Teachers should learn from the example shown by American soldiers who blew the whistle on the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, the conference was told.
Major Robert Griggs of the US army said teachers faced the same ethical dilemmas as soldiers: whether to put loyalty to workmates ahead of their wider responsibility to the nation (or school).
Being a whistleblower, and putting the needs of the school before those of colleagues, was the brave, but best course of action, he said.
His paper said teachers and educationists were often too concerned about protecting the rights of individual staff or pupils.
He said: "It is hard to tell someone that they are not doing what you asked them to. It is hard to tell a colleague, 'You are not cutting it', but in the end it is the kids that are important."
Major Griggs also said that there were times when teachers, just like soldiers, had to decide whether to follow instructions from their superiors that they believed to be wrong.
But the assistant professor of military science at Pennsylvania State university admitted there were too many barriers to expect co-operation between those who train military and educational leaders.
Applying Military Leadership Principles in the Development of Educational Leaders is available from firstname.lastname@example.org