Problem Students

The dedicated teacher often finds it necessary to discuss the progress and difficulties of students with parents, colleagues and principals. A lack of clear guidelines with regard to loshon hora can create either a free-for-all atmosphere, where people talk about anyone with anyone, or, at the other extreme, a simplistic approach to shmiras haloshon whcih could inhibit the teacher’s effectiveness as an educator.

Generally speaking, the area of chinuch (child education and upbringing) constitutes a constructive purpose which would permit relating negative information concerning a student. However, the specific conditions which permit speaking negatively for a consructive purpose must never by overlooked.

Verification of facts is crucial. For a teacher to play amateur psychologist and hastily diagnose the student as having some complex disablility or disorder without pursuing the matter properly constitutes recklessness – and the consequences can be devastating. To communicate one’s evaluation under such circumstances would be hotzaas shem ra (slander). It is an unfortunate fact that certain problematic children have not succeeded only as a result of having been misunderstood by a teacher, whose labeling tainted the image of that student in the eyes of all his future teachers.

A teacher must make every effort to fully understand the behavior of each student; he must not be swift to condemn. It is essential that a student feel comfortable about expressing his true feelings to his teacher (in a respectable manner, of course). Conditions of constructive speech necessitate a good heart-to-heart talk with the student before reporting a problem(unless one suspects that serious danger may be imminent).

Sefer Chofetz Chaim, 30 Cheshvan, page 168, 407 and 408


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