- Slides: 34
Managing the Relationships Between Staff and Students In recent years the headlines about sexual misconduct between staff and students have become all too familiar. What went wrong? How can schools protect the children? How can schools and their employees protect themselves from costly litigation?
High Profile Cases Sexual abuse by school staff members is not new. 1997 Washington State case of Mary Latourneau raised the national interest. • Married, mother of three children, and a highly regarded teacher. • Victim was a 12 year old boy. • She did not fit the popular perception of a child abuser.
Piecing Together the Puzzle Many staff members had pieces of the puzzle. No one in authority had all the pieces. Staff members were reluctant to act---Why? • Didn’t know what to do • The teacher was a friend • Didn’t want to get involved
Early Reporting is Critical Sexual misconduct is a behavior that often progresses gradually over weeks and months. Students are “groomed” by the predator. School staff members have an excellent chance to observe warning signs including boundary invasions. Early reporting stops the process before the child is suffers further damage.
How Big is the Problem? According to the Shakeshaft Study conducted in 2004: • 4. 5 million of the 50 million students studied were subjected to some form of sexual misconduct between kindergarten and high school graduation. • The misconduct ranged from Inappropriate Sexual Comments to outright Sexual Molestation. 4, 500, 000
Who Are the Offenders? Sexual offenders span the spectrum of school staffs. Every age, ethnicity, gender, and school position. There is no single profile that fits sexual offenders. Most offenders have multiple victims. Teacher 18% Sub. Teacher 13% Aide 11% Principal 6% Other 10% Coach Bus Driver Security Counselor 15% 12% 10% 5%
Understanding the Law What behaviors are allowed and which are not? When is a school staff member required to report suspected abuse? What policies should school districts have in place? School staff members are not required to become legal experts---but: • They do need to be familiar with school policies that should reflect state and federal laws.
Basic Legal Requirements It is illegal for an adult to engage in sexual activity with a child. This is a criminal offense. What about a consensual relationship between a staff member and a student who is over 18? Sexual misconduct is a violation of the Code of Ethics of the Idaho Teaching Profession. Sexual misconduct can result in civil lawsuits against the individual and the school. Idaho Code requires reporting of child abuse, including sexual misconduct, within 24 hours.
Identifying Boundary Invasion Staff members involved in sexual misconduct can be: • Male or female • Any age • Viewed as popular with students or very strict There is no single profile for abusers.
Two Categories of Abusers Grabbers • Assault the child with little or no warning. Groomers • Most sexual abuse follows a pattern of careful sexual grooming. • This is a process where the predator gradually wins the trust of the victim through a series of escalating behaviors.
The Key to Stopping Abuse Early recognition and reporting of inappropriate behavior (grooming) breaks the chain of events that eventually leads to abuse.
Boundary Invasions Boundary Invasion is the inappropriate invasion by an adult of a child’s personal space or personal life such as: • Taking an undue interest in a student. (having a “special” friend or “special relationship” with a particular student. • Giving gifts or money for no educational reason. • Engaging in peer-like behavior with students (being cool, being like one of the kids).
Boundary Invasions Being overly touchy with students. Favoring certain students by giving them special privileges. Inviting certain students to come to the classroom at nonclass times. Getting the student out of class repeatedly to visit the teacher. Talking to the child about problems that would normally be discussed with adults. (marital problems, etc. )
Boundary Invasions Telling students secrets and having secrets with the student. Talking to the child about personal problems in a way that the adult becomes a confidant of the child when it is not the adult’s job to do so. Allowing the child to get away with inappropriate behavior. Being alone with the student behind closed doors at school.
Boundary Invasions Taking a student on outings, away from other protective adults. Giving students rides in a personal vehicle without administrative approval. Initiating or extending personal contact with students beyond the school day for personal purposes. Using email, text messaging, or social media (Face. Book, Twitter etc. ) to discuss personal topics or interests with students.
