Future teachers are taught what’s appropriate from day one

(Photo: WKRN)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – In 1911, Middle Tennessee State University began as a normal school with a mission of preparing teachers.

One-hundred and five years later, that same mission remains, and the university is one of the highest producers of teachers in the state.

Students in the teaching program are taught from day one what’s appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to students.

An administrator over student teachers says what happened in Maury County is never acceptable.

Problem-based learning was the topic of discussion Tuesday in Dr. Kathy Burris’ afternoon class, The Science of Learning and Teaching.

But these graduate students have also been taught what appropriate behavior is when it comes to students.

“From the very beginning when they’re enrolled in their initial teaching preparation classes, we spend time talking about professional ethics, professional behavior,” said Dr. Robyn Ridgley, Interim Chair of the Department of Elementary and Special Education.

The students are also given a handbook with a whole section on moral and ethical standards.

“It’s important that we spend time helping our pre-service teacher know boundaries and know what appropriate contact looks like,” Ridgley said.

Student Teacher Administrator Bobbi Lussier said what happened in Maury County with teacher Tad Cummins allegedly running off with his 15-year-old student Elizabeth Thomas gives the teaching profession a bad name.

RELATED: Maury County Schools releases timeline of investigation into Tad Cummins

“I think it’s very disheartening, not only for the teaching profession but for the student involved or students involved,” Lissier said.

“This should never happen, and it’s not acceptable behavior on any level,” she added.

About two weeks ago, several school districts across the mid-state–Williamson County, Metro Nashville, Bedford, Rutherford County and Murfreesboro City Schools–were on the MTSU campus for a panel discussion.

Some of the things they talked about were inappropriate behavior with student as well as the proper use of social media.

“While all these districts have some things in common, they also have many differences, but that one common thread is acceptable behavior, acceptable conduct of that teacher,” Lussier said.

“You can get a job, but you can’t keep it if you behave inappropriately,” she told News 2. “It’s kind of like raising your own children. You preach and preach and preach to them, and they need to hear it from someone else, and maybe it hit home at that time.”

News 2 checked and most school districts across the state follow the TEA Code of Ethics, but many also have local school board ethics policies that teachers must follow.