Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Teacher/Student relations

I've now seen several times (thanks to my Seattle Times RSS feeds) a link to an article letting me know it's okay for teachers in this area to have sex with their 18-year-old students. It's not a felony. Oh, well thank goodness for that!

I remember having an ethics course for my counseling degree where we talked at length about unethical behaviors. It's amazing/frustrating/shocking/whatever to hear that a lot of these behaviors that are such no-no's for counselors are okay for other professions. Or maybe some people who are practicing these things are just unethical.

For example, it's not okay to barter for counseling services. Big no-no. I don't care if you can babysit my kids in exchange for a free counseling session. I can't do it or I could be in SERIOUS trouble. Now, if you want to exchange goods for piano lessons, I'm all ears. :)

Also, it's not okay to have sex with 18-year-old clients. It's not ethical for a therapist to have dual-relationships with clients. That means, as much as someone might need or want it, I CANNOT and WILL NOT counsel someone I'm friends with, someone in my family, or someone I know from other associations (like my plumber or neighbor or whatever). In fact, if I run across a file for someone I know as part of my current job, I'm not even supposed to talk to them about quitting smoking.

In high school, one of my favorite teachers was married to another teacher at our school. I never had her as a teacher, but I heard that they got married after she was a student of his. Did anything inappropriate happen while she was a student? I hope not, but the question is there. It has been there for me and other students like me because of their past. It's not my business (or is it- that's another debate, I suppose), but it's natural to wonder about those things. That's why ethics strongly discourage relationships with anyone you've PREVIOUSLY counselled. Maybe you only met with them once-- it doesn't matter. Imagine that relationship ending badly and then the person trying to say that you acted inappropriately in your professional setting. So, the ethics of relationships with previous clients in the state of Arizona, as I learned it, was no relationships allowed for 5 years after terminating a professional relationship.

If you think all this is unnecessary, just look at the complaints filed against counselors in your state. Many may not be founded on anything, but many are, and that's sad. I previously worked with someone who went on to massage therapy school in another state. The last thing I'd heard about him was that he'd been arrested for inappropriate touching of one of his clients. True? I'm not sure. But it is very possible.

Stick with the teacher/student fantasies if you must.


Crystalbell said...

It seems like lots of people don't practice ethical behaviour - professionally or otherwise. My attorney was telling me recently how common it is for attorneys to get involved in romantic/physical relationships with their clients. It seems to me that this is probably a big No-No as far as the Bar would see it too.

I think the same mentality should go for married people ... if you see someone is married you have no business even entertaining the idea of a relationship with that person ... to take it a step further I think this should apply to committed relationships as well.

It disgusts me to think that it's okay for a teacher, I'm assuming even high school teachers here, are allowed to date high school students as long as they are 18 years old. Anyone who wields any sort of authority over another person should have the good sense not to get involved with someone so vulnerable. It's wrong!

Debra said...

Well, I heard for further clarification that the teacher who is the reason this question was brought up is no longer employed by the school but was just trying to get out of a statutory rape accusation because the student he/she had sex with was not a minor. Still...

Daisy Paige said...

It seems that too often people try to modify rules to support their behavior rather than modify their behavior to support rules. Very sad.