Ethical Principles for Educators: Promoting the Dignity of all Students


Image from Wesley Fryer
Image from Wesley Fryer

Everyday, educators come together both in and out of our schools in order to promote social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural success for all students, thus enabling them to function to their highest potential in an ever-changing society. This includes promoting and supporting inclusive and ethical models when working with exceptional children.

The data from assessments are invaluable, and must be used in proactive and ethical ways to support the special needs and exceptionalities of our students. Assessment can include both formal and informal procedures such as classroom observations, file reviews, case histories, interviews, checklists, and the review of other professional assessments of the child (i.e. from our multidisciplinary team of: educators, psychologists, paediatricians, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, and registered social workers). The data from such psycho-educational assessments absolutely must also serve as the basis for recommendations concerning intervention strategies for parents and teachers alike.

Therefore, when dealing with data from the assessment, following these 5 ethical principles are of utmost importance in order to preserve the dignity of students, including those with exceptional  needs.

5 Ethical Principles when working with students with exceptional learners:

1. Respect for Rights of the Student:

  • Be proactive, not reactive. Educators must participate only in the activities that would respect the rights and dignity of the client.  Responsibility to the students and parents should be a first priority.

2. Boundaries of Competence:

  • Always work within personal boundaries of professional competence! When working with a student with special needs, then be willing to demonstrate Humility and an openness to obtain the help of experts in order to learn what is necessary to work with those students. Sometimes, it may be beneficial to engage in confidential consultation with other professionals regarding assessment procedures and evaluation of student. This is also beneficial to open up opportunities to gain new perspectives on appropriate information from assessment and parents, while also safeguarding the dignity of all stakeholders.
  • Referral! It is important for counsellors to recognize their personal and professional boundaries of competence, because the Educator is accountable to the student and parents. It is therefore essential to recognize when the client may be in need of services that cannot be provided within the current situation. If after consultation regarding uncertainties, an educator realises an inability to be of professional assistance, then seek out and offer appropriate alternatives in referring to other resources.

3. Consultation and Supervision:

  • Act proactively and seek out appropriate supervision and consultation with respect to doubts and uncertainties about working with unfamiliar exceptionalities.

4. Primary Responsibility is to Students and Parents: 

  • Respect the rights and dignity of the student first!
  • Interventions and educational instruction strategies need to remain consistent with the abilities and circumstances of the client!
  • Make it a primary responsibility to work collaboratively with all parties, and devise an integrated plan for reasonable promise of success for the student, school and parents.
5. Confidentiality: 
  • Discussion of student information that is obtained within an educational setting needs to be limited in the transition to persons clearly involved.  Any written and oral reports need to be restricts to the data for purposes of consultation and, every effort should made to protect student identity and avoid undue invasion of privacy for the student.
  • Information regarding behavioural and academic areas should only shared with parents and appropriate staff working directly with the case.

Preserving the dignity of all students, not just students with special needs, is of utmost importance in our Educational Systems. Therefore, following these 5 ethical principles can have infinite positive effects in the lives of students, parents, teachers, and educational system when working with students of special needs and exceptionalities.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



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