Client interest, public interest or self interest?

‘Blowing the whistle’ on wrongdoing, misconduct or incompetence is usually considered heroic.

There have been some celebrated cases in the last couple of years of people who have done it , with mixed success.  Nurses and teachers for example, have found themselves in front of disciplinary panels of their professional bodies for taking hidden cameras in to their workplace and secretly filming their clients – the patients and students they believed were getting a poor deal or even suffering abuse.

Insisting that their motivation was to bring to public attention ‘patient neglect’, abuse or ‘out of control classrooms’, they nevertheless filmed their clients without their knowledge or consent.

So, in order to raise a matter of legitimate public concern should a teacher do something that many would argue is directly damaging the relationship with their clients – and potentially very damaging to the reputation of colleagues, school and profession.

Is filming clients without consent unethical, unprofessional or both? Could it be unethical but professional if it reveals some compelling issue – abuse, educational, social or political?

And in whose interest is it? The client’s, the public’s or the self?

Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and headteacher in London for over 20 years and then for a decade for the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures on teaching and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk.  You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk. His new book “Working in Teaching” (Crimson Publishing) was published in March 2014.


2 thoughts on “Client interest, public interest or self interest?

  1. Wow!

    Tough question, On the one hand it is important to gather evidence to make a case if you suspect misconduct, but filming people unaware, is not fair. Two wrongs do not add up to justice. Being a witness and keeping a log has been best practice for concerned professionals in the past. As our boundaries for public and private space become ever more blurry, this is an important debate to have. I would have to say again secretly filming anyone must remain taboo.

    1. Thanks for that Krista – good post, and I think you point to an area that I am personally very concerned about, which is the “ever more blurry” area of professional and private. In my view, there is too much encroachment on the legitimate privacy of teachers for so-called ‘professional’ justification. I agree with you that using unethical methods to expose wrongdoing is wrong, and however compelling the reasons, it leaves us in a very untenable position if someone like a journalist or even a headteacher, thinks they have justification to do it to a teacher who they think might be guilty of some professional wrong- doing or even morally dubious act. Thanks Krista.

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