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Tutor Upsets Student’s Parents By Refusing To Let Them Read Her Private Diary Assignment

Mark Edward Atkinson/ Getty Images

When working with children it is expected that the parents stay well informed. This goes for all sorts of school work, activities, and other services.

But if a student you were working with confided something harmless but personal to you, would you break that trust?

What if parents wanted you to hand over their diary entries?

One tutor found themselves in a moral dilemma when asked to breech their students trust. After their choice led to social media commentary they were left questioning their actions.

Going by the screen name ligamentary they turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subreddit and asked: 

AITA for refusing to give my student’s parents a copy of her diary?

The OP, or Original Poster, went into detail about their tutoring predicament:

“I work as a tutor and one of my students, 11 years old, needs work in English. A lot of our relationship is based on trust, especially when a student is struggling, to get them to speak up with questions when something doesn’t make sense and communicate transparently with us.”

“One of the exercises I have students do to work on writing in a low stress way is to keep a diary—a page a day of their thoughts, feelings, really anything they want. This isn’t an assignment to be graded, but she does occasionally work on it during our session time as a warm up.”

“She lets me read a page or two sometimes, at her discretion, and it’s some very candid personal thoughts of hers. Nothing serious in the grand scheme, but serious to an eleven year old, and private at any age.”

“Things about friend drama, upsets within the family, hopes and dreams, that sort of thing. At the end of a recent tutoring session her parents asked for a review of the work her daughter had been doing.”

“Perfectly standard request. I put together all the exercises I had saved and brought them the following session to discuss any questions they had out of earshot of their daughter.”

“They said they’d reviewed the material and it looked fine but they were aware their daughter was working on some kind of journaling project with me and wanted to examine that as well.”

”I immediately felt uncomfortable doing that without their daughter knowing, but didn’t want to make a big issue, so just said that wasn’t really as reflective of her academic progress as the exercises and tests we’d done.They said they understood but they wanted to see it anyways because it was an academic project done on their paid time.” 

“Because it was rather personal subject material that I had introduced to my student as being just for her, only to share if she felt like it, I really felt uncomfortable sharing the pages I had with her parents without her go ahead.”

“So I told her parents their daughter has the only complete copies so if they want it they’ll have to ask her and get it from her. They weren’t happy about that and told me I should get them from her because it’s my job to manage assignments as the instructor and anything their child writes is theirs to read.”

”I was pretty much backed into a corner at this point so I told them I didn’t agree and the meeting ended. Later that day I got an email asking me not to return.”

”The parents posted a factual accounting of what happened on our town Facebook page for business reviews. It embellished a few details but with the core facts in fact, warning parents against my services and essentially calling me the *sshole of the situation.”

“Most of the comments agreed with them and said they couldn’t believe how I had refused their request. So I was totally sure before but now I’m worrying I am misreading or missing something.”

”Was I too rigid, should I have been more considerate in my interactions with these clients? My job means the world to me so please be blunt.“

The trustworthy tutor mitigated any concerns about student safety by clarifying  they would have shared in cases of concern.

They explained:

If the diary pointed to evidence of any sort of danger to the child I would be obligated as a mandated reporter to report it to the proper authorities (not just the parents.) But there was nothing even remotely close to that going on here.”

”Ironically if there had been signs the child was dealing with something at all serious I would have been inclined to loop the parents in. Likely by broaching the problem straightaway instead of just passively giving them the diary and hoping they noticed what I did.”

”But the point being, I certainly appreciate that children (all people, really) and privacy have concrete limits where safety is concerned.”

Redditors were asked to pass one of four judgements: 

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors thought OP was NTA for trying to respect the child’s privacy. 

“NTA – journals are private, not academic and meant for parents to read. Especially since it wasn’t graded. It would have betrayed her trust and put her off writing altogether.”

”If my parents had forced their way in my journal without my permission I probably never would have kept one again, and they are so important. It’s how I coped through school and all my rough times, and nothing I said in them was meant for others to read.”~Mekkalyn

NTA. If they want to see it, they can get it from their child. They’re her parents, they can make her do it if they want and they know it.”

They are trying to make you look like the bad guy to their daughter so they don’t have to. They are huge assholes. I used to tutor in writing and English to elementary school kids and I would have done the same thing.”~CaptionHMBarclay

NTA at all. One of the cruelest things some parents do to kids is take away journaling as something safe to process difficult feelings. My mother did this to me and more than twenty years later, I still struggle to write down private thoughts.”

”It’s one of the healthiest coping mechanisms someone can have and once that privacy is violated people lose access to that feeling of safety. You’re a good teacher.”~Feisty-Donkey

As some Redditors suggested letting the parents know upfront about the students personal journal have helped, but this caring tutor wasn’t found to be wrong in this instance.

Written by Heidi Dockery

Heidi Dockery is a Maine artist & nature enthusiast with an affinity for libraries. She studies Criminal Justice with a special focus on psychology & sociology at the University of Maine. When not studying, painting, or re-reading the works of Terry Pratchett, she volunteers & enjoys various activities most would label nerdy.