Is it illegal in the state of Washington for a teacher to call a student retarded?today in class my teacher called me retarded because she thought i said something and i did not. then when she said...

Is it illegal in the state of Washington for a teacher to call a student retarded?

today in class my teacher called me retarded because she thought i said something and i did not. then when she said sorry she was trying not to laugh.

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As someone who holds a valid teaching certificate in the State of Washington, I can tell you that it is not actually illegal to call a student retarded.  At the same time, it is not really such a great idea.

There is no given list of words that teachers may or may not say to their students.  However, teachers are supposed to use common sense in picking words to say to their students.  According to the OSPI website,

Any performance of professional practice in flagrant disregard or clear abandonment of generally recognized professional standards in the course of any of the following professional practices is an act of unprofessional conduct:

(1) Assessment, treatment, instruction, or supervision of students.

So teachers are supposed to act professionally towards students, but there is no list of prohibited words.

If your teacher called you this, my guess is she thought that it would be taken for a joke.  It is not the kind of thing that she should have said, but please remember that teachers are up there talking to students all day every day and that means that they will inevitably end up saying things that they shouldn't have said.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While I am sure it is not "illegal" for a teacher in Washington, or any other state, to call a student a "retard" it is highly unprofessional to do so. There is a difference in doing something illegal an unprofessional. While an illegal act could result in immediate removal form the classroom, most of those things that are unprofessional are handled by the Administrator of the building through some kind of reprimand or possible a job target in the teachers file. Most teachers are very professional in their reactions to students; however, some will become frustrated and say things they later regret. Unfortunately in our society many words that are hurtful have become common practice. I have included a link to the State of Washington code of conduct for educators.

econnot | Student

I'm not sure it is illegal for a teacher to call a student 'retarded', but it surely wasn't ethical.  However, on behalf of the teacher, if you are a high school student, she may have been getting down on your level by responding in like to something you said.  You know, as much as I do, that students call each other names when they say or do something out of the ordinary.  As for your teacher trying to not laugh, did the other students in your class laugh?  She may have been living in the moment and joining the class in their laughter, or she may have been trying to hide her embarassment for knowing she shouldn't have called you a name.

Now...let's evaulate this realistically and maturely.  Did you indeed do what she 'thought' you did?  If you said something to embarass her, then she was acting on instinct and did likewise.  If this is true, then you need to talk to her before or after class and clear the air.  I am sure she is indeed baffled by her behavior as much as you are.  I am almost positive that if you talk with her, she will give you a genuine apoloty and tell you why she got out of character with you in front of your classmates.

Sometimes, students, parents and administrators forget that teachers are human and have real feelings and thoughts and ocassionally don't filter what they say.


cleisure | Student

Whether or not it is illegal in the state of Washington, I cannot say.  It is, however, very unprofessional.  In my opinion as an educator and an aunt to a mentally retarded boy, this teacher needs training on dealing with students, and on what is offensive to human beings - this could have also been heard by a mentally retarded student who very well could have been offended as were you.

Your post reminded me of my 7th grade year in which a teacher whom I admired greatly called me this term.  This was after she had preached and preached about if a student calls you a name in her class to not call them one back, but instead report it to her and she would handle the situation.  When I took her at her word, she humiliated me in front of the class by saying, "You must be retarded because you are coming to me about this!"  I was shocked, crushed, and very disappointed.  She was, up until that day, my favorite teacher.  I can thank her for one thing, though - when I tell a student to come to me with issues they might have, whatever I tell them I will do - I DO - and I am VERY conscientious about not harming a student in this way.

Again, whether or not it is illegal, I do not know, but as a professional educator, I feel it is unethical, unprofessional, and, frankly, distasteful.