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ESL Crime & Punishment

November 22, 2005

In recent months we have seen a spate of reports about English teachers running into trouble with the authorities in the countries where they work.

Dear all,

The alleged offences range from infringement of visa and work permit regulations to far more serious charges of drug use. The penalties the teachers face may be deportation at one end of the spectrum to lengthy prison sentences, or worse, at the other end.

All this is obviously alarming to both prospective teachers and the schools that employ them. Young people in unfamiliar surroundings are vulnerable to those who wish to exploit them. They may unwittingly break local visa or employment rules or acquire fake papers. Of course, others will do so deliberately and for these the penalties they face are the consequences of their own foolishness. But what responsibility does the employing school have to teachers in respect of local visa and employment laws? In my view they have a duty to act in two ways.

First they should keep up-to-date with these laws in their own country and ensure that they pass on accurate information to any teachers they wish to employ. Secondly, they have a duty to inspect the teacher’s papers to ensure that they are in order. If they have any doubts, they should raise the problem at once and, if necessary, accompany the teacher to the appropriate departments to find out exactly what needs to be done. Both teachers and employers must act in good faith and do their utmost to comply with regulations.

Beyond that, there are steps that are advisable for a school to take to protect teachers and their own reputation. For example, if it is available they could take out insurance to cover the legal costs of any disputes. This will allow them to appoint lawyers to represent the teachers if necessary. They could also try to establish a good relationship with the local police and the local officials responsible for enforcing visa and employment regulations so that an atmosphere of trust and cooperation is built up.

As for mores serious offences such as drug use, the responsibility is obviously not directly that of the school. But still I believe a school should still be pro-active. The teachers may be hit hard by the symptoms of culture shock and could be suffering from depression that makes them vulnerable to temptation. The school should ensure that teachers know from the outset the country’s laws and penalties for this offence. They could have a ‘buddy’ system among the teachers so that somebody watches over new recruits to be aware if they are under undue stress. If the teachers are not coping, they need help before they succumb to the temptation to use illegal substances to alleviate their problems.

Please let me know what you think.



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» ESL Jailbirds and Stool-Pigeons from ESL Lesson Plan
I am interested to know if any of you out there have had experiences, or should I say run-ins, with the long arm of the law in other countries where you have had ESL employment? I'd really . . . [Read More]

Tracked on November 23, 2005 06:58 AM


  1. Lee Says:

    PD, thanks for that reminder of this very chilling subject. A discussion on the same subject has begun over on ESL-Lesson-Plan.

    A disturbing ESL story that has stuck with me for many years, involves an ESL colleague in the Czech Republic who once had a rather, shall we say, intimate affair with a university-aged person of the opposite sex. Eventually, the relationship got excessively "serious" for the tastes of the ESL teacher in question and was promptly dissolved, much to the scorn of the spurned lover (a local citizen). Immediately afterwards, something unusually vicious happened. The ex-lover decided to go the police through a family-network acquaintance, and filed a police report stating that the ESL teacher had previously "confessed" to her a lenghty history of psychiatric treatment. The person's "concern" was that this "unstable" ESL teacher/foreigner was now roaming freely in Czech and given official sanction over helpless Czech children (ESL students) in a classroom environment where he had a great opportunity to warp their young minds and Heaven-only-knows what else. The former lover's testimony, of course, was both completely and riduculously bogus, but the allegation was taken very serioulsy indeed by the Czech authorities. You can imagine the troubles our young friend encountered as a result of this (in)famous story of unrequited love. Expensive barristers were procurred to fend off the police hounds but a professional ESL reputation was shattered in the meantime.

    Curious to learn what you might advise an ESL employer to do with an ESL employee caught in such a dreadful situation. Many Thanks!

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