"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
March 28, 2013
Ethics and Professional Questions at Church
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


I am a professional educator and am employed by the local school district.  My church calling is very similar to my professional assignment, and I often interact with the same families at church and school.

As I am an authority figure in both areas of their children's lives, many parents ask me questions at church about other educators and situations at school.

How do I handle these inquires ethically and without offending?


It is not uncommon to be asked professional questions at church. And any questions should be answered in full compliance with professional ethics.

Most people probably do not know the requirements of your ethical obligations, and may not realize they have asked you something you cannot answer. So you should take a professional tone, to signal that you are no longer having a regular social interaction. Then directly, but tactfully, say that you cannot answer because of professional ethics.

Then offer whatever comment or suggestion you may have that does not violate your ethical code.

For example, if a ward member asks you a question about her child’s teacher that you cannot answer for ethical reasons, you might respond, “I can’t discuss teacher performance reviews. But you could talk with the principal about your concerns.”

If someone asks you about another student, you might say, “Student disciplinary records are confidential, so I can’t talk about other students or what has happened in the past. But for the kind of situation you are describing, you might try….”

As long as you are direct and kind, do not worry if people are offended at your non-response.

But if a ward member is offended that you will not answer his question, be kind, but firm. “I’m sorry. But it would be unethical of me to answer.” If necessary, you could add that you could lose your job (or license) for the ethical violation. But I prefer the appeal to your ethics because it shows that you are doing what you believe is right, not just what your employer wants you to do.

If you respond this way, you will actually build trust with your ward members. They will know what kind of information you can and cannot disclose, and will feel confident that you are a person of integrity who will, in turn, keep their confidences.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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