District Administration July 2018 - 14

BeyondtheNews

HUMAN RESOURCES

Setting limits for sharing with students

District policies
Most districts lack a policy, and let
teachers decide what personal information to share, says Julie Underwood, a
professor of education law, policy and
practice at the University of Wisconsin.
Teachers should consider several
factors, including the students' age
group, Underwood says. For example, a
teacher whose parent passes away might
tell an elementary class they will miss
14 July 2018

Administrators and teachers should
discuss how to approach lessons on controversial subjects, DeWitt says. Bringing in an outside organization to find a
common language and framework can
help, he adds.
For example, with larger numbers of
students coming out as transgender and
many schools left unprepared with how
to address their needs, some administrators have turned to organizations such as
GLSEN to educate teachers on the terminology involved and how to support
these students in class.
-Alison DeNisco

GETTYIMAGES.COM: ADIGIT

In fall 2017, an elementary school art
teacher in Mansfield ISD in Arlington,
Texas, introduced herself to her fourthgrade students with a slide show about
her life. It included a photo of her partner, who the teacher presented as her
future wife.
The photo, and a lesson about an
artist and his same-sex partner, led parents to complain that the teacher was
promoting a "homosexual agenda," and
she was asked to resign, according to a
federal lawsuit filed against the district.
As of this writing, the lawsuit is pending and the teacher is on administrative
leave.
The case raises a larger question:
What personal information is appropriate for teachers to share with their
students?
"We know through research that
teacher-student relationships are really
important to student learning," says
Peter DeWitt, education consultant and
co-author of School Climate Change:
How Do I Build a Positive Environment
for Learning? "Sharing parts of your personal life is completely appropriate."
This holds true no matter the sexual
orientation of the teacher, DeWitt says.
"If it's appropriate for a heterosexual
teacher to share information about their
spouse and children, then it's appropriate for a gay teacher to share that as
well," he adds.

school because their parent is sick. It
also depends on what is instructionally
sound. A teacher could discuss their pet
cat in a lesson about animals, Underwood says.
"Teachers always first need to think
about children's needs, and good pedagogical and instructional practices,"
Underwood says. "Are they sharing
information for a reason that makes
sense in a classroom?"
Subjects to avoid
Many districts already have policies
regarding contentious subjects like religious and political views. "You want to
be open about differing opinions, and
give students a voice and provide information, without pushing your own view
on them," Underwood says.
It's common for teachers to show
get-to-know-you slideshows to introduce
themselves to students, as the Texas
teacher did, DeWitt says. Having a
person they admire normalize her life
and sexual orientation in this way was
"vitally important"-particularly for
students who may be gay, he adds.
"If we want to prepare kids for the
greater world, they're going to meet lots
of diverse people," DeWitt says.

WAIT, WHAT?
Peabody Public Schools in
Massachusetts came under
fire in May after a first-grade
teacher sent a message to
parents stating that there
would be no more homework
packets for the rest of the year
due to a paper shortage in
the district. The message hit
a nerve with parents as less
than a week earlier the district
had announced significant
budget cuts, including a
$500,000 reduction in supplies.
The district apologized and
assured parents that there was
more than enough paper to go
around, and transferred reams
between schools as needed.
Source: Peabody Patch

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District Administration July 2018 - 1
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