Disciplinary policies maintain the expected level of discipline in learning institutions. North High School (NHS) is an example of a learning facility that has strived to control disciplinary challenges by adopting a zero-tolerance policy, which entails strict repercussions when a student violates the school’s code of conduct. While the zero-tolerance code appears to restore discipline at NHS, it is undoubtedly the root cause of dilemmas and disagreements between the teachers’ values and principles and the administration’s policies in the “Stolen trust: Cell phone theft in a zero-tolerance high school” case.
The central issue in the case is a moral dilemma for Ms. Smith, one of the staff at NHS. The teacher finds herself in a difficult situation, in which she has to choose whether to transgress her moral principle of reporting cases of indiscipline to the office (Levinson & Burger, 2016). Notably, failure of the tutor to report the theft case is a defiance of her moral obligation to the school’s policy and could result in severe consequences, including termination of employment. On the contrary, Ms. Smith believes that reporting the matter could undermine Wesley’s education, considering tremendous improvements he had shown in his academics (Levinson & Burger, 2016). Hence, the choice that Ms. Smith has to make between transgressing and upholding her moral obligation creates an ethical dilemma.
Values and Principles at Stake
Apart from the moral dilemma, the case also exemplifies the values and principles that are at stake. Ms. Smith values her learners’ education and is willing to help them achieve academic excellence (Levinson & Burger, 2016). Such a move is reflected in her decision to offer tutoring classes, despite Wesley’s defiant behavior. However, the teacher acknowledges the importance of having a code of conduct, such as the zero-tolerance policy, to restore order in the school (Levison & Burger, 2016). However, she disagrees with the way punishment is implemented through the policy. The above values compete and disagree with each other because Ms. Smith has to choose whether to protect her students against policies that undermine their education or enforce disciplinary actions to maintain order in the facility.
Practical/ Policy Considerations at Stake
The case also presents policy considerations that are not only at stake but also disagree and compete. On the one hand, teachers are against the existing zero-tolerance policy. For instance, Ms. Smith believes that the NHS should permit teachers’ discretion in issuing punishments that are appropriate for students (Levinson & Burger, 2016). On the other hand, the school board emphasizes enforcement of the zero-tolerance policy. Hence, the facility’s policy considerations are at stake as teachers disagree with the zero-tolerance policy.
Possible Responses, Choices, and Actions
Multiple choices are available to the involved parties. In Ms. Smith’s case, she may choose to report the issue of theft to the office or decide to protect Wesley and disobey the zero-tolerance policy. The two choices have different repercussions for both Ms. Smith and Wesley. Should Ms. Smith choose the first option, she may expose Wesley to the burden of losing his education. Similarly, if Ms. Smith decides not to report the case, she may ruin her career by losing her job, receiving a suspension letter, or having a poor report in her personnel file (Levinson & Burger, 2016). However, based on the analysis, the administration should take the ultimate action because they are in charge of formulating and enforcing policies. From an ethical point of view, the administrators should evaluate their moral obligation towards students and the adversities of Wesley’s actions before making the final decision. Regardless of the cause of action that Ms. Smith and the administrators choose, the results will either be a win or gain for Ms. Smith and Wesley.
Lessons from the Case
From the case, one can learn that sometimes it is crucial to challenge unjust social structures. The majority of the social structure, including primary institutions such as schools, are deeply pillared against unfair policies (Shelby, 2016). Teachers and other workers should refrain from using professional commitment as an excuse to embrace unjust policies. Hence, educators should challenge structures and systems that pose a burden to the disadvantaged.
Other lessons from the case reveal that not all educational policies and practices promote equity and fairness. Therefore, teachers should position themselves as agents of change in fostering fair and just policies. For instance, as a teacher, Ms. Smith should facilitate the abolition of the zero-tolerance policy, which infringes on the children’s rights to education. Furthermore, the case provides crucial lessons on the need for educators to embrace the value of integrity as a guide in their teaching practice. Overall, teachers should choose to stick with decisions and choices that they believe are morally and ethically right.
The “Stolen trust: Cell phone theft in a zero-tolerance high school” case illustrates education policies that put teachers’ values and principles at stake and create a disagreement in policy considerations. The code of conduct not only threatens students’ education but also poses adverse effects on teachers’ careers. While discipline policies are essential for social order, school administrators should consider disciplinary codes that are less coercive to students and educators.
Levinson, M., & Burger, J. (2016). Stolen Trust: Cell phone theft in a zero-tolerance high school. In M. Levinson & J. Fay (Eds.), Dilemmas of educational ethics: Cases and commentaries (1st ed., pp. 73-78). Harvard Education Press.
Shelby, T. (2016). The challenge of responding to injustice. In M. Levinson & J. Fay (Eds.), Dilemmas of educational ethics: Cases and commentaries (1st ed., pp. 79-82). Harvard Education Press.