DEAR AMY: There is a teacher at the local high school whom I see at many social, school and sports events. She is always telling stories about the students at the school to anyone who will listen. These stories are highly confidential in nature, such as a young adult who was hospitalized for depression and a suicide attempt, a child who has anorexia and an anxiety disorder, parents who are going through a nasty divorce, etc. I have both pulled her aside and also said in front of the entire group that she is gossiping and that I think she should stop sharing this information, but she does not stop. She once said that she would not use the child's name, but it is obvious who the child/family is by the details of the stories. I feel terrible for these children. This kind of gossip can be very harmful, it spreads quickly and can follow them for a long time. Isn't this teacher violating guidelines to protect the privacy of these kids? How can I get her to stop? Should I tell her supervisor or the principal? I do not want to get her in trouble, but I feel I need to help protect these children and their families. I do not want these early episodes and mistakes to follow them through life.
-- Concerned Parent
DEAR PARENT: When a teacher disrespects students through gossip, it turns the teacher into the very thing she criticizes: an immature, misbehaving, attention-hogging teenager.
You have tried and obviously cannot get this teacher to stop gossiping. The only course of action left to you is to contact the principal and possibly the superintendent of the school. If this teacher is violating official privacy guidelines, then she should get into trouble.
This teacher already knows that you have objected loudly and strongly to her sharing of student/parent information, so you should go ahead and put your name to this complaint in writing and ask that the school initiate some needed training to coach teachers on their responsibility to act like adults.