Teacher Duties Outside of Job Description
We all know that teachers have a tough job to do managing a classroom full of rowdy kids each day. But sometimes teachers are asked to take on extra tasks or responsibilities that go beyond what is legally required of them, and they may be unclear about if and how they should speak up.
It can be confusing for teachers to understand the "gray areas" when defining:
- What you are asked to do for students vs. what you were hired to do
- A caregiver role vs. a teacher role
- A school vs. a daycare environment
With such significant differences between the training of a special education teacher, special education paraprofessional, school nurse, school employee, and a regular classroom teacher/general education teacher, knowing your job duties and your rights is essential.
Your specific job description should explain if you need to:
- Help a child with going to the bathroom*
- Potty train a child**
- Change diapers or pull-ups*
- Support a child's individualized health-care plan
- Complete tasks that a nurse or paraprofessional would typically do
- Lift a child or lift above 50 lbs
- Physically restrain a child during a tantrum or fight
- Clean injuries or wounds
- Change feeding tubes, catheters, colostomy bags, etc.
- Handle diabetic equipment
*This does not apply to schools that are also licensed daycares
**Many states have strict laws on children being potty-trained before attending school
Educators generally have a legal responsibility to:
- Educate students by following the state curriculum
- Notify staff and management of disciplinary issues
- Notify parents and staff if a child needs special education programs
- Use EpiPens in an emergency (if trained)
- Not leave the classroom unattended during the day when students are present
First, Know Your Job Description
If an employer hires you for specific job duties, and clearly explains them to you, then you must continue to perform those duties or risk repercussions. However, if your job duties or responsibilities are going to change, your employer has a duty to notify you in advance. They must also take any disability or medical needs you have into account when making the changes.
Steps to Take When Responsibilities Are Outside of Your Role
Review your job description and employee handbook carefully to look for specifics on your role. It is also helpful to read your state's laws for teachers and caregivers. These are generally listed on your state code page under "education" and then the level of education you are teaching. Then look for headings with "student" in the title and phrases like "student services" or "student service program." An education attorney can also find these laws for you.
Respectfully explain to your team that you are not the primary provider or backup provider for any childcare duties if they are not in your job description.
Contacting Your District, Association, or Union
The second step to take, if a district employs you, is to get in touch with your district representative. If you belong to a union, you should also contact your local branch to inform them of the situation. Some school education associations are trade associations, which do not have the power to help you against your employer.
Speaking to Your Human Resources Department
Finally, talk to your employer's HR department about what is being asked of you and whether it is outside of your job description. You have a right to do only the job you were hired for, and for your employer to take any medical conditions into account (such as not being able to lift a child). Keep in mind that protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act could apply.
Get an Attorney to Protect Your Employee Rights
If you discover that you are being asked to do tasks outside of your role, then you should speak to an attorney focused on education law and educator's rights. This is especially necessary if the tasks you are asked to do involve medical functions that may need a trained nurse to complete.
Your safety, and the safety of the children in your care, are the most important things to protect, and your employer should agree.