This assignment will give you the opportunity to choose a case study, and then write about the ethical implications and the impact of the events that are described. Each case study includes a set of questions that you should answer. You can choose either Case Study 9.1: Unprofessional Conduct, or Case Study 8.4: Have Gun Will Travel.
Teaching Elementary School Children with intellectual disabilities requires skill, patience, and devotion, and those who undertake this task are among the unsung heroes of our society. Their difficult and challenging work rarely brings the prestige or financial rewards it deserves. Mrs. Pettit was one of those dedicated teachers. Licensed to teach in California, she had been working with mentally challenged children for over thirteen years when her career came to an abrupt end. Throughout that career, her competence was never questioned, and the evaluations of her school principal were always positive.
Teaching was not Pettit’s only interest, however. She and her husband viewed with favor various “nonconventional sexual lifestyles,” including “wife swapping.” Because so-called sexual liberation was a hot topic at the time, the Pettits were invited to discuss their ideas on two local television shows. Although they wore disguises, at least one fellow teacher recognized them and discussed Mrs. Pettit’s views with colleagues. A year later Pettit, then forty-eight years old, and her husband joined “The Swingers,” a private club in Los Angeles that sponsored parties intended to promote diverse sexual activities among its members. An undercover police officer, Sergeant Berk, visited one of those parties at a private residence. Amid a welter of sexual activity, he observed Mrs. Pettit perform fellatio on three different men in a one-hour period.
Pettit was arrested and charged with oral copulation, which at the time contravened the California Penal Code (although now it does only if one of the parties is under eighteen). After a plea bargain was arranged, she pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor of outraging public decency and paid a fine. The school district renewed her teaching contract the next academic year, but two year later, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against her. The State Board of Education found no reason to complain about her services as a teacher, and it conceded that she was unlikely to repeat her sexual misconduct. But the Board revoked her elementary school life diploma---that is, her license to teach---on the ground that by engaging in immoral and unprofessional conduct at the party, she had demonstrated that she was unfit to teach.
Pettit fought the loss of her license all the way to the California Supreme Court, which upheld the decision of the Board of Education. In an earlier case, the court had reversed the firing of a public-school teacher for unspecified homosexual conduct, concluding that a teacher’s actions could not constitute “immoral or unprofessional conduct” or “moral turpitude” unless there was clear evidence of unfitness to teach. But Pettit’s case was different, the court hastened to explain.
The conduct in the earlier case had not been criminal, oral copulation had not been involved, and the conduct had been private. Further, in that case the Board had acted with insufficient evidence of unfitness to teach; by contrast, three school administrators had testified that in their opinion, Pettit’s conduct proved her unfit to teach. These experts worried that she would inject her views of sexual morality into the classroom, and they doubted that she could act as a moral example to the children she taught. Yet teachers, the court reaffirmed, are supposed to serve as exemplars, and the Education Code makes it a statutory duty of teachers to “endeavor to impress upon the minds of the pupils the principles of morality…and to instruct them in manners and morals.
In a vigorous dissent, Justice Tobringer rejected the opinion of the majority, arguing that no evidence had established that Pettit was not fit to teach. The three experts didn’t consider her record; they couldn’t point to any past misconduct with students, nor did they suggest any reason to anticipate future problems. They simply assumed that the fact of her sexual acts at the “swingers” party itself demonstrated that she would be unable to set a proper example or to teach her pupils moral principles.
Such an attitude is unrealistic, Tobringer argued, when studies show that 75 to 80 percent of the women of Pettit’s educational level and age range engage in oral copulation. The majority opinion “is blind to the reality of sexual behavior” and unrealistically assumes that “teachers in their private lives should exemplify Victorian principles of sexual morality.” Pettit’s actions were private and could not have affected her teaching ability. Had there not been clandestine surveillance of the party, the whole issue would never have arisen.
- In concerning itself with Pettit’s off -the-job conduct, did the Board of Education violate her right to privacy? Or was its concern with her lifestyle legitimate and employment related?
- Was Pettit’s behavior “unprofessional”? Was it “Immoral”? Did it show a “lack of fitness” to teach? Explain how you understand the terms in quotation marks.
- Was the Board of Education justified in firing Pettit? Explain.
- Was the court’s verdict consistent with its earlier handling of the case of the homosexual teacher?
- If teachers perform competently in the classroom, should they also be required to be moral exemplars in their private lives? Are employees in other occupations expected to provide a moral example—either on or off the job?
- Which of the following, in your view, would show unprofessional conduct, immorality, or lack of fitness to teach: drunken driving, smoking marijuana, advocating the use of marijuana, forging a check, resisting arrest for disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer, being discovered in a compromising position with a student, propositioning a student, cheating on income tax, calling attention to one’s openly homosexual lifestyle?
- Under what conditions do employers have a legitimate interest in their employees’ off-the-job conduct?
Write a four to six (4-6) page paper in which you:
- Analyze the questions associated with your chosen case study and discuss them using concepts you learned in this course.
- Explain your rationale for each of your answers to your chosen case study.
- Format your assignment according to the following formatting requirements:
- Typed, double spaced, using Times New Roman font (size 12), with one-inch margins on all sides.
- Include a cover page containing the title of the assignment, the student’s name, the professor’s name, the course title, and the date. The cover page is not included in the required page length.
- Cite your textbook as a reference.
- Include a reference page. Citations and references must follow APA format. The reference page is not included in the required page length.
The specific course learning outcomes associated with this assignment are:
- Determine the considerations for and process of ethical business decision making to balance corporate and social responsibilities and address moral, economic, and legal concerns.
- Analyze selected business situations using the predominant ethical theories, such as utilitarian, Kantian, and virtue ethics to guide ethical business decision making.
- Determine the implications and impact of various civil liberty laws in the workplace, such as hiring, promotion, discipline, discharge, and wage discrimination.
- Use technology and information resources to research issues in business ethics.
- Write clearly and concisely about business ethics using proper writing mechanics.
Case 9.1: Unprofessional Conduct?
- Do you believe the Board of Education violated her right to privacy? Were they justified in firing her? Explain two to three (2-3) major reasons why or why not.
- Was Pettit’s behavior unprofessional or immoral? Do you believe she was unfit to teach? Provide a rationale for your position.
- If teachers have good performance inside the classroom, should they also be held to a higher moral standard outside the classroom? Explain why or why not.
- Analyze five (5) behaviors you believe would show unprofessional or immoral conduct for a teacher.