Adult Interactions with Students
Assembly Bill 500 (AB500), effective January 1, 2018, adds section 44050 of the California Education Code, which requires schools to provide a section on employee interactions with pupils in its code of conduct and to make that available to parents and guardians of enrolled students on the school’s website. Portions of the below school policies which are included in the School’s Employee Handbook and Student/Parent Handbook (updated 1/1/2018), include language relating to interactions between pupils and employees.
At Dunn School, we encourage close, warm, and considerate relationships between students and Dunn School Adults (employees, vendors and volunteers). The adults in our community serve as the students’ role models, guides and mentors in learning as well as living. The bond of friendship between student and teacher is healthy. It is necessary, however, to maintain a balance between familiarity and mutual respect. Students have difficulty in recognizing these limits and thus each faculty member must be conscientious in their sensitivity to this balance.
The purpose of these guidelines is to give clear direction regarding appropriate conduct and boundaries between adults and students. The expectations for conduct set forth in this document are not intended to serve as an exhaustive list of requirements, limitations, or prohibitions on adult conduct and activities established by school. Rather, they are intended to:
Alert staff to some of the more sensitive and often problematic matters involved in adult- student relationships;
Specify boundaries related to potentially sexual situations and conduct that is contrary to accepted norms of behavior and in conflict with duties and responsibilities of adult members of our community; and
Provide clear guidance in conducting themselves in a manner that reflects high standards of professionalism.
1. Student Behavior
During a student’s years at Dunn, the school expects increasing self-discipline, responsibility, and an awareness of the rights of others. Dunn School has developed specific expectations for behavior. Each member of the faculty is expected to respond to any breach of good behavior wherever it occurs. Serious infractions should be reported to the Head of School, Associate Head of School, and/or the Dean of Students. Faculty members should be particularly alert to violations of the major school rules. All violations should be reported immediately to the Head of School, Associate Head of School, and/or the Dean of Students. There are established procedures for processing such situations, and faculty members should avoid making on-the-spot verdicts; established protocols should be followed.
It is important for the school to maintain a school-wide culture in which students and adults understand their responsibility to report misconduct without fearing retaliation. In order to prevent abuse and/or exploitation, students and staff must know that the Administration will support them when they report possible misconduct.
It is expected that faculty members, coaches, and ODs deal directly with students in an attempt to direct, and at times, modify behavior. We do not walk away from problems but instead, deal with them as immediately as possible. Certainly, there may be times when it is more effective to leave an emotionally charged situation, but we return to the student involved as soon as possible to direct, assist, and support the student. Advisors and/or administrators must be informed about issues with their advisees. When an advisor has problems with an advisee, the next line of discipline is the Dean of Students.
Faculty members chaperoning school trips should consider wherever they are as an extension of the school campus and, inasmuch as there is a twenty-four hour responsibility of supervision, the same conditions which apply on campus should be followed on such a trip.
The social interaction among faculty and students often extends beyond the bounds of the campus, and beyond the hours of the school day. This fact raises the legal issue of personal and school liability, which each faculty member should know. A faculty member’s presence at a student gathering, with or without other adults, changes the nature of the gathering to a “school function.” Use of illegal substances, alcohol, or drugs by students then becomes the responsibility of the faculty member and by default the responsibility of Dunn School.
For the purpose of this policy, the term “boundaries” is defined as acceptable professional behavior by adults while interacting with a student. Trespassing the boundaries of an adult/student relationship is deemed an abuse of power and a betrayal of public trust. Each staff member is obligated to avoid situations that could prompt suspicion by parents, students, colleagues, or school leaders. One helpful standard that can be quickly applied when assessing whether your conduct is appropriate is to ask yourself, “Would I be doing this if the student’s family or my colleagues or family were standing next to me?”
Some activities may seem innocent from an adult’s perspective, but can be perceived as flirtation or sexual insinuation from a student or parent point of view. The objective of the following lists of unacceptable and risky behavior is not to restrain positive relationships between staff and students, but to prevent relationships that could lead to, or may be perceived as, sexual misconduct. Staff must understand their own responsibility for ensuring that they do not cross the boundaries as written in this policy. Disagreeing with the wording or intent of the established boundaries will be considered irrelevant for disciplinary purposes. Thus, it is crucial that all employees learn this policy thoroughly and apply the lists of acceptable and unacceptable behavior to their daily activities. Although good-natured, heartfelt interaction with students certainly fosters learning, student/staff interactions must always be guided by appropriate boundaries regarding activities, locations, and intentions.
3. Unacceptable Behaviors: The following non-exhaustive list of behavior shall be considered violation of this policy.
- Giving gifts to an individual student that are of a personal and intimate nature;
- Kissing of any kind; any intimate physical contact, pinching, massaging, rubbing or brushing against the body; (Congratulatory hugs are allowed)
- Making, or participating in sexually inappropriate comments or conversations;
- Making sexual jokes, stories, or jokes/comments with sexual innuendo;
- Seeking emotional involvement with a student for your benefit;
- Discussing inappropriate personal troubles or intimate issues with a student
4. Risky Behaviors: The following behaviors are inherently risky and should be avoided whenever possible.
- Intentionally being alone with a student away from the school without obtaining prior parental permission.
- Being alone in a room with a student at the school with the door closed
- Being alone in a vehicle with a student
- Sending emails, text messages, or letters to students if the content is outside the scope of your role at the school.
5. Care in communication: The following describe expectations for professionalism in communications with and about students and colleagues.
Discussions regarding students’ progress, problems, and status on a formal or informal basis should be treated as confidential. This is not information that should be shared with other students’ parents or with other students.
In any community of people there is an active grapevine of rumor and gossip, and it feeds upon itself. If a faculty member has a question emanating from this grapevine, refer such questions to the Associate Head of School; encourage parents and students to do the same.