A vice-principal was charged with professional misconduct for breach of study leave.
|A Case Analysis:
How do they affect workplace, community, and society?
What basic moral/ethical concepts are operative?
Can you construct a consequentialist or non-consequentialist argument? Why? Can they work together?
Discuss your case with other professionals. Can a reflective equilibrium consensus or moral theory or principle be reached?
Overview of the case:
In this case-study the names of institutions and vital statistics are disguised, and names of individuals concerned have been changed to protect their anonymity. The case describes a situation in which a vice principal was charged with professional misconduct for breach of study leave and receiving salary under false pretence. This case study provides interesting opportunities for exploring the operative moral/ethical concerns evident in any organization. The case study serves as a depiction of an educator's need to improve his qualification but succumbs to immoral practices.
The case study depicts Vice Principal Mr. Jack Louisbourg, the Ministry of Schools (MOS), Iron Shore High School (ISHS), Iron Shore High School Board (ISHSB), the Ultra Teachers' Association (UTA), and Teachers' Appeal Tribunal (TAT). The charge is that in September of 1996 Mr. Louisbourg was granted three years study leave to pursue a full-time degree course at the University College of the Caribbean (UCC). A report from the college revealed that Mr. Louisbourg did not register in the full-time course, but in the part-time course for the year 1996-97 school year, from 5:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m and dropped out after that.
During that time Mr. Louisbourg was paid salary amounting to $505,277.20 by the Ministry of Schools (MOS). Mr. Louisbourg was charged with professional misconduct by the ISHS School Board. He subsequently appeared before the Personnel Committee (PC), at a meeting on Thursday December 6, 1999, where the matter was heard. Mr. Louisbourg pleaded 'guilty'. The outcome of this was that Mr. Louisbourg was demoted from the position of vice principal of the school. At a special Board Meeting held on January 10, 2000, the recommendation of the (PC) was submitted to the Board. At the meeting it was also suggested that Mr. Louisbourg should be fined and asked to repay the money in full in order to send a strong signal to other teachers that the Board will not tolerate any form of Professional Misconduct. The final decision was that Mr. Louisbourg be demoted from the post of vice principal of the Iron Shore High School. On condition that, if this demotion resulted in any undermining in the operation of the school or disunity among staff leading to protest, then the board will have no alternative but to terminate his services with immediate effect.
On January 29, 2000 the Ultra Teachers' Association (UTA) appealed the decision of the School Board on the Following grounds: -
1. That Mr. Louisbourg was not duly informed of the Board's decision which should have been given to him in writing within 14 days of the Board's receipt of the report of the Personnel Committee.
This is a breach of the Education Act 1980 Paragraph 5 of the Article 57, which states:
"The Personnel Committee shall report in writing to the Board not later than fourteen days after the date of the inquiry" the outcome of the hearing.
Paragraph 6 of the same article  states that the Board shall within 14 days after the receipt of the report from the personnel give written notice containing details of its decision to the Minister and the teacher.
The Personnel Committee met on December 6, 1999. The Board on January 10 looked at the report from PC, a total of 34 days and the teacher (Vice Principal) Mr. Louisbourg received notice in a letter dated January 10 but delivered on January 14 almost 38 days from the day the PC met. This is a breach of Paragraph 5 and nullifies Paragraph 6 even though the time span might have been met.
2. The UTA noted also that in a letter signed December 10 the Ministry of Schools in a letter to the vice-principal Mr. Louisbourg stated that MOS saw the incident as an over-payment of salary and arrangements were made for repayment.
3. The UTA noted that the PC suggested that Mr. Louisbourg be fined and asked to repay the salary in full in order to send a strong signal to other teachers. Also, the position of the vice principal was advertised before a decision was handed down.
4. The UTA noted that the record of payment to teachers on leave who were not able to complete the courses intended has many precedents.
5. The UTA noted that the defendant, Mr. Louisbourg interpreted the leave to be explicit about his not returning to the post before the three years expired.
6. The UTA noted that the comment in the dismissal letter suggests a disregard for union intervention, which is illegal in Jamaica.
Conclusion of Appeal:
The UTA noted that the Education Regulation 1980 sets out a procedure that must be applied in dealing with disciplinary offences and these must be followed. Any deviation of the law must be seen as a breach and as such this whole process was null and void.
Decision of the Teachers' Appeal Tribunal (TAT)
The decision was that the appeal be dismissed. TAT claimed that only one of the grounds of appeal advanced on Mr. Louisbourg's behalf was genuinely relevant to the case. It stated that the applicant had not been informed of his demotion in due time. TAT stated that this did not constitute adequate reason for overturning the Board's decision since the penalty involved was DEMOTION and not DISMISSAL.
TAT's final decision was that Mr. Louisbourg demotion from the post of vice principal of Iron Shore High School therefore stands.
