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Staff Misconduct - When It's a Problem, It's a Big One

Dennis Lewis
Date of Post
Sep 27, 2009

School Staff and Sexual Misconduct

It’s Not a Problem ‘Til It’s a Problem – And Then It’s a Big One

Hardly a day passes without a report surfacing somewhere indicating a school employee has been accused, arrested or adjudicated for engaging in sexual misconduct with a student. For the average person, the occasional national splash of an incident may not convey the real extent of the problem, but for school principals, careful attention should be paid to these sensitive and emotionally charged incidents.

According to a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education by Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University and Interactive Inc., an estimated 4.5 million students are subjected to some degree of sexual contact by a school employee between kindergarten and twelfth grade.

So what can principals do to help prevent and detect sexual misconduct by school staff?

Professional development on this topic should include the following:

  1. Board Policy related to staff to student sexual harassment and contact
  2. Reporting procedures
  3. Expectations of privacy and confidentiality related to investigations or allegations of inappropriate behavior or conduct
  4. Reminders that all staff are part of the solution related to eliminating this type of destructive behavior
  5. Review of both the Employee and Student Handbook with careful attention paid to the topic of harassment of any kind

NOTE: It is recommended principals ask staff to provide a signature indicating these polices have been reviewed and understood.

Establish a school climate that protects innocent staff from being accused and sets parameters and boundaries for student/staff interaction.

The following tips can help with these efforts: 

While dialogue between principal and staff on this subject may be difficult to initiate, it is a conversation that must occur. Unfortunately, these types of situations happen in our profession and occasionally principals find themselves involved in a personnel investigation related to sexual misconduct. Being proactive and honest with staff regarding expectations, policies and procedures on this topic is a must in the 21st Century.