But I Was Just Joking
Date Posted: 4/18/2018
“But everyone in the room laughed! They knew I was joking!”
We sometimes get calls from educators who have done something that they wouldn’t normally do, such as putting duct tape on a gabby student’s mouth, taping a fidgety student to their chair, or teasing a student about a wrong answer. And sometimes, in defense, the educator’s explanation is, “Everyone in the class laughed—including the student!”
Some supervisors investigating such a situation may just admonish the educator with a warning that it’s never a good idea to “joke around” with students. But in today’s climate, most supervisors will not take the issue so lightly. This kind of behavior can and usually will have negative effects on the educator’s evaluation and will even likely affect their employment and career.
Since establishing rapport with students is a recognized part of educators’ professional conduct, “we were just kidding around” may be an appropriate defense against parent lawsuits. But there is no similar protection for the educator’s job and career. Districts and TEA can and usually will argue that such actions violate both local district policy and the Educator’s Code of Ethics and can and usually will take serious negative action against the educator. This is true even if the student initially suggests the idea.
Remember—if you hear a little voice in your head questioning whether it’s a good idea, it probably isn’t.
For advice on these and other career-related questions, eligible ATPE members may contact ATPE’s Member Legal Services Department through our online portal or by calling the state office at 1-800-777-2873 (ATPE) between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.