Regular readers here are familiar with the “Ick Factor,” the common phenomenon where a situation that causes an emotional response of revulsion, disgust or fear is labelled unethical when there is nothing unethical about it. Many kinds of conduct are icky, but still on the right side of ethics, if only one can put aside the gag reflex. The reverse of the Ick Factor is the less common “Awww!” Factor, where particular conduct seems loving, caring and nice, but is in fact unethical in one or more respects. Such is the case of New York City special needs teacher Debra Fisher.
In October, Fisher was suspended when e-mails were discovered on the school computer system showing that she had been spending school time raising funds for a special project on behalf of Aaron Phillip, a thirteen year old special needs student who is an aspiring animator with his own blog. The project’s goal was to raise $15,000 for a nonprofit devoted to developing Aaron’s talent, an organization called “This Ability Not Disability” founded and administered by Fisher.
The problem was that while her efforts on behalf of the student were supported by the school, Fisher, an occupational therapist at Public School 333 with nine years of service, did not have permission to perform them during school hours. Thus she was suspended for six weeks. Now she is suing the school system for back pay, telling reporters, “I’m just trying to fight for what I believe is right.”
If she believes she is right, then she shouldn’t be working at the school at all, because she is in fact dead wrong.
But awfully nice. Continue reading