ESD 112 Insurance Programs Focus on Risk

Maintaining Professional Staff/Student Boundaries

Sexual misconduct by staff and volunteers against students continues to be one of the most significant areas of concern that school districts face. Allegations of sexual misconduct can devastate not only the involved students, but entire school communities. Sexual misconduct may begin with boundary invasion behaviors. One effective way schools can prevent sexual misconduct against students is to enforce professional boundaries between staff and students. Establishing clear behavioral and supervisory standards for adults interacting with minors can reduce the opportunities for misconduct and address inappropriate behavior early.

The staff member’s role in preventing sexual abuse of students is two-fold: first, to avoid engaging in behaviors which could be mistaken for boundary invasion or grooming behaviors; and second, to report situations where such behaviors by other employees take place.

Answer these questions to assess whether your school district is in the best possible position to prevent, respond, and recover from allegations of sexual misconduct.
  1. Has the district adopted a policy and procedure that addresses maintaining professional staff/student boundaries? WSSDA has a sample policy and procedure (5253).
  2. Do you regularly review your policy and procedure and update as needed?
  3. Do you distribute your policy and procedure to staff including after revisions have been made?
  4. Has the district adopted guidelines and provided training regarding acceptable use of electronic communication with students?
  5. Does the district train employees in: what constitutes a boundary invasion; what is considered unacceptable conduct; what activities can create an appearance of impropriety?
  6. Does the district require this training upon hire, when revisions have been made to the policy and/or procedure, and every three years thereafter?
  7. Does the district have a system in place to accurately record training?
  8. Do you provide the same information and training to your district’s volunteers?
  9. Do students receive information on sexual harassment prevention?
  10. Is there a procedure for staff, students, and parents to report complaints/violations?
  11. Does the district have a process in place to notify the parents of a student alleged to be the victim, target, or recipient of the misconduct?
  12. Do you have a policy and procedure to investigate complaints/violations?
  13. Does the district have procedures for disciplinary action for proven violations of the policy?
Also remember that if sexual abuse is suspected, it is critical to ensure that mandatory reporting obligations are met at all levels as discussed in the September Focus on Risk. The following training resources are available to your district.

Training Courses from Vector Solutions (SafeSchools)

  • Boundary Invasions
  • Sexual Harassment: Student Issues & Response
  • Sexual Misconduct: Staff-to-Student
  • Title IX Compliance Overview
  • Child Abuse: Identification & Intervention
  • Child Abuse: Mandatory Reporting
  • Child Abuse: Mandatory Reporting (Primer)
To help schools and school districts better understand adult sexual misconduct (ASM) and develop related policies and procedures, training for ASM awareness and prevention, A Training Guide for Administrators and Educators on Addressing Adult Sexual Misconduct in the School Setting (ASM Training Guide), was released by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office of Safe and Supportive Schools (OSSS) and its Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center.
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