Policy Brief

Ethics-Code Issue Irritant in Alabama

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Alabama lawmakers have overturned Gov. Bob Riley’s veto and blocked a teacher code of ethics approved by the state board of education from being placed into the state code.

After legislators last month approved a resolution blocking the move, the Republican governor vetoed the resolution. But the state Senate voted 22-10 later in the month to override the governor’s veto, and the House followed suit on Feb. 2 by a vote of 53-25.

Supporters of the ethics code argued it was backed by many teachers and had been in effect for several years without any enforcement provision. But it was opposed by the Alabama Education Association, which argued it would subject teachers to dismissal or other disciplinary procedures for violating vaguely worded items.

“We haven’t had a code in law ever, and we’ve had public schools in Alabama since 1856,” said Paul Hubbert, the executive secretary of the association, which is affiliated with the National Education Association.

The legislative arguments fell mostly along partisan lines, with Democrats opposing the plan and Republicans supporting it.

Democratic Sen. Tom Butler said that people were overlooking wording in the proposed code that he called “vague and ambiguous.” He said he would like to see a code of ethics, but with precise do’s and don’ts.

Some Republican legislators said that by blocking the ethics code, lawmakers would make it harder to fire bad teachers.

Republican Sen. Del Marsh, who is married to a former teacher, said: “It’s very simple. Either you support a code of ethics for teachers or you don’t.”

Provisions in the code defined unethical conduct as harassing colleagues, misusing tests, using inappropriate language at school, and failing to provide appropriate supervision of students. It also said educators “should refrain from the use of alcohol and/or tobacco during the course of professional practice and should never use illegal or unauthorized drugs.”

Vol. 29, Issue 21, Page 15

Published in Print: February 10, 2010, as Ethics-Code Issue Irritant in Alabama
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