We have already detailed the laws of loshon hora as they apply to a teacher who wishes to discuss his or her students with others (see Day 60). An additional concern for a teacher is that of giluy sod, sharing information that was related in confidence by a student.
A common situation, especially among teachers of younger children, is where the student divulges information concerning his family that his parents would certainly not want anyone to know. Under no circumstances may the teacher believe such information if it involves negativity or if its becoming known could cause the family harm; obviously, the teacher may not relate to others what was said by the child. Moreover, to inform the parents of what the child said may be rechilus (as it may cause ill will between the parent and the child) or onaas devarim, causing hurt through the spoken word. In certain situations, it may be correct for the teacher to speak to the parents, so that they can caution the child not to repeat such information again.
If, however, the child mentions something that is cause for alarm, the teacher’s involvement may be necessary. This is especially true when the information involves abuse. The matter must be investigated, and –when necessary– the proper authorities should be contacted.
When older students share personal information with a teacher, the teacher may not pass the information on to others. If the advice of colleagues or supervisors is necessary, the student’s identity should not be divulged. The teacher may reveal the information, along with the student’s identity, only when a student discloses facts of which halachah requires him to inform others. This includes any medical condition or behavioral problem of which the school administration should have been informed (e.g. chemical imbalance). As in the case of the therapist or lawyer, a teacher should be in contact with a halachic authority in dealing with issues of confidentiality.