Discussion of Case:
According to UTA a letter dated December 10 by MOS to Vice Principal, Mr. Louisbourg MOS saw the incident as an over-payment. The writer reflects that the PC charged the defendant, Mr. Louisbourg with receiving money under false pretense. The writer believes that this incident was something that happens frequently in the system. There are many teachers, who start a study program and for one reason or the other have had to drop out, not able to complete their courses. Mr. Louisbourg's case does not set precedence. It is true, that Mr. Louisbourg could have sought permission to return to his position at the school but he could be ignorant that this is allowed, and in ignorance he probably believed that he had to serve out the period of leave granted to him.
In this case if the writer were to act as the head of the PC the writer would seek to give admonition to Mr. Louisbourg and warn him as to what the outcome could be if the action should recur. He could be censured, fined, demoted or his service at ISHS be terminated.
The PC suggested that the defendant be fined and be asked to repay the salary in full in order to send a strong signal to other teachers.
From the aforementioned decision, the writer believes that the trial was to "set an example". The decision by the PC seemed to have arrived at even before the hearing was held. If the position of the vice principal was advertised before a decision was handed down then the punishment of demotion was a foregone conclusion. Such action is unethical.
1. How does the case affect the workplace, the community, and society?
The effect of the vice principal’s actions on the workplace, the community, and the society will to a great extent, be dependent on how those parties had perceived him prior to he assuming study leave. It would also be influenced by how the school functioned in his absence. The vice principal prior to his going on study leave would have been seen as that of a role model. One who upholds the ideals of the school and adheres to the rules and regulations of the school and the state. The defendant was viewed by the school as not performing his duties adequately. The writer hastened to state that while the vice principal may not agree with the way the case was handled by ISHS Board and the Personnel Committee, he must remember who has ultimate responsibility and authority. As for the decision as to whether for him to stay demoted or fight the case he must make that decision with the realization that his action will certainly influence teachers who may experience a similar case. The vice principal appears to be closed-minded and unable to deal with the current world. On the other hand ISHS Board seems to think that the school's reputation for "Goodness" is more important than being lenient. The ISHS Board warned the defendant that if the demotion resulted in any undermining in the operation of the school or disunity among the staff leading to any protest, then the Board will have no alternative but to terminate his services. If Mr. Louisbourg were to return to the school as vice principal this would probably cause a breakdown in discipline. Many teachers would question the morality of his action, thus, if the Board were to condone it then the signal to others would be that it is morally right to perform the same act if they were in the same situation. From Kantian Ethics "Moral judgment is acceptable only if we would be willing to accept having everyone else follow the universal moral principle that our judgment implies." So therefore the question is whether or not the vice principal would be willing to have everyone act upon the principle he acted on?
The staff on hearing the vice principal's misdemeanor would now see him as a bad role model not only for them but also for the students and the parents. Probably there are members of staff who had applied for study leave and was denied the privilege because the vice principal was given priority. His misuse of the leave could have caused this group of teachers to become disgruntled. On the other hand on becoming cognizant of the situation, (Their awareness of the difficulties he experienced during the course of his study) which led him to make this decision they might see him acting out of finding a means to an end or doing so because of his obligation to duty. There are those too who could have developed an admiration for him because of his devotion and commitment to his family. There could be members of staff who have now lost respect for him and would rebel if he should be reinstated in his substantive post. These teachers could also see him as a scamp, who collected money under false pretense.
The wider school community would probably be one of empathy. They would have seen him as being a good person. One who strives to take care of his family, as parents believe that children are their old age pension. They also believe that the older ones should help to take care of the younger ones. On the other hand depending on the community he is from, they would probably see him as a hero; others may see him as a glutinous, ‘low down money grabber.’ Some parents though may question the morality of the leaders (the vice-principal in this case) at the helm of the institution. They the parents may be skeptical about sending their children to a school with such an impasse.
2. What basic moral or ethical concepts are operative?
There are certain amount of abilities and values that are required for ethical conduct in the world of work. Such conduct requires skills in logical analysis, a working knowledge of moral principles and theories, and the ability to diagnose and resolve moral disagreements of the sort commonly found at work and as evident in this case study. From the KANTIAN ETHICS, one could reason that the vice principal's action was not based on true moral principles as his action was not one of categorical imperative but rather hypothetical imperative. In that light we need to visualize what the world would be like if everyone takes study leave to attend full-time studies but register for part-time, then drops out of college. On the other hand to say that the Board's action will serve as an example to other teachers who may be inclined to do likewise, is to turn the vice principal as a 'means' to satisfy the Board's desires. The Kantian Ethics teaches that the person ought to be treated as an 'objective end' which is basically to respect and promote that person's (The vice principal in this case) free rational choices.
This case is rippled with a number of moral/ethical implications. The basic concepts are dishonesty, discourtesy, good will, and justice.
