The Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators (“Code”), which was first adopted in 2008, outlines the framework for professional conduct for individuals who have a license or permit issued by the State Board of Education. On February 13, 2019, the Ohio Department of Education (“ODE”) released a revised draft of the Code. The proposed changes highlight areas that ODE and the State Board have placed renewed focus on.
For instance, Principle One was revised to recognize that educators who have an ongoing physical or mental incapacity violate the Code. This includes an addiction to a substance that renders them unable to effectively perform their duties or maintain the care and custody of children. Under this Principle, ODE recognized acts of sexual harassment and dishonesty violate the Principle as well.
ODE clarified, under Principle Two, the expectation for educators to maintain appropriate relationships with students. The Principle was amended to outline that establishing an unprofessional relationship with a student for emotional, romantic or other reasons is prohibited and has severe implications.
Principle Three spells out in more detail how an educator may violate the Code by falsifying, intentionally misrepresenting, willfully omitting, or negligently reporting professional qualifications and/or prior discipline issued by the State Board. It also indicates that an educator commits a violation by failing to cooperate with a formal inquiry or investigation of any state or federal agency.
Additional language was added in Principle Six, titled “Use, Possession, or Unlawful Distribution of Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco,” specifically to detail professional conduct of teachers in their personal behavior outside of school. It states that teachers may not engage in habitual use of alcohol as demonstrated by multiple alcohol-related convictions during a five-year timespan.
A new Principle was created to address technology in light of the ever-growing use of technology in our schools. Principle Nine requires educators to demonstrate responsible and appropriate conduct when using electronic devices and accessing the data that have been entrusted to them. The Code summarizes the expectation that educators must be diligent in preventing students and others from accessing improper or confidential material on their professional and personal devices. Educators may not present inappropriate, non-school media to students or use technology or social media for inappropriate communications with students. Educators under the Code will be held accountable for reporting online harassment or bullying of a student and will be expected to intervene when aware of illegal or inappropriate images and media involving a student or minor. Educators may not use technology to distribute inappropriate material that could be reasonably accessed by the school community. Lastly, educators may not use school technology for their personal business venture.
The State Board receives and investigates complaints of Code violations and has the authority to issue discipline. Possible discipline for violations ranges from a letter of admonishment up to the permanent revocation of a license or permit. The draft code may be accessed at: http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Teaching/Educator-Conduct/Licensure-Code-of-Professional-Conduct-for-Ohio-Ed/2019-DRAFT-Licensure-Code-of-Professional-Conduct-for-Ohio-Educators.pdf.aspx?lang=en-US