Updated: Nov 17, 2022
This time of year, there is always excitement in the air with the approach of a new school year. As students begin returning to school, it is important for parents, school staff, and most importantly administrators to be ever vigilant in keeping students safe from sexual harassment and abuse. Children that are sexually abused often display various signs of trauma that impact all parts of the child’s life and can lead to long-term ramifications. That is why it is essential for school employees to be able to identify warning signs and report even suspected child abuse to the appropriate state and local authorities.
Even though school staff members are mandatory reporters, and are responsible reporting the majority of sexual abuse incidents to child protective services, schools and communities have to ensure safeguards are in place to protect children when they are at school. Schools and communities cannot afford to have the mentality that these types of behaviors, “won’t happen here.”
Rising concerns of incidents of sexual harassment and abuse from staff members and other students continue to draw national attention. Thus, schools and communities cannot ignore the risk for students inside of schools and must ensure that specific practices are reinforced, policies are reviewed, and open communication is had by all stakeholders in the larger school community as a whole about preventing sexual harassment and abuse inside of our schools.
Here are 4 best practices for your school district to consider as you begin the new school year:
Train your staff and provide reminders throughout the year. K-12 schools must respond when ANY employee has notice of sexual harassment or abuse. Have staff-wide training and messaging that gives everyone a clear pathway for reporting sexual abuse, harassment, or assault. Use case studies and example scenarios throughout the year to remind staff about what sexual harassment and abuse look like and how to make a report.
Review and strengthen your policies and codes of conduct. Review and update policies such as boundary crossing, technology use, transportation and etc. to include clear definitions, list prohibited behavior, and limit one-on-one interactions between youth and adults. Share the policies with all school employees and require them to acknowledge and sign that the have read and understand the policies.
Monitor employee–student and student–student interactions. Define roles and responsibilities for monitoring. Have a monitoring protocol that should be followed and detail how to make a report. Document monitoring (who completed it and when).
Take all concerns and complaints seriously.
Address reported inappropriate behavior immediately before it continues or spreads
Conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations
Take immediate and appropriate corrective action
Ensure effective documentation procedures are in place for how the district receives and maintains information including documenting an incident, notifying the parties and parents or guardians, conducting an investigation, and informing the appropriate and necessary people about the final outcome.
Reminders like this are important for all of us to be diligent and proactive in protecting children. By not addressing these conversations, administrators may be failing those students that are most in need of our help as well as leaving their institutions open to potential liability. To further explore opportunities and training to address types of harassment, please explore the educational and training resources available through McGrath Training Solutions.
McGrath Training Solutions has been a partner for thousands of schools and administrators across the United States. We’re here to help and train your school leadership and staff on any and all changes as they occur. If you would like to talk to us about how we can partner with you, please contact us.