Valentine Card Sent to Student
A teacher consults the unit president because an angry parent has called to complain that the teacher gave her child a Valentine’s Day card. The teacher explained that the card was given as a thank you for assistance the student provided while working on the teacher’s computer. However, the parent is not satisfied and says that she will report the incident to several authorities including the Ontario College of Teachers.
The teacher should inform the principal of the parent’s concerns so that the principal is prepared in case the parent calls the school. The teacher is advised to write down what happened, describing all the circumstances leading up to the valentine card, but should not give the notes to anyone, principal, parent or even the OECTA unit president. The notes are only for the teacher’s use if the matter goes further. If the parent files a formal complaint with the College of Teachers or the Children’s Aid Society, or if the board decides to investigate, the teacher should immediately phone OECTA’s Provincial Office or the local unit office for assistance. The teacher should not discuss the complaint with anyone, especially parents or students.
Teachers should be very wary of giving the wrong impression to students who are impressionable and can misunderstand even the most innocent of intentions. For example, it may be inappropriate for a teacher to give a Valentine’s Day card to a student as the spirit behind the card is romantic. As well, the teacher has no control over an individual parent’s reaction. Teachers should be very careful with anything they write (or say) to students; many misunderstandings have occurred with writings taken out of context.
Teachers are held to a higher standard of trust and care than most members of the public. They must maintain appropriate boundaries with their students and avoid any relationship that crosses those boundaries. Teachers are role models and must always maintain clearly professional relationships with their students.
OECTA’s Counselling and Member Services Department has produced a pamphlet on this issue entitled Relationships: Appropriate and Professional.