Staff/Student Interaction: Professional Boundaries

Boundaries Defined

This policy is intended as a guide to all School faculty and staff in conducting themselves in a way that reflects the high standards of behavior and professionalism required of school employees and to specify boundaries between students and staff. The term “Boundaries” is defined as acceptable professional behavior by employees while interacting with a student. Trespassing beyond the Boundaries of a student/teacher or student/educator relationship is deemed an abuse of power and a betrayal of public trust.

Unacceptable and Acceptable Behavior

Some activities may seem innocent from an employee’s perspective, but some of these can be perceived as flirtation or sexual insinuation from a student or parental point of view. The purpose of the following lists of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors is not to restrain innocent, positive relationships between employees and students but to prevent relationships that could lead to, or may be perceived as, misconduct.

Employees must understand responsibilities for ensuring that employees do not cross the Boundaries. Disagreeing with the wording or intent of the 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 daily activities. Although sincere, professional interaction with students fosters the charter mission of academic excellence, employee-student interaction has Boundaries regarding the activities, locations, and intentions.

Unacceptable Behavior

The following is an illustrative list of unacceptable behavior, which includes but is not limited to:

● Remarks about the physical attributes or physiological development of anyone.
● Excessive attention toward a particular student.
● Sending e-mails, text messages, instant messages, social media messages, or letters to students if the content is not about School activities and not in accordance with applicable School policies or in violation of the School’s Social Media Policy.
● Communicating with students or parents/guardians in violation of the School’s Social Media Policy.
● Engaging in inappropriate and/or unprofessional communications.
● Using profanity with or to a student.
● Involving students in non-educational or non-school related issues, including, but not limited to, the employee’s employment issues.
● Unfit for service, including the inability to appropriately instruct or associate with students.

Acceptable Behavior

The following is an illustrative list of acceptable and recommended behavior, which includes, but is not limited to:

● Obtaining parents’ written consent for any after-school activity on or off campus (exclusive of tutorials).
● Obtaining formal approval (School and parental) to take students off School property for activities such as field trips or competitions.
● E-mails, text messages, phone conversations, and other communications to and with students must be professional and pertain to School activities or Classes.
● Keeping the door open when alone with a student.
● Keeping reasonable space between the employee and the students.
● Stopping and correcting students if students cross the employee’s own personal boundaries.
● Keeping parents informed when a significant issue develops regarding a Student.
● Seeking advice from senior staff (such as administrators, managers, or Human Resources) if an employee finds himself or herself in a difficult situation related to Boundaries.
● Involving an employee’s supervisor if conflict arises with a student.
● Informing Human Resources or the Superintendent/Executive Director about situations that have the potential to become more severe.
● Making detailed notes about an incident that could evolve into a more serious situation later.
● Recognizing the responsibility to stop unacceptable behavior of students and/or coworkers.
● Asking another adult to be present if an employee will be alone with any Student.
● Giving students praise and recognition without touching them in questionable areas; giving appropriate pats on the back, high fives, and handshakes.
● Keeping professional conduct a high priority during all moments of student Contact.

Reporting Violations

When any employee reasonably suspects or believes that another staff member may have violated the items specified in this policy, he or she must immediately report the matter to Human Resources or the Superintendent/Executive Director. All reports shall be kept as confidential as possible. Prompt reporting is essential to protect students, the suspected employee, any witnesses, and the School as a whole. Employees must also report to the administration any awareness of, or concern about, student behavior that crosses boundaries or any situation in which a student appears to be at risk for sexual abuse.

Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting

California Penal Code section 11166 requires any teacher or mandated reporter who has knowledge of, or observes, a child in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or her employment whom he or she knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of child abuse to report the known or suspected instance of child abuse to a child protective agency immediately, or as soon as practically possible, by telephone and to prepare and send a written report thereof within thirty-six (36) hours of receiving the information concerning the incident. Employees may, but are not required to report such incidents to an administrator and Human Resources. Reporting such incidents to an administrator and Human Resources does not relieve the employee of responsibility to also immediately report such incidents to the appropriate child protective agency by telephone and to send a written report thereof within thirty-six (36) hours. However, employees may work cooperatively to report the incidents and to file one written report. Employees who have any questions about these reporting requirements should contact Human Resources.

Visions In Education will provide annual training on the mandated reporting requirements, using the online training module provided by the State Department of Social Services, to employees who are mandated reporters. Mandated reporter training will also be provided to employees hired during the course of the school year. This training will include information that failure to report an incident of known or reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect, as required by Penal Code section 11166, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six (6) months confinement in a county jail, or by a fine of one-thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.

All employees required to receive mandated reporter training must provide proof of completing the training within the first six (6) weeks of each school year or within the first six (6) weeks of that employee’s employment.

Investigating

The Superintendent/Executive Director will promptly investigate any allegation of a violation of the Employee-Student Relations Policy, using such support staff or outside assistance deemed necessary and appropriate under the circumstances.

Violations

Violations of this policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination. When appropriate, violations of this policy may also be reported to authorities for potential legal action.