School & District Management

What Are Appropriate Boundaries for Teachers and Principals?

By Catherine Gewertz — December 15, 2010 1 min read

A couple of intriguing bits to read on this quiet December morning:

• An essay by a UNC-Chapel Hill student, whose experience in freshman English raises questions about how many colleges are extending, rather than fixing, high schools’ frighteningly empty literacy instruction.

• An amazing story out of upstate New York about a principal who visited the home of two absent students and was arrested for trespassing. The story’s been floating around for a month or so, but is sparking interesting, ongoing discussion in education circles, having been highlighted on Joanne Jacobs’ blog, and picked up more recently on the Core Knowledge blog.

The trespassing-principal story raises engaging questions about the “whatever-it-takes” approach to education that’s been lionized for its devotion to equity for disadvantaged students. The discussion on the Core Knowledge blog (be sure to read the comments as well as the blog post itself) reveals doubts about such tactics as home visits by teachers and principals. Writer Diana Senechal, a former teacher herself, reflects on setting appropriate boundaries to avoid “emotional trespass” against students. One commenter sees home visits as “mission creep” by schools.

Did this principal err in visiting the students’ home? Or was his only error that he walked in without permission, when no parents were home?

Authorities declined to file charges against the principal.

But how far do we want educators to go in pursuit of students who need an education? Should we wave the flag for “whatever-it-takes,” or is there a line over which we don’t want our educators stepping?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.