Touch is one of the most basic of human needs, but if you deliberately come into physical contact with your students–even in the most innocent of contexts–you put yourself and your career at risk.
It’s sad but true. Every year a dozen or more Arizona teachers on average are accused of inappropriate touch. Even when the charges are proven false, the impact on you personally, your career and your colleagues can be devastating.
Be aware of, and sensitive to, physical and emotional boundaries. Remember, you are not your students’ friend–you are their teacher. Let professional counselors and psychologists assist them with emotional issues.
Here are some other ways to reduce the risk of being accused.
- Avoid physical horseplay with students. Don’t let students sit on your lap.
- Do not meet with students alone in a closed setting. Music teachers and coaches, along with counselors, are especially vulnerable. If you’re giving an instrumental lesson, make sure you are within sight of the window. If your door does not have a window, leave the door open.
- If you are male, be especially careful. Regardless of gender avoid touching any student unless absolutely necessary.
- Avoid personal notes, messages, texts, or any other communication with students unless they deal solely with educational matters. Be sure to follow any district policy on social media and other electronic communications with students.
- Use extreme caution when meeting with students in non-school settings, especially when other adults are not present. You should always have parent and district approval.
- Never use physical force to punish a student. Although in some circumstances you may use reasonable force to restrain a student, use extreme caution in doing so. (See the section on Discipline, pages 19 for more tips.)
- Do not transport student(s) in your own personal vehicle without express permission from your administrator in writing. Most school districts prohibit transporting students in your own car.