Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
18 Upper Grand

Keep Yourself Safe! Boundary Issues

Keep Yourself Safe! - Boundary Issues

These days, as an educational professional you are much more likely than in previous decades to be a target of accusations about your professional conduct .  The boundaries are clear:  you are the professional, the student is your client.  You are not a 'best' friend or a 'buddy'.  The problem for us as teachers is that we must recognise the difference between being a friendly teacher and being a friend to the student.  Recognise the boundaries and keep yourself safe! 

Never physically contact your students.  Although your intentions may be benign, your actions may be mis-interpreted.  It is hard, if not impossible for you to prove what was going on in your mind at the time. 

Do not provide private contact information to a student, or phone students from outside of school.  If a student must have your email address, give them your Board email address, and keep emails on a strictly professional level: deal with the academic issues only.  If you believe that a message sent to a students could be mis-interpreted, don't send it. 

Never allow yourself to be alone with a student in a closed room.  No matter what you say to defend yourself, you will always remain under suspicion even if you did nothing wrong.  Keep students out of teacher workspaces, especially if the door can be closed.  It is accepted that students may be in classrooms, but if you are alone with a student, you can still be accused of impropriety.  If you absolutely must be in a classroom with a lone student, sit them near the door, and keep the door open.  Make sure they are visible from a hallway or public space. 

Never leave students unattended in the classroom, release them early or allow them to leave the school grounds when they are supposed to be in your classroom.  You are legally responsible for students during your class time.

When dealing with parents on the telephone, stay professional, and if the tone of the conversation deteriorates (the parent starts to get heated)  advise the parent that you will be happy to talk with them later when they have cooled down, or discuss issues with an administrator present.  Let the Principal know  immediately if you have an abusive call from a parent.  You have the right not to be harassed!

If you are found to have chosen to act against one of the above guidelines, you make it difficult, if not impossible for the Federation to be able to effectively defend your choices.  

If an administrator asks to speak to you about an issue, ask if the issue they are going to discuss might lead to sanctions, discipline or demotion.  They are obliged to tell you if this is the case.  If their answer is yes, then tell them that the meeting cannot continue until you have Federation representation present.  Offer to meet later, once your Federation rep can accompany you.  Resist the urge to explain yourself  on the spot.

Finally, the best recourse is not to get into the situation in the first place. Keep yourself safe!