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Montana officials debate new code of ethics for teachers

Montana education officials adopted some new language for a teachers’ code of ethics, resulting in objection from the governor and superintendent of public instruction.

The state Certification Standards and Practices Advisory Council adopted the proposal this week to use the words “educational equity” and “inclusivity” to describe an ethical teacher.

Rob Watson, superintendent of Missoula County Public Schools and an advisory council member, says inclusion means providing special accommodations to disadvantaged students who need them.

“And equity is all about providing supports needed to close those achievement gaps,” Watson said.

Members of the council said they’re referring to a definition of equity that means “fair and impartial.”

Gov. Greg Gianforte sent out statements condemning the change to the code of ethics. He wrote that “promoting equity in education, or the idea that all students end up in the same place with equal results, jeopardizes students’ educational opportunities.”

Gianforte cited Vice President Kamala Harris saying “equitable treatment means we all end up in the same place” in a video talking about equity versus equality.

Gianforte’s spokesperson Brooke Stroyke didn’t clarify why Gianforte tied Harris’s comment to the council proposal.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen warned the advisory council that the revised code of ethics is not tied to any regulation or statute.

“I would not have to put this code of ethics into any process of licensing,” she said.

Watson, the Missoula superintendent, said the code of ethics is an aspirational document and not a set policy.

“If the Office of Public Instruction decides not to include this document, I would be disappointed," he said. "But I would continue to pass this document out to the 800 teachers that work for Missoula County Public Schools.” 

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.