Gov. vetoes bill to keep Educator Code of Ethics from becoming law

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2010

MONTGOMERY – A resolution passed by the Legislature to keep the Educator Code of Ethics from becoming law was vetoed by Governor Bob Riley on Tuesday.

Governor Riley was joined by educators and State Superintendent of Education Dr. Joe Morton as he vetoed the resolution. The code of ethics was developed by teachers for teachers and other educators to provide standards of ethical conduct.

“Teachers want their profession to be honored and recognized for setting and meeting high ethical standards. I applaud them for this. So should all of us and so should legislators, even though it might not please their biggest campaign contributor,” said Governor Riley.

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The State Board of Education unanimously adopted the Educator Code of Ethics in 2005 and it has been used by school systems as part of their teacher training ever since. After being in effect for four years as policy without a single complaint from a teacher, a principal or the Alabama Education Association, the State Board of Education voted 8-0 in July 2009 to add the ethics code to the state administrative code.

That prompted the Legislative Council – a group of predominantly Democratic legislators – to pass a resolution rejecting the State Board’s efforts. As one of its first tasks during the 2010 session, the Legislature passed a resolution supporting the Legislative Council’s rejection of the Educator Code of Ethics.

“Now, influenced by the AEA, these legislators voted to kill this ethics code. They said their vote against the ethics code was based on the supposed ‘vagueness’ of it. However, the code repeatedly specifies example after example of both ethical and unethical behavior under each of its nine standards. It provides educators with an understandable and clearly defined guide of professional behavior,” said Governor Riley.

Some of the standards in the ethics code include those that say:

Educators should not falsify records or reports

Educators should maintain a professional relationship with students

Educators should not use profanity at school

Educators should handle school money honestly and responsibly, and

Educators should not use alcohol or tobacco at school or at school-related functions in the presence of students.

Legislators who attacked the Educator Code of Ethics for supposedly being “vague” strangely do not have the same complaints about the state’s teacher tenure law, which allows teachers to be fired for reasons like “immorality” and “other good and just causes,” none of which are defined. In fact, the Educator Code of Ethics these legislators rejected is more clearly defined than the current teacher tenure law they support.

Governor Riley also criticized legislative leaders for putting the rejection of the ethics code at the top of their agenda for this session. It passed the Senate on the opening day of the session and the House two days later.

“Of all the issues confronting our state, what did the leaders in the legislature decide took precedence above all others at the start of this session? What was so important to them they made it the first thing they did? Was it a bill to help our economy and create jobs? No. Was it a bill to help the parents and grandparents who enrolled in the troubled prepaid tuition plan? No. Was it budgets or a bill to make government more accountable? No and No.

“Believe it or not, the Democratic majority decided that blocking a code of ethics developed by teachers for teachers and other educators was their number one priority.

“Well, I think they’ve got their priorities mixed up,” Governor Riley said.