Maintaining Professional Staff /Student Boundaries
The purpose of this procedure is to provide all staff, students, volunteers and community members with information to increase their awareness of their role in protecting children from inappropriate conduct by adults.
In a professional staff/student relationship, school employees maintain boundaries that are consistent with the legal and ethical duty of care that school personnel have for students.
A boundary invasion is an act or omission by a school employee that violates professional staff/student boundaries and has the potential to abuse the staff/student relationship.
An inappropriate boundary invasion means an act, omission, or pattern of such behavior by a school employee that does not have an educational purpose; and results in abuse of the staff/student professional relationship.
Examples of inappropriate boundary invasions by staff members include but are not limited to the following:
- Any type of inappropriate physical contact with a student or any other conduct that might be considered harassment under the board’s policy on Harassment and Sexual Harassment of Students;
- Showing pornography to a student;
- Singling out a particular student or students for personal attention and friendship beyond the professional staff-student relationship;
- Socializing where students are consuming alcohol, drugs or tobacco;
- For non-guidance/counseling staff, encouraging students to confide their personal or family problems and/or relationships. If a student initiates such discussions, staff members are expected to refer the student to appropriate guidance/counseling staff. In either case, staff involvement should be limited to a direct connection to the student’s school performance;
- Sending students on personal errands unrelated to any educational purpose;
- Banter, allusions, jokes or innuendos of a sexual nature with students;
- Disclosing intimate personal, sexual, family, employment concerns or other private matters to one or more students;
- Addressing students or permitting students to address staff members with personalized terms of endearment, pet names or otherwise in an overly familiar manner;
- Maintaining personal contact with a student outside of school by phone, e-mail, instant messenger or Internet chat rooms, social networking websites, or letters (beyond homework or other legitimate school business) without including the parent/guardian; and immediate supervisor. Exceptions to maintaining personal contact with a student outside of school could be when employees already have an existing relationship with a student, i.e. attending the same church, friends with one of their own children.
- Exchanging personal gifts, cards or letters with an individual student;
- Socializing or spending time with students (including but not limited to activities such as going out for beverages, meals or movies, shopping, traveling and recreational activities) outside of school-sponsored events, except as participants in organized community activities; exceptions to socializing with a student outside of school could be when employees already have an existing relationship with a student, i.e. attending the same church, friends with one of their own children.
- Giving a student a ride alone in a vehicle in a non-emergency situation; and/or
- Unnecessarily invading a student’s privacy, (e.g. walking in on the student in the bathroom).
Appearances of Impropriety
The following activities are boundary invasions and can create an actual impropriety or the appearance of impropriety. Whenever possible, staff should avoid these situations. If unavoidable these activities should be pre-approved by the appropriate administrator. If not pre-approved, the staff person must report the occurrence to the appropriate administrator as soon as possible.
- Being alone with an individual student out of the view of others;
- Giving a student a ride alone in a vehicle (see policy and procedure 7404)
- Inviting or allowing individual students to visit the staff member’s home;
- Visiting a student’s home; when a parent/guardian are not present; and/or
- Social networking with students for non-educational purposes.
Students and their parents/guardians are strongly encouraged to notify the principal (or other administrator) if they believe a teacher or other staff member may be engaging in conduct that violates this policy.
Staff members are required to promptly notify the principal or the supervisor of the employee suspected of engaging in inappropriate conduct that violates this policy.
All professional school personnel who have reasonable cause to believe that a student has experienced sexual abuse by a staff member, volunteer, or agency personnel working in the school are required to make a report to Child Protective Services or law enforcement pursuant to board policy and procedure 3421, Child Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Prevention, and RCW 26.44. Reporting suspected abuse to the building principal or supervisor does not relieve professional school personnel from their reporting responsibilities and timelines.
Staff violations of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. The violation may also be reported to the state Office of Professional Practices. Violations involving sexual or other abuse will also result in referral to Child Protective Services and/or law enforcement in accordance with the board’s policy on Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect.
All new employees and volunteers will receive training on appropriate staff/student boundaries. Continuing employees will receive training every three years.
Dissemination of Policy and Reporting Protocols
This policy and procedure will be included on the district website and in all employee, student and volunteer handbooks. Annually, all administrators and staff will receive copies of the district’s reporting protocol.
Former Procedure: 5253-P1