Beware Visiting Students’ Homes!

Mar 6, 2018 by

Should teachers either take it upon themselves or be reasonably expected to visit their students’ homes as a duty of dedication to the “whole child”?  Is it not a function of nurturing?

Doctors don’t make house calls anymore, but with them it’s strictly a business decision. As healers, they mustn’t hurt their revenue stream.

With teachers, it’s different. It’s not the loss of time and money. It’s fear of potential crime. entrapment and abandonment by their employer. Their altruistic motives and idealistic goals must yield to survival instinct: physical and career.

Teaching is an all-consuming vocation. There’s no such thing as being “off the clock” except for payroll purposes. Teachers are often thrust into surrogate parenthood. Doesn’t it make sense for them to solicit invitations or to drop by the homes of students, especially those with “challenges” who are struggling academically, socially, emotionally, or are otherwise down on their luck and vulnerable?

Of course it makes sense. But it’s a bad idea. Because of the times we live in and the system we’re part of.

Teachers must be selective when following-through on their spontaneous gestures of good-will. Lurking threats must be vetted for their risk potential. As a practical matter, it is often ill-advised for their charitable hearts to cross the threshold into territory behind closed doors.

Why the cynicism?

The Department of Education’s attorneys are under orders to act like attack-dog prosecutors of employees, regardless of the foundation of complaint. The political climate force teachers to practice defensive education, even when their students clamor for urgent intervention.

Teachers visiting their students’ homes, whether or not by appointment or for a specific purpose, leave themselves wide open to false accusations and set-ups. They can be easily framed.  They are targets for malicious mischief, especially when the complexities of the child’s home situation are not fully known.

Students can be manipulated by corrupt, controlling adults who are close to them, into bearing false witness against teachers, a condition that is aggravated when the teacher refuses to be blackmailed.

Instantly when an allegation of impropriety is lodged against a teacher, no matter how unreliable the source, scant the evidence, or absurd its nature, the DOE will presume it has merit and punish the target prior to an investigation. In emergency cases of immediate danger, this unjust trigger may nonetheless be warranted, but they are very few and far between.

Of course, there is no punishment for knowingly making false accusations, particularly if the accuser is a minor.  And by the time there is an exoneration, teachers have already suffered a grim and irreversible toll on career, reputation, morale, family and finances. The ugly, messy, and often gratuitous entanglement is a crushing headache that never lifts.

The Police Department gives its officers the “benefit of the doubt”. The Department of Education gives its teachers the detriment of the doubt.

Any teacher who, despite throwing caution to the winds, decides to take the risks of visiting students in their homes, must also accept that in case they are injured, whether by a wilful act or by accident, their “injury in the line of duty” claim will be rejected because the home visits were not their official responsibility.  But that’s the least of their liability.

Teachers should always “go the extra mile” for their students. As long as it’s on school grounds.

Ron Isaac

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