Photo by Johnny Jackson
Gary Walker, the educator ethics director for the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, speaks to new teachers with the Henry County School System.
By Johnny Jackson
As news reports of testing scandals and educator misconduct persist, a new crop of Henry County Schools educators is getting a head start with a crash course on ethics.
"It's your first duty [as an educator]," said Rodney Bowler, Henry's assistant superintendent of administrative services. "If you're not ethical, you're not making the right decisions."
Bowler invited Gary Walker, deputy executive secretary of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, to speak to the school district's latest cadre of educators.
"It's certainly timely to have a refresher," Bowler said.
Walker was a presenter during the district's Teacher Induction Program (T.I.P.) on Wednesday, speaking about the consequences of violating the state's ethics code. He petitioned the group of some 200 teachers and administrators -- all gathered in the auditorium of the Henry County Performing Arts Center -- to heed the warnings filling news headlines lately.
"We need to be sure that we don't have any more of these issues," said Walker, who also is the commission's director of educator ethics.
Walker guided the teachers and administrators through the state's code of ethics for educators, which includes 11 standards of professional conduct. Among those standards were "conduct with students," "alcohol or drugs," "honesty," "public funds and property," "confidential information," "professional conduct," and "testing," he said.
"Honesty is the fundamental value of an ethical person," he repeated.
The ethics director acknowledged some violations of code are the result of ignorance, while others are blatant violations.
Walker said his office has increasingly gotten more serious complaints, compared to fewer frivolous complaints in recent years. He credits an increased awareness and recognition of ethical violations among school communities -- administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
"This is not some ambiguous office that comes down from nowhere and gives you a certificate," said Henry County School Board Member Pam Nutt.
Nutt, a media specialist in the Griffin-Spalding County School System, said it is important for school employees to report incidences and use their best "common sense" judgment when dealing with students and the school community.
"The goal is to be sure the students are protected," added Walker.
To learn more about the state's code of ethics for educators, visit the Georgia Professional Standards Commission web site at www.gapsc.com.