Following The Tennessee Teachers Code Of Ethics

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- The Melinda England situation is even more controversial because some say teachers, along with everyone else, are entitled to freedom of expression.

Others maintain the pictures crossed the line past First Amendment rights and perhaps violated the Tennessee Teacher’s Code of Ethics.

The code of ethics for teachers was last updated in April 2006, but the law itself is still vague when it comes to teachers' pictures on the Internet.

More than a decade after the emergence of the Internet as a major medium, there is still nothing in the code dictating what is and isn't appropriate behavior for teachers.

As administrators wrestle with how to proceed with Melinda England’s case, State Board of Education attorney Rich Haglund says that apparent lack of action by state and local school entities gives administrators little to go on.

“There's nothing specific in the statute, but the school might decide that it constitutes unbecoming of the teaching profession," said Haglund.

So what defines photos that are unbecoming of the teaching profession?

For now, it will be left open for interpretation and ultimately up to Knox County’s Interim Superintendent Roy Mullins to decide what is acceptable freedom of expression and what is considered unprofessional.

"Code of ethics means you need to be responsible at all times and do what you would expect from someone in the teaching profession," Mullins said.

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Lana Seivers says she expects all teachers to portray moral standards that are good examples to students.

"I think teenagers need to watch what they put on Myspace as well as a teacher," Seivers said.

That is something the Knox County School System will keep in mind as they move forward in their investigation of England and her photos.

Russ Oaks says the teacher isn't around students in her new assignment which is being described as "temporary."

You can read about the code of ethics, by clicking on the link below.