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Inappropriate behavior; Labeling a Child

April 28, 2011
By Marge Eberts and Peggy Gisler

Question: I know for a fact that a chemistry teacher at my daughter's high school texts students. In fact, I have even seen a text from this teacher on my daughter's phone. Also, he is a friend on her Facebook page. I have heard from other parents that he calls their home at all hours of the night. He even invites students over to his house to work on their homework or to study for tests. I won't let my daughter go to his house, and she feels that her grade is slipping because she is missing these study sessions.

I can't say that anything inappropriate is going on, because I don't know. However, I know that in my day this would not be appropriate behavior for a teacher. Do you think I should act on this information?

-- Worried

Answer: Act on this immediately. This is definitely not appropriate behavior for a high-school teacher at any time. He should be conducting all study sessions at school, and they should be open to every student that he teaches. No study sessions should be by private invitation. Even if this teacher's behavior is perfectly acceptable at these study sessions, it has the appearance of being inappropriate and could lead to misunderstanding. The principal needs to be told of these study sessions.

The principal also needs to know that this teacher is using social media to contact students. Show the principal the text messages on your daughter's phone. While the teacher may be a recent college graduate accustomed to talking to friends via Facebook, texting or email, the principal needs to explain that such actions can be misconstrued.

Some schools are now developing social media policies that establish teacher guidelines for online communication with students. They include such elements as:

1. Use school platforms only for communication with students, such as the school website or the school's Facebook page.

2. Do not issue "friend" requests to students, and decline students' invitations to be "friends" on personal Facebook pages.

3. Do not give cellphone numbers or personal email addresses to students.

4. Avoid private texting with students. Be sure all communication with students is professional in tone.

Question: Since third grade, my child has been labeled a troublemaker. He is currently in fifth grade, and everything he does, no matter what, gets him a detention. We have a meeting scheduled with his teacher because I have heard that this information is being sent over to his junior high -- labeling him before he even arrives.

-- Concerned

Answer: You have been hearing about your son's behavior for several years now. Why did he start acting this way in third grade? What happened in third grade to make the year different from first and second grade, before he had a label? And the big question: Why hasn't something been done to change his behavior by you or the school?

As far as his records go, you will not be able to take out any information that teachers have put into them. However, you can look at the records and put in information expressing your take on his behavior for the junior-high teachers to see.

Realistically, it is past time for your son to change his image. When you meet with his teacher, ask what can be done right now to help your son eliminate the troublemaker label. Suggest that a behavior modification plan be developed immediately so some improvement in his behavior can begin to take place at once.

Readers: It doesn't seem possible, but the end of another school year is rapidly approaching. You'll start off next year more effectively if you focus on accomplishing the following end-of-the-year tasks:

1. Make sure arrangements for summer school, tutoring, learning center or college remedial programs are in place if your children will need them to catch up with their classmates.

2. If your children need special testing for a learning disability, you need to ensure that it will be done as soon as possible next year.

3. Check out school textbooks for your children, if possible. Get last year's books to strengthen problem areas, and get next year's books to give them a jump start on learning difficult subjects.

4. Gifted children should definitely not be ignored. Look for challenging summer programs that will fuel their desire to learn.

5. Find out the dates for the start of fall activities and tryouts if they begin before the year starts.

Send questions and comments to Dear Teacher, in care of Mahoning Valley Parent, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395, or log on to, or e-mail



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