Student and Staff Boundaries Policy
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Student and Staff Boundaries Policy
Summit Public Schools expects its employees to behave professionally and exercise good judgment when interacting with students and members of the Summit community. The purpose of the Student and Staff Boundaries Policy (this “Policy”) is to provide additional clarification to the standards of conduct and professionalism expected of all school employees, coaches or advisors, volunteers, and service providers.
The term “boundaries” means acceptable professional behavior by staff members while interacting with a student and their caregivers. This Policy is intended to cover a range of behaviors that include unlawful and objectively improper interactions but also behaviors that cross or come close to crossing boundaries and grooming behaviors that undermine professional relationships and can lead to misconduct or the appearance of impropriety. The behaviors addressed herein include, but are not limited to, in-person interactions, phone and text communications, and communication through social media sites.
Violations of professional conduct, regardless of intent, may subject personnel to discipline up to and including dismissal and potential legal action. Any personnel who observe or have knowledge of inappropriate conduct between personnel and students and/or their caregivers shall immediately report such conduct to the Executive Director of the school site and/or the Compliance Coordinator who can gather additional information. Summit will investigate alleged violations of state and federal law and Summit’s policies, including this Policy and Sexual Harassment Policy. In addition, mandated reporter statutes impose an obligation to report child abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse to child protective services and/or law enforcement.
Summit is committed to maintaining a professional educational environment. Inappropriate conduct includes, but is not limited to:
- Initiating inappropriate physical or emotional contact;
- Giving gifts of a personal and intimate nature to a student;
- Engaging in physical contact such as kissing, massage, lengthy or unsolicited hugs/embraces, lap-sitting, touching buttocks, thighs, chest, or genital area; tickling;
- Wrestling with students or another staff member (outside of approved athletic programs);
- Engaging in sexual contact, comments, jokes, story-telling, picture-sharing, or sexting;
- Furnishing or facilitating access to alcohol, tobacco products, or drugs;
- “Dating” or “going out with” a student;
- Remarks about physical attributes or physiological development of anyone;
- Taking or requesting photographs or videos of students for personal use or posting online;
- Undressing in front of a student or asking a student to undress;
- Sending or accompanying students on errands unrelated to any legitimate educational purpose; and
- Discussing your personal troubles or intimate issues with a student.
If a child, adult, or staff member requests that they not interact with you outside the presence of another adult or student, then that request must be honored without question.
Corporal Punishment Prohibited
Corporal punishment against students is prohibited. This prohibition includes spanking, slapping, pinching, hitting, tying, taping, or the use of any other physical force as retaliation or correction for inappropriate behavior.
Grooming is defined as an act or series of acts by a sexual predator to gain physical and/or emotional control by gaining trust (of staff and/or family and a minor) and desensitizing the minor to various forms of touching and other intimate interaction. Grooming often includes steps toward emotional involvement (which can include intimate attachment) with a student beyond the normative care and concern required of an educator. In order to prevent sexual harassment, misconduct, or assault, grooming behaviors are not tolerated. Each member of the Summit community is encouraged to report suspicions of abuse to protect students.
“Grooming behavior” is an attempt to build an emotional and/or physical connection with a minor to gain their trust for the purpose of sexual abuse. “Suspicion” means something perceived despite inconclusive or slight evidence. It is based on facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a violation of the boundaries policy occurred. Prompt reporting of “unacceptable behaviors” observed in adult interactions with minors is essential to protect students, staff, witnesses, and the school as a whole.
Appearances of Impropriety
Staff are expected to be aware of the appearance of impropriety in their own conduct and the conduct of other adults when interacting with students and/or their caregivers. Even though the intent of a staff member may be professional and there is a legitimate educational purpose for the conduct, the following activities can create the appearance of impropriety:
- Giving students a ride to/from school or school activities;
- Being alone in a room with a student at school out of the view of others;
- Inviting or allowing students to visit your home or visiting a student’s home; and
- Communicating with students and/or their caregivers via email, text message, social media, telephone, notes, or letters about matters unrelated to school activities.
Staff should avoid these situations where possible. If such a situation is necessary or required for matters related to the student’s education, staff are advised to get pre-approval from the Executive Director and/or the student’s caregiver. In addition, written permission from parents/guardians is required before taking students off of school property for any activity including, but not limited to, field trips and competitions.
Summit recognizes that emergency situations (e.g. use of reasonable restraint to prevent hitting or other nonconsensual touch of another), legitimate educational purposes (e.g. a student consents to affirmations or recognitions that include handshakes, high-fives, or fist bumps), student assistance (e.g. touch required under or necessitated by an IEP or 504 Plan), and pre-existing family and personal relationships may justify deviation from the general professional boundaries described in this Policy. Upon inquiry, staff should be prepared to articulate why the deviation from the professional boundaries is necessary, required, and appropriate.
This Policy does not apply to unique circumstances such as: 1) touching a student to guide them along a physical path; 2) helping them up after a fall, or 3) engaging in a rescue or the application of Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) or another emergency first-aid.
Although self-defense or defense of another may be permitted under the law to protect against an imminent risk of harm, physical contact and/or physical restraints may only be used as a last resort when verbal requests and other de-escalation strategies are ineffective. This Policy expressly prohibits excessive force, retaliation, and punitive use of force.
Maintaining a Professional Environment
In order to maintain a professional environment and avoid the appearance of impropriety, Summit provides the following tips
- Prioritize professional behavior for yourself and your colleagues;
- Ask for advice from the Executive Director or senior staff on issues related to boundaries;
- Be mindful that unwanted attention or physical contact may be perceived as inappropriate from the student perspective;
- Keep the door wide open when alone with a student;
- Ask another staff member to be present when you must be alone with a student after regular school hours; and
- Keep reasonable and appropriate space between you and the student.
When any staff member, parent, or student becomes aware of a staff member, volunteer, guest, or vendor having crossed the boundaries specified in this Policy, or has a strong suspicion of inappropriate conduct (including grooming), they must report the suspicion to the Executive Director or Compliance Office promptly. When observant staff members call attention to a boundaries violation(s), the likelihood of harm is greatly reduced.
Child Abuse / Sexual Abuse Reporting (Mandatory Reporting)
If you observe or gain possession of knowledge that a child has been a victim of child abuse or neglect or sexual abuse (or you reasonably suspect it), State law (Revised Code of Washington 26.44.030 / California Penal Code Section 11166) requires you to immediately report this information or suspicion directly to your county child protective agency (CPS) or local law enforcement. A subsequent written report must be sent within 36 hours of your knowledge or suspicion of the abuse.
Each Executive Director and Compliance Officer will also serve as a resource regarding this obligation. However, you do not need permission to report. No supervisor or administrator can impede or inhibit a report or sanction you for making the report.
Your report is confidential, and you are protected from liability as long as you do not discuss the matter with anyone other than law enforcement, CPS, and your school’s Compliance Officer. Failure to meet your reporting obligation can result in a monetary fine and/or jail.
The Executive Director will promptly communicate with the investigating enforcement agency to determine whether an investigation will be conducted by that agency. The administrator will confirm with law enforcement as to whether the initiation of an internal school investigation would interfere with any criminal investigation.
Upon receiving information from the mandated reporter, the designated responsible administrator must take immediate action to stop the alleged inappropriate conduct by removing the employee, volunteer, or guest from the classroom or worksite when there is a potential risk to a student or school safety. The Executive Director shall consult with legal counsel as appropriate, before, during, and after conducting an investigation.