Editor’s Note: This is a post from MSTA’s Staff Attorney, Kyle Farmer.
While there are plenty of things to be wary of this summer, this blog post is not about the dangers of the UV rays, heat stroke or unruly children home all day. Instead we are going to focus on ways teachers can still lose their jobs even when they are not teaching class.
Every year a couple of teachers will do something over the summer that threatens their employment for the upcoming year. Regardless of whether or not you are physically teaching classes during the summer, you are still under contract with your school district and can be held responsible for violation of some board policies. Specifically, teachers should remain diligent in their interactions with students (both in and out of class) and continue to observe their local standards of morality.
One of the six statutory grounds for the termination of a tenured teacher (or the termination of a probationary teacher during the term of a valid contract) is immoral conduct. While the statute fails to define immoral conduct, numerous courts in Missouri have determined that immoral conduct in this context must have an effect on the teacher’s ability to do his/her job. This determination depends on various factors such as the likelihood the conduct will be repeated and the age and maturity of the students the teacher instructs.
Summer is a time for many people to let their hair down and have a good time while enjoying the warm weather. However, teachers must be careful that their behavior does not cross the line into immoral conduct. Which means shedding your clothes during your annual float trip down the Current River is a bad idea. As is partaking in too many poolside margaritas at the local public pool. Any out-of-school conduct that would be a bad idea during the school year is still a bad idea during the summer.
As always, any interaction you have with students outside of your teaching duties interaction must remain above board and professional. Almost all contact with students outside of school can be scrutinized by school district officials. The MSTA Legal Services Department vehemently protects your right to interact with whom you choose, reality tells us that many districts will try to prohibit almost any outside interaction with students. During the summer months, you must be careful how you spend your free time.