Ethics Project

You suspect that one of your students is smoking at school based on the way her clothes smell when she is near. The teacher asks the student for her purse to check for cigarettes.  The student claims that the teacher had no right to check her belongings at school without more suspicion or evidence. Is the student right?  Or, did the teacher have the right to do this?  Why or why not?

 

The Code of Ethics

(C) Standard 3.3. The educator shall not intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly misrepresent facts regarding a student.

 

The teacher violated the students privacy by making a negative assumption with no real evidence. By simply smelling smoke on the student, it is not enough evidence and the teacher has no right in going through someone else’s belongings without their consent. This may even cause mistrust among students with that specific teacher or even with every other teacher.

 

The most important person is the student, who can also represent every student. The student, the teacher, administrators, and even the school board need to be considered. A school is build up with different people but everyone is responsible for each other therefor, everyone involved in any of the students’ education needs to be considered.
Other needed information that may be needed is information from other teachers who may also have this student in their class. I want to know if this is the only teacher who has accused the student of smelling like cigarettes. I also want to know if the teacher has smelled her over a period or just one specific day. I would also like to know if the teacher has previously gone through any other students’ belongings aside from this student. Lastly, I would like to know how exactly she approached the student with all of the information given and if she asked the student for permission to look through her purse.

Instead of accusing the student, of something that may not even be true, I would take the situation differently. First thing I would do, is let the administrators know that the student smells like smoke. This will alert other and it would be help to keep a lookout on the student. Many adults can walk by this student multiple times a day, they too can determine if the statement is accurate or not. A short-term consequence to this may be the amount of time it would take to have everyone observe the student. On-going consequences would be if there were still no hard evidence to approach the student. Long-term consequences would be the student noticing how everyone is keeping an eye out for her which could ultimately lead to other problems. The psychological cost the student would have to pay of everyone always watching her is not worth it if she was falsely accused. The social cost may be the student being pushed away from others.

 

Second thing I would do is continue to observe the student throughout the day. There can be a wide number of reasons why the student smells like smoke. This can include, parents, peers or anyone the student may have even stood by. The student may come from a home where someone there smokes, or even on the ride to school. She may have stood next to someone else smoking or even a friend of the student may have been smoking. The smell of smoke tends to stick to clothes rather quickly. Short-term consequences would be the difficulty in finding the people who surround the student to observe them. On-going would be having to observe everyone just to see if the student is smoking. Which if nothing is found, and the student does not arrive to school with the smell of smoke but does leave with the smell of smoke, this may lead to the administrators maybe even accusing her of smoking on campus. This would all come at a psychological cost considering that the student may be asked questions pertaining to those who surround her.
Another thing that could have been done, is ask the student after talking with the administrators about the suspicions and after observing the student for a while. The teacher could have talked to student and asked her. If all goes wrong this maybe even bring the dogs in, which would also help search the rest of the school and not just the student.

New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985)
Issue: Privacy Rights at School
Bottom Line: Your Belongings Can Be Searched, But Not Arbitrarily

This would relate to the student a way. The difference here is that the teacher actually saw the student smoking and not just smelt it. When the teacher did go through the student’s belongings, marijuana was found, unlike this case.

I personally find talking to the student the easiest way to approach this whole situation. This way I am being of good moral character and not shaming her with false accusations. I would have also respected the student’s privacy and those who surround the student.
 

 

References

Jacobs, T. (2008, September 15). 10 Supreme Cases Every Teen Should Know. Retrieved March 06, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/20080915monday.html

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