Student and Staff Boundaries Policy
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Student and Staff Boundaries Policy
Disciplinary Physical Contact with Students
It is the policy of Summit Public Schools that no teacher or other staff member will use corporal punishment against a student. This prohibition includes spanking, slapping, pinching, hitting, tying, taping, or the use of any other physical force as retaliation or correction for inappropriate behavior.
While the use of appropriate touching is part of daily life and is important for student development, teachers and other staff members must ensure that they do not exceed appropriate behavior. If a child or other staff member specifically requests that he or she not be touched, then that request must be honored without question.
For the purposes of this policy, the term “boundaries” is defined as acceptable professional behavior by staff members while interacting with a student. Trespassing beyond the boundaries of a student-teacher relationship is deemed an abuse of power and a betrayal of public trust.
Acceptable and Unacceptable Behaviors
Some activities may seem innocent from a staff member’s point-of-view but could be perceived as flirtation or sexual insinuation from the perspective of students or parents. There is no single reasonable person standard. The purpose of the following lists of unacceptable and acceptable behaviors is not to restrain innocent, positive relationships between staff and students, but to prevent relationships that could lead to or may be perceived as inappropriate, or sexual misconduct, or “grooming.” 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.
Staff members must understand their own responsibilities for ensuring that they do not cross the boundaries as written in this policy. Violations could subject the teacher or staff member to discipline up to and including termination. Disagreeing with the wording or intent of these established boundaries will be considered irrelevant for any required disciplinary purposes. Thus, it is critical that all employees study this policy thoroughly and apply its spirit and intent in their daily activities.
These lists (and any subsequent lists) are not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather, illustrative of the types of behavior intended to be addressed by this policy.
- Giving gifts of a personal and intimate nature (including photographs) to a student; or items such as money, food, outings, electronics, etc. without the written pre-approval of the Principal or School Leader.
- Kissing of ANY kind
- Massage [Note: Prohibited in athletics unless provided by massage therapist or other certified professional in an open public location. Coaches may not perform massage or rub-down. Permitted in special education only as instructed under an IEP or 504 Plan.]
- Full frontal or rear hugs and lengthy embraces
- Sitting students on one’s lap (grades 3 and above)
- Touching buttocks, thighs, chest or genital area
- Wrestling with students or other staff member except in the context of a formal wrestling program
- Tickling or piggyback rides
- Any form of sexual contact
- Any type of unnecessary physical contact with a student in a private situation
- Intentionally being alone with a student away from school
- Furnishing alcohol, tobacco products, or drugs – or failing to report knowledge of such
- “Dating” or “going out with” a student
- Remarks about physical attributes or physiological development of anyone. This includes comments such as “Looking fine!” or “Check out that [body part].”
- Taking or requesting photographs or videos of students for personal use or posting online
- Either partially or fully undressing in front of a student or asking a student to undress, with the intent to view/expose private body parts
- Leaving campus alone with a student for lunch
- Sharing a bed, mat, or sleeping bag with a student
- Making, or participating in, sexually inappropriate comments
- Sexual jokes, or jokes/comments with sexual overtones or double-entendres
- Seeking emotional involvement (which can include intimate attachment) with a student beyond the normative care and concern required of an educator.
- Listening to or telling stories that are sexually oriented
- Discussing your personal troubles or intimate issues with a student
- Becoming too involved with a student so that a reasonable person may suspect inappropriate behavior
- Giving students a ride to/from school or school activities without the express, advance written permission of the Executive Director and the student’s parent or legal guardian
- Being alone in a room with a student at school with the door closed and/or windows blocked from view
- Allowing students at your home and/or in rooms within your home without signed parental permission for a pre-planned and pre-communicated educational activity which must include another educator, parent, or designated school volunteer
- Staff mirroring the immature behavior of minors
- Sending emails, text messages, social media responses, making phone calls, or sending notes or letters to students if the content is not about school activities. Communication via private social media accounts is not acceptable.
- Pats on the shoulder or back
- “High-fives” and hand slapping
- Touching face to check temperature, wipe away a tear, remove hair from face, or other similar types of contact
- Placing TK through second grade students on one’s lap for purposes of comforting the child for a short duration only
- Holding hands while walking with small children or children with significant disabilities
- Assisting with toileting of small or disabled children in view of another staff member
- Touch required under an IEP or 504 Plan
- Reasonable restraint of a violent person to protect self, others, or property
- Obtaining formal written pre-approval to take students off school property for activities such as field trips or competitions, including parent’s written permission and waiver form for any sponsored after-school activity whether on or off-campus
- Emails, text-messages, phone conversations, and other communications to and with students, if permitted, must be professional and pertain to school activities or classes (communication should be initiated via transparent [non-private] school-based technology and equipment)
- Keeping the door wide open when alone with a student
- Keeping reasonable and appropriate space between you and the student
- Stopping and correcting students if they cross your own personal boundaries, including touching legs, or buttocks, frontal hugs, kissing, or caressing
- Keeping parents informed when a significant issue develops about a student, such as a change in demeanor or uncharacteristic behavior
- Keeping after-class discussions with a student professional and brief
- Immediately asking for advice from senior staff or administration if you find yourself in a difficult situation related to boundaries
- Involving your direct supervisor in discussion about boundaries situations that have the potential to become more severe (including but not limited to grooming or other red flag behaviors observed in colleagues, written material that is disturbing, or a student’s fixation on an adult)
- Making detailed notes about an incident that in your best judgement could evolve into a more serious situation later
- Recognizing the responsibility to stop “Unacceptable Behaviors” of students and/or co-workers
- Asking another staff member to be present, or within close supervisory distance, when you must be alone with a student after regular school hours
- Prioritizing professional behavior during all moments of student contact
- Asking yourself if any of your actions, which could be contrary to these provisions, are worth sacrificing your job and career.
This policy does not prevent: 1) touching a student for the purpose of guiding 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 other emergency first-aid. Nor does it prohibit the use of reasonable force and touching in self-defense or in the defense of another. Restraining a child who is trying to engage in violent or inappropriate behavior is also allowed. Only such force as necessary to defend one’s self, another person, or the child or to protect property is legally permitted. Excessive force is prohibited.
When any staff member, parent, or student becomes aware of a staff member (or volunteer, guest, vendor) having crossed the boundaries specified in this policy, or has a strong suspicion of “grooming behavior,” he or she must report the suspicion to the Executive Director promptly. “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 in spite of 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, any witnesses, and the school as a whole. 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, within your professional capacity or within the scope of your employment, you observe or gain possession of knowledge that a child has been a victim of child abuse or sexual abuse (or you reasonably suspect it), California Penal Code Section 11166 requires YOU to immediately report this information or suspicion directly to your county child protective agency (CPS) or local police/sheriff. The report shall be made by phone immediately, and a subsequent written report must be sent within 36 hours of your knowledge or suspicion of the abuse.
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 designated responsible administrative person. Failure to meet your reporting obligation can result in a monetary fine and/or jail.
Internal reporting to the Executive Director occurs after the phone-in report is made to the police/sheriff or CPS.
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. Only law enforcement has the authority to grant clearance to investigate the matter administratively.
Upon receiving information from the mandated reporter, the designated responsible administrator must take immediate action to stop the alleged inappropriate conduct ¾ by removing the employee (or volunteer/vendor/guest) from the classroom or worksite when there is a potential risk to student or school safety. The ED shall consult with legal counsel as appropriate, prior to, during, and after conducting any investigation.
Staff members who have violated this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, and where appropriate, will be reported to authorities for potential legal action.