The clear understanding between the vice principal, the School Board, and the Ministry of Schools (MOS) was that he was granted three year’s study leave with one year’s full pay to pursue a course in Education. In spite of this he registered for part-time course, during which time he undertook several jobs, while receiving a year’s full salary, from the MOS. This seems to be a clear case of dishonesty.
Having left to pursue a course in Education, the vice principal switched to the study of Theology. It is not unusual for students in their academic pursuit to change career focus against the background of the acquisition of new information. This is implicit in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s concept of self-actualization seems to be particularly relevant at this point to the case of the vice principal in question. While not attempting to deprive him of the privilege, it is unfortunate that he did not consider it necessary to withdraw from the leave and returned to his post. Neither did he inform either the School Board or the MOS of his decision. This was discovered by chance when he returned to his substantive post.
Implications of good will are implicit in the behaviors of the vice principal, the School Board, and the Ultra Teachers’ Association (UTA) as well as the MOS. It is implicit in the vice principal’s behavior in that the death of his father, and the illness of his mother and sister imposed serious financial demands on him. Consequently as a responsible person with a sense of duty and moral obligation, which are so endeared to Immanuel Kant, he resorted to fending several jobs despite the stress, which this imposed on him. Granted that this act could be easily be categorized as illegal, in that, he was receiving a full time salary for the leave he was on, but this is where Immanuel Kant would readily come to his defense in that his action was conceived of good-will. According to him, there is nothing in the world “which is good without qualification except a good-will.”
The principle of good-will is illustrated in the School Board’s decision to reinstate the vice principal not withstanding his demotion. It is illustrated in the UTA’s insistence on the School Board adopting the proper legal approach in dealing with the vice principal’s case, not withstanding its convenient ignoring of the vice principal’s violations in the very code of ethics from which they drew. The Ministry of Schools’ commitment to good-will is seen both in its desire to have the vice principal reinstated as well as in its demands that the salary collected during the year in question be repaid in the public interest.
In any transaction relative to human interaction justice ought to be a central consideration. In this case justice is served in the School Board demoting the vice principal for violating the regulations of the code of ethics. It is served in that the MOS demanded that the sum in question be repaid. The UTA was strong in its defense of justice in pointing out in no uncertain way the violation of the code of ethics in the way the vice principal’s case was handled.
It seems however, that justice has been outweighed by compassion. There are other instances in which the school boards have fired principals/administrators and teachers for lesser crime than this without the UTA coming to their aid or the MOS giving time to repay. It seems to me that all the parties concerned in this scenario have attempted to act according to justice. It is Kant’s collusion that everything in nature acts according to law. It follows therefore that the code of ethics, laws, rules, and regulations are nothing but a rational attempt to apply the laws of nature to the very human interactions from which justice cannot be divorced. Kant maintains that “only rational beings have the ability to act according to their own idea of a law, that is, the ability to follow their own principles.” This is relevantly illustrated in the behaviors of all the parties in question.
3. The Consequentialist and non-consequentialist arguments:
The writer thinks that the arguments are straightforward. Here is a vice principal to whom was given study leave with clearly defined conditions. He violated the conditions. Having returned to his substantive post, the school board was faced with the option of firing him or retaining his services with the deprivation of certain privileges. They instead opted for the latter, namely reinstating but demoted him. This approach when examined in context seems to embody the use of power advocated by Pfeffer (1996). Pfeffer argues that “power ought to be used in a democratic way.” The way in which the school board used power in this instance is an excellent demonstration of achieving a definable purpose and not as a way of aggrandizing some persons and degrading others.
The UTA on the one hand ought to be commended for the role it played in ensuring that the process was followed and that no decision was arrived at before the trial occurred. Their case seems to be somewhat unbalanced, however, as no attention was called to any misdemeanor on the party of the vice principal granted that at the hearing it does not necessarily means that every detail of the real situation were correctly outlined. There could have been pertinent details that were omitted. The difference between the school board’s approach and that of the UTA’s is that the former adopted on a priori position while the latter adopted an a posteriori approach.
The position adopted by the MOS seems to be a most mature and admirable one for all concerned. Ruling that the sum in question be refunded overtime and that the vice principal be employed in a lesser capacity while at the same time guaranteed that the public interest was protected. The vice principal’s welfare was secured and that the integrity of the school board’s recommendations was respected. In this decision one detects a suspected application of utilitarianism. Here in its characteristic fashion one sees the place of the individual in society being respected and happiness of the majority respected.
Maslow, A, H., (1954). Self-actualization and beyond. In: Bugental, J.F.T.(ed.) Challenges ofhumanistic psychology. N.Y.: Mc Graw- Hill.
Pfeffer, Jeffrey. (1996). Managing with Power, politics, and influence in organization. Stanford University. [On-Line].Available: http://www.meansbusiness.com/Leadership-and-Change-Books/Managing-with-Power.htm...
TheEducation Act:The Education Regulations. Government Printing Office. Kgn. Jamaica