DOE implements ethical codes of conduct policies
Moving forward with her mission to provide quality education for all of American Samoa’s students in a safe and healthy environment within the schools, Department of Education Director, Vaitinasa Salu Hunkin is implementing a number of policies, including ethical codes of conduct for teachers towards students.
Samoa News understands that the Department of Education currently does not have any policies, which would stop teachers from engaging in a relationship/ sexual relationship with his or her students.
This has been an issue Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop has raised in the past that when the government files criminal charges against teachers who engage in a sexual relationship with their student, it found out that DOE had no existing policies specifically for these areas.
In a case, which was filed in 2010, a Tafuna High School teacher had sexual intercourse with his 17-year-old student and he was charged with statutory rape. A few months later, the case was dismissed given that when the incident happened, the student was already 17 years old, and the statutory rape count is a crime committed by an adult, who has sex with a child 16 years old and under.
Samoa News understands that after the case was dismissed by the government the teacher returned to work, because there was no policy in place at the time.
Hunkin-Finau informed Samoa News that this will not happen during her tenure. “There’s a need for implementation of new policies to ensure that children are safe and secure when they are left under the teacher's care while at school,” she said.
In another more recent case, a teacher was found to be drinking with his students, after hours, and is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with one of the female students. His case is still pending investigation.
Samoa News received calls and emails from many of its readers saying the teacher should be ‘fired’ and charged, and that such incidents give a bad name to all teachers, yet it is only the actions of a few.
In our reply to our readers, we have stated that there are no DOE policies that set the standard of ethical conduct/ behavior of teachers and that until this is done, such conduct cannot be a reason to be fired. On the other hand, if the teacher is promoting underage drinking and having a sexual relationship with a student who is 16 years old or younger, which is against the law, then that individual can be charged to the full extend of the law. At the time, Samoa News also cautioned its readers that ‘as it stands’ — these are only allegations, and the investigation into the matter continues.
TEACHING CODE OF CONDUCT
“The Department of Education is committed to the concept of creating a learning environment that nurtures to fulfill the potential of all students... It is the philosophy of the DOE that all professional instructors (teachers) are obligated to help foster civic virtues such as integrity, responsibility, cooperation, loyalty, and respect for the law, for human life, for others, and for one's self.”
ETHICAL CONDUCT TOWARD STUDENTS
“The professional instructor does not engage in, nor expose students to lewd and unlawful acts detrimental to the health and welfare of the student. Teachers who violate these ethical conducts unbecoming a professional instructor may be subject to suspension, termination, or other disciplinary action in accordance with the Territorial Statutes...”
STUDENT ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR
“The law charges every teacher and principal with maintaining order and discipline among students and provides that students who do not comply with reasonable rules may be recommended for expulsion or other disciplinary action.
"Actions taken to control and correct undesirable student behavior should take individual circumstances into account but must always be most concerned for the safety and educational welfare of all students.
“It is the principal's responsibility to take action as necessary to protect students and school personnel from dangerous or socially detrimental actions of students. When there is serious doubt, the student should be suspended until the question is resolved.
“Any student who commits or attempts to induce another student to commit an act or acts of immoral conduct that in the principal’s judgment may be harmful to others, or may bring discredit to the Department shall be suspended, until suitable corrective action can be determined.
“If it appears that the law may have been violated, the student shall be referred to the proper law enforcement agency. After the study of the problem, the student shall be either (1) readmitted or (2) continue on suspension with recommendation for further action.”