Boundary Invasions Invading a child’s privacy (walking in on the child in the bathroom or locker room, asking about bra size or previous sexual experience). Going to the student’s home for non-educational purposes. Taking a student on personal outings—even with the parent’s permission. Inviting students to the staff member’s home without proper chaperones.
Boundary Invasions Telling sexual jokes to students. Engaging in talk with sexual innuendo or banter with students. Talking about sexual topics that are not related to curriculum. Showing pornography to a student. Hugging, kissing, or other physical contact. (There are some exception for brief touch contact. )
Are Boundary Invasions and Sexual Grooming the Same Thing? No—they are not the same thing. Most educators are the backbone of our communities who would never knowingly hurt a child. A Boundary Invasion may be an innocent lapse in judgment. Sometimes staff members simply make mistakes without any intent to harm children.
So, What Is the Big Deal? ? Inappropriate Boundary Invasions are a frequently used tool by sexual predators to groom their victims. This is why it is important to confront even “innocent” boundary invasions. Beside protecting the students it may also save a staff member from misunderstandings.
Sexual Grooming—A Process 5 Steps to Sexual Grooming 1. Identify a Vulnerable Child. 2. Engage the child in Peer-Like Involvement. 3. Desensitize the child to touch. 4. Isolate the child by making them keep secrets. 5. Make the Child Feel Responsible for the nature of the relationship.
Two Particularly Vulnerable Areas Sports and Extracurricular Activities Special Education Why these areas?
Reporting Requirements By state law you are required to report any reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse to a minor. Minor boundary invasions without any indication of sexual abuse do not have to be reported by law. If you witness an inappropriate boundary invasion or pattern of invasions---carefully follow your school’s policy.
Smart Policies for Staff Members Follow professional conduct policies established by the district. Establish your own boundaries that are conservative and follow them consistently.
The Role of Educators School staff members are to be educators and adult authority figures to the students. The relationship with students is not to be • a peer • a social equal • a friend
Private Meetings with Students Never remain alone with a student behind a closed door. Never remain alone with a student in classroom after school hours without informing the principal. All school rooms where staff and students interact should have clear windows. Coaches should never meet with students behind closed doors. If you must have a difficult meeting with a student—have someone else present.
Guidelines for Coaches and Extracurricular Program Leaders Don’t drive individual students to games or events. Students and adults should never share the same room on overnight trips. When traveling with a group, an adult should never be alone in a room with a student.
Fraternization with Students Remember that school staff members are an authority figure, not a peer or a friend. Avoid counseling students on non-school matters. Avoid meeting students away from school unless it is a school sponsored event. Do not regularly transport students in your personal car. Never allow students to have access to your personal car.
Fraternization with Students Do not tell sexually themed jokes, make sexual comments, or provide students access to sexually-oriented material. Do not make comments about a student’s body. Do not have discussions with students about romantic or sexual activities. Never invite students to your home. Never touch students in a way that a reasonable person could interpret as inappropriate.
Personal Technology Students and Staff have access to personal communication technology that blurs the lines between the time at and away from school. Students are accustomed to instant access to all people in their lives. Educators are sometimes encouraged to use these tools to engage students.
Smart Policies for Personal Technology Be conscious of boundary issues when using personal technology at school. Avoid or limit using personal technology at school. Confine all communication to school related topics. Always assume that electronic communications can be accessed by others—now and in the future.
Boundaries for Personal Technology Telephones & Cell Phones • Do not provide students with phone numbers • Do not call students • Keep conversation short and related to school Email & Texting • Limit communication to school matters only • Communicate with groups, including other adults • Avoid communicating with individual students
Boundaries for Personal Technology Social Networking • Do not “friend” or “follow” students on Face. Book, Twitter, etc. Remember that the role of school staff members is to be an adult authority figure to students—not a friend or peer.
Summary Boundary Invasions can be a sign of potential abuse and should be dealt with immediately, according to school policy and the law. Personal Technology and Social Media create more opportunities for Boundary Invasions. School Employees need to protect themselves and their students by following strict boundary limits. Employee training is essential. • For members of the ISBA Insurance Plan there are excellent resources available through Safe. Schools.