Ethics at School

A Learners Guide

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Key Definitions

Ethics can be defined by many definitions. Stader (2013) stated, “First and foremost, ethical decision making requires considerations of how people should be treated and always involves the terms right, fair, or just (Strike, Haller, & Soltis, 1998). Perceptions of right, fair, and just, however, are much like perceptions of beauty—always in the eye of the beholder.” As an educator it is our responsibility to make ethical decisions on a daily basis.

According to the Markkula Center for applied ethics, "Simply stated, ethics refers to standards of behavior that tell us how human beings ought to act in the many situations in which they find themselves-as friends, parents, children, citizens, businesspeople, teachers, professionals, and so on."

Theoretical background

Ethical theories are based on ethical principles. They emphasize various aspects of an ethical dilemma and lead to the most “ethically correct” solution according to the guidelines set within the ethical theory itself. In general people usually base their personal ethical theory upon their life experiences.

There are many ethical theories that apply. The moral theory focuses on character traits that one exhibits on a consistent basis not just situational or intermittent characteristics. "An act or choice is morally right if, in carrying out the act, one exercises, exhibits or develops a morally virtuous character. It is morally wrong to the extent that by making the choice or doing the act one exercises, exhibits or develops a morally vicious character" (Garrett, 2005).

The utilitarian ethical theory is founded on the ability to predict the consequences of an action. To a utilitarian, the outcome that benefits the greatest amount of people is usually the most ethical choice.

There are many ethical theories that a person may choose to follow, however the perception of how to implement ethical decisions is always in the eye of the beholder.

Decision Making Principles

“There are eleven principles of collaborative problem solving. Such collaboration is an inclusionary process that promotes lateral communication and shared decision-making. It helps stakeholder groups to develop policy recommendations on a variety of public issues. The eleven principles are listed below:”

  • Purpose-Driven. People need a reason to participate in the process.
  • Inclusive, Not Exclusive. All parties with a significant interest in the issues should be involved in the collaborative process.
  • Educational. The process relies on mutual education of all participants.
  • Voluntary. The parties who are affected or interested participate voluntarily.
  • Self-Designed. All parties have an equal opportunity to participate in designing the collaborative process. The process must be explainable and designed to meet the circumstances and needs of the situation.
  • Flexible. Flexibility should be designed into the process to accommodate changing issues, data needs, political environment, and programmatic constraints such as time and meeting arrangements.
  • Egalitarian. All parties have equal access to relevant information and the opportunity to participate effectively throughout the process.
  • Respectful. Acceptance of the diverse values, interests, and knowledge of the parties involved in the collaborative process is essential.
  • Accountable. The participants are accountable both to their constituencies and to the process that they have agreed to establish.
  • Time Limited. Realistic deadlines are necessary throughout the process.
  • Achievable. Commitments made to achieve the agreement(s) and effective monitoring are essential.

Best Practices

Definition: Is described as “what works” in a particular situation or environment.

Best practices are when it is taken into ethical issues and should mirror the following characteristics:

  • Rules against fighting and bullying
  • Curriculum articulation
  • Positive culture
  • School board procedures for grievance resolution
  • School leaders may suspend or expel unruly students, institute drug testing policies for participants in cocurricular activities
  • Search students lockers

These are some of the policies and laws that are necessary for a safe, effective and efficient educational program.

Ethical Considerations for Students With Special Needs

• Promoting meaningful and inclusive participation

• Scaffolding

• Individualized Planning

• Differentiation

• Teacher Modeling

• One-On-One Instruction

• Repetition

Social Media and Technology Challenges

  • All social media websites are blocked using school computers, laptops, ipads, and etc or on the use of wifi
  • Teachers are to use technology for work related purposes
  • Students need permission to be photographed by parents or guardians
  • Parental consent is needed for any Internet use
  • Do not share school related photo or information social media

Ethics: Students of Diverse Socioeconomic Backgrounds & Cultures

“These students bring a diversity of knowledge and experiences, making for a richer learning experience for all learners in the class. A teacher must work hard to model respectful and inclusive behavior to support all students and demonstrate clear expectations around discrimination and harassment. He or she must see the importance of delivering culturally diverse content in the teaching. As an ESL teacher, it is important to provide extra support in literacy lessons, and notice the difference in language errors and misunderstandings of a new concept.”

Alternatives for work assignments must be made when students need to miss class for family or religious reasons and holidays; we must be mindful of the resources they may/may not have at home due to socioeconomic issues. The teacher must make these assignments short tasks and achievable.

Examples of Negative Outcomes


  • Language barriers
  • Inequitable schooling practice
  • Impact on student achievement
  • Poorer educational outcomes regarding cultural and linguistic diverse students
  • Implications for student motivation and behavior in classroom
  • Standardized test bias
  • Teacher quality (less experienced teachers assigned to high-minority and high-poverty schools)
  • Consideration of cultural differences when administering and interpreting assessments and selection of instructional strategies


Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Retrieved from

Principles of Decision Making. Retrieved from

Slater. D.L. (2013) Law and Ethics in Educational Leadership, 2ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

Stader, David L., 2013. Law and Ethics in Educational Leadership, Second Edition, published

by Pearson. Copyright by Pearson Education, Inc.

Strike, K., Haller, E., & Soltis, J. (1998). The ethics of school administration (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. - Heading on page: “Students With Diverse Linguistic, Cultural, Religious, and Socioeconomic Backgrounds” Para. 1-5, Date : 2015 (Website)

All pictures were retrieved from Microsoft Word Clipart

Created by:

Donna Dilts

Samantha Donat

Jacqueline Peters

Ashley Wylie