Knowing Where to Draw the Line: Ethical and Legal Standards for Best Classroom Practice

Article excerpt

Mary Ann Manos (2007), Knowing Where to Draw the Line: Ethical and Legal Standards for Best Classroom Practice. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 150 pp.

Reviewed by Richard Fossey, J. D., Ed.D., Professor and Senior Policy Researcher, Center for the Study of Education Reform, College of Education, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas.

In Knowing Where to Draw the Line, Mary Ann Manos gives classroom teachers practical advice on the legal and ethical issues that teachers confront daily in the schools. Organized around the theme of "drawing the line," Manos urges classroom teachers to develop firm moral and ethical principles for dealing with the four main constituencies of public education: students, parents, school administrators, and the community.

Each chapter of Manos's book is organized into the following sections: substantive discussions about ethical and legal issues, "Case in Point" narratives that summarize court decisions that are relevant to the substantive discussion, "Talk It Over" sections that consist of brief fact scenarios that raise legal or ethical issues, and "Best Practice Overview" sections that contain practical advice on a particular issue. This organizational structure makes the book an excellent teaching text in the higher education setting, because it provides numerous case summaries and fact scenarios that can be the springboard for classroom discussions among students. The book also contains an appendix that reproduces the ethics codes of the National Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the National Catholic Educational Association, and seven other professional education associations.

Knowing Where to Draw the Line differs from traditional education law textbooks that are largely theoretical. In contrast, Manos examines education law issues from the perspective of a school teacher. Thus the book is more practical than theoretical, and its strength comes from the numerous bits of practical advice that Manos gives to teachers as they interact with students, parents, school administrators, and the community. Manos has thirty years of classroom experience, which is obvious on nearly every page of her book.

Chapter 2, for example, which is entitled "Drawing the Line with Students," provides teachers with 34 tips for student supervision, which, if followed, would eliminate most cases of sexual exploitation in the schools. Manos advises teachers not to take students home from school, lend students money, invite students into their homes, or allow students to call them by their first names. She also advises against all inappropriate expressions of physical affection and to refrain from teasing students in ways that might be construed as flirtatious. Several of Manos's tips for student supervision reflect the judgment of a seasoned educator. For example, she warns teachers not to sit on a bus seat with a student because such situations have fueled allegations of teacher sexual misconduct. Adults should sit with other adults on school buses, Manos recommends. "If there is only one adult on the bus," she writes, "he must take an entire seat."1

In Chapter 3, "Drawing the Line with Parents," Manos writes that teachers are experiencing an increase in threats and injuries to and from parents. She advises teachers not to meet with parents in secluded locations due to safety concerns and she warns teachers against forming close personal relationships with parents or allowing parents into their personal lives. Teachers should document inappropriate communications from parents, Manos adds, and they should expect school administrators to provide them with support.

Manos also points out three factors that are often present when parents complain about some topic that the teacher introduces in the classroom: "use of nonboard-sanctioned materials, teaching of emotionally volatile issues, and a captive audience. …