautions

Pitfalls and Precautions is a series that aims to educate teachers on professional conduct issues by highlighting situations addressed by the ATA Professional Conduct Committee. The committee dealt with the following case during the 2014/15 school year. Watch for further instalments in future issues of the ATA News.

Teachers are expected to provide an environment where students feel safe and must demonstrate a professional manner at all times when working with students who are disruptive or not following directions.

On four separate occasions, a teacher demonstrated a disregard for students’ circumstances and failed to treat those students with dignity and respect and in a manner that was considerate of their circumstances.

The teacher was physically aggressive with students when there were no extenuating circumstances that could potentially justify the behaviour. The teacher held one student by his neck and forcibly restrained other students on two separate occasions. This teacher also spoke inappropriately to a student in a manner that was demeaning.

In some of these situations, the teacher was interacting with students with exceptionalities that required positive behaviour support. The teacher had received specific feedback that his approach to student management was not appropriate and formal warnings about the behaviour, and he had attended professional development designed to assist him in remediating his conduct with challenging students. Despite these interventions, the teacher continued with the behaviour.

The Professional Conduct Committee, in rendering its decision, noted “Teachers are expected to have, and exercise, appropriate means of maintaining a safe and secure learning environment for students and to engage only in reasonable and measured disciplinary action. They are expected to continually strengthen their practice, amending it as necessary, to ensure a safe and secure environment. The teacher failed to correct his practice, despite clear identification of the deficiency and repeated directives from administration to improve. His failure to improve was evidenced by the teacher’s recurring failure to treat his students with dignity and respect.”

The Professional Conduct Committee imposed a declaration of ineligibility for membership in the Alberta Teachers’ Association for a period of one year and a recommendation to the minister of education to suspend the teacher’s teaching certificate for a period of one year. The committee heard that the teacher has also faced serious employment consequences. ❚

Read more Pitfalls and Precautions articles here.

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