Privacy of Students
March 5, 2020
How involved can teachers get into our personal lives?
No one knows if we really have privacy outside of school. After all, the school knows everything about us. Many students have complained across High School that teachers have been too involved in their personal lives and yet nobody really knows if there are any specific guidelines for the teachers to follow.
I asked Mr. Kirby, the year 12 level leader, different questions about student privacy. I started off by asking if there are specific guidelines that teachers have to follow about getting involved in students’ personal lives? Mr. Kirby Said ‘Not explicitly or specifically. Things that occur within the school community, yes. But for things that occur outside and don’t have ramifications on the school community, there are no fixed guidelines.” He continued by saying, “If bullying behaviour takes place online (even outside of school), and is affecting students at school, then I think there is a strong argument for the school to support those affected.” This shows that teachers can technically get involved in our personal lives no matter what the situation, but it depends on the teacher.
An anonymous student in year 12 said, “It is ironic that we need a guideline because it means that teachers are not able to mind their own business, and that they don’t understand at what point it is inappropriate.”
I feel that teachers make assumptions based on the extreme which therefore impacts the way they treat us in school. I personally feel uncomfortable seeing teachers outside of school as I know that they always assume the worst about my actions. This may lead to them pulling me outside of class and trying to talk to me about what they saw. Sometimes they may even make inappropriate jokes during class which not only makes me feel uncomfortable but also my peers.
An anonymous student in year 11 said “Teachers get too involved and depending on the situation I think they should, but there is a line that should be drawn.” He continued by saying, “There are certain things I understand teachers should get involved with, like bullying, but I don’t think it’s okay for a teacher to come up to a student saying they saw them smoke in Lausanne or call their parents”. Of course, it is understandable that a teacher gets involved in a student’s life if the student is engaging in activities which could be detrimental to their mental or physical health and by extension have an impact on their performance in school and education; however, when smoking or drinking outside of school are teachers really allowed to get involved and also involve our parents?
I asked Mr. Kirby about what he would do if he saw a student smoking or drinking. Mr. Kirby responded, ‘It depends on some factors, such as age and how well I knew the student. If it was a student in the DP who I had a good relationship with, I might be tempted to talk to them at some point, but not to criticize them. Just to see if they have thought about the long term issues around using a very addictive substance. But it would depend on the relationship I had with the student’. Mr. Kirby also said, ‘If the student seemed to be in a dangerous situation or out of control, it might be appropriate to talk at school at some point (if the student wanted to – it wouldn’t be appropriate to force them to talk if they didn’t wish to)’. This seems like a reasonable action, however not all teachers feel the same way and wouldn’t act in the same way as Mr. Kirby. Teachers may feel differently and may not talk to us personally but may feel the need to contact our parents which is unfair as teachers don’t have the right to act like our annoying little siblings and tell on us to our parents. Students know what they are getting into and what they do outside of school which is their own choice. It is not up to the teachers to decide whether what we do is right or wrong. Some of my peers have been called out by teachers for drinking while it is perfectly legal because they are over 16. These students were taken outside of class with all of their peers watching and talked to about their drinking habits. Which is completely stepping over the line as students were embarrassed for no particular reason apart from what the teacher thought they saw. Teachers don’t know the whole story behind what they see, so it is wrong for them to call us out for only focusing on what they believe they saw.
Another year 12 student said, ‘In my old school there weren’t any guidelines, the teachers knew if they would be crossing the line, it’s not that they didn’t care because if someone would get bullied they would do something about it like talk about it in assemblies’. She continued by saying, ‘If we would drink or smoke they assume that it is our parents responsibility and don’t get involved’.
It is our parents’ or guardians’ responsibility to know what we do outside of school including drinking or smoking, our parents and guardians also should teach us from a young age what is morally wrong and right and if they fail in this area (which is unlikely) the invisible hand shouldn’t fall upon our teachers. It is the teachers’ jobs to teach us about the effects and consequences of our actions. However, this does not give teachers the right to tell us what we can or cannot do. ISL should have guidelines for teachers to know what’s appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to students’ personal lives.