Professional Boundaries: Staff/Student Interaction Policy
Synergy recognizes its responsibility to make and enforce all rules and regulations governing student and employee behavior to bring about the safest and most learning-conducive environment possible.
Corporal punishment shall not be used as a disciplinary measure against any student. Corporal punishment includes the willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a student.
For purposes of this policy, corporal punishment does not include an employee’s use of force that is reasonable and necessary to protect the employee, students, staff or other persons or to prevent damage to property.
For clarification purposes, the following examples are offered for direction and guidance of School personnel:
- Examples of PERMITTED actions (NOT corporal punishment)
1. Stopping a student from fighting with another student;
2. Preventing a pupil from committing an act of vandalism;
3. Defending yourself from physical injury or assault by a student;
4. Forcing a pupil to give up a weapon or dangerous object;
5. Requiring an athletic team to participate in strenuous physical training activities designed to strengthen or condition team members or improve their coordination, agility, or physical skills;
6. Engaging in group calisthenics, team drills, or other physical education or voluntary recreational activities.
B.Examples of PROHIBITED actions (corporal punishment)
1. Hitting, shoving, pushing, or physically restraining a student as a means of control;
2. Making unruly students do push-ups, run laps, or perform other physical acts that cause pain or discomfort as a form of punishment;
3. Paddling, swatting slapping, grabbing, pinching, kicking, or otherwise causing physical pain.
Acceptable and Unacceptable Staff/Student Behavior
This policy is intended to guide 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 the boundaries between students and staff.
Although this policy gives specific, clear direction, it is each staff member’s obligation to avoid situations that could prompt suspicion by parents, students, colleagues, or school leaders. One viable standard that can be quickly applied, when an employee is unsure if certain conduct is acceptable, is to ask themselves, “Would I be engaged in this conduct if my family or colleagues were standing next to me?”
For the purposes of this policy, the term “boundaries” is defined as acceptable professional behavior by staff members while interacting with a student. Trespassing the boundaries of a student/teacher relationship is deemed an abuse of power and a betrayal of public trust.
Some activities may seem innocent from a staff member’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 acceptable and unacceptable behaviors is not to restrain innocent, 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 behaviors to their daily activities. Although sincere, competent interaction with students certainly fosters learning, student/staff interactions must have boundaries surrounding potential activities, locations and intentions.
Duty to Report Suspected Misconduct
When any employee reasonably suspects or believes that another staff member may have crossed the boundaries specified in this policy, he or she must immediately report the matter to a school administrator. All reports shall be as confidential as possible under the circumstances. It is the duty of the administrator to investigate and thoroughly report the situation. Employees must also report to the administration any awareness or concern of student behavior that crosses boundaries or where a student appears to be at risk for sexual abuse.
Examples of Specific Behaviors
The following examples are not an exhaustive list:
Unacceptable Staff/Student Behaviors (Violations of this Policy)
(a) Giving gifts to an individual student that are of a personal and intimate nature.
(b) Kissing of any kind.
(c) Any type of unnecessary physical contact with a student in a private situation.
(d) Intentionally being alone with a student away from the school.
(e) Making or participating in sexually inappropriate comments.
(f) Sexual jokes.
(g) Seeking emotional involvement with a student for your benefit.
(h) Listening to or telling stories that are sexually oriented.
(i) Discussing inappropriate personal troubles or intimate issues with a student in an attempt to gain their support and understanding.
(j) Becoming involved with a student so that a reasonable person may suspect inappropriate behavior.
Unacceptable Staff/Student Behaviors without Parent and Supervisor Permission
(These behaviors should only be exercised when a staff member has parent and supervisor permission.)
(a) Giving students a ride to/from school or school activities without advance written parent permission.
(b) Being alone in a room with a student at school with the door closed.
(c) Allowing students in your home.
Cautionary Staff/Student Behaviors
(These behaviors should only be exercised when a reasonable and prudent person, acting as an educator, is prevented from using a better practice or behavior. Staff members should inform their supervisor of the circumstance and occurrence prior to or immediately after the occurrence)
(a) Remarks about the physical attributes or development of anyone.
(b) Excessive attention toward a particular student.
(c) Sending emails, text messages or letters to students if the content is not about school activities
Acceptable and Recommended Staff/Student Behaviors
(a) Getting parents’ written consent for any after-school activity.
(b) Obtaining formal approval (site and parental) to take students off school property for activities such as field trips or competitions.
(c) E-mails, text, phone and instant messages to students must be very professional and pertaining to school activities or classes (Communication should be limited to school technology).
(d) Keeping the door open when alone with a student.
(e) Keeping reasonable space between you and your students.
(f) Stopping and correcting students if they cross your own personal boundaries.
(g) Keeping parents informed when a significant issue develops about a student.
(h) Keeping after-class discussions with a student professional and brief.
(i) Asking for advice from fellow staff or administrators if you find yourself in a difficult situation related to boundaries.
(j) Involving your supervisor if conflict arises with the student.
(k) Informing your Director/Principal about situations that have the potential to become more severe.
(l) Making detailed notes about an incident that could evolve into a more serious situation later.
(m) Recognizing the responsibility to stop unacceptable behavior of students or co-workers.
(n) Asking another staff member to be present if you will be alone with any type of special needs student.
(o) Asking another staff member to be present when you must be alone with a student after regular school hours.
(p) Giving students praise and recognition without touching them.
(q) Pats on the back, high fives and handshakes are acceptable.
(r) Keeping your professional conduct a high priority.
(s) Asking yourself if any of your actions which may go contrary to these provisions are worth sacrificing your job and career.
Staff-Student Communication and Social Networking
Staff members may use cell phones and email to communicate with students and parents/guardians regarding academic work only. Staff members are strongly discouraged from using their personal phones and personal email for communication with students and parents/guardians. If email is used, Synergy must have access to that email account. Social networking websites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may not be used to communicate or socialize with students. For example, staff may not be “friends” with students on Facebook or other similar sites. Staff members cannot post pictures of students on non-Synergy social networking sites. Staff members must make sure students have parent written permission to have their photos/student work posted on Synergy’s website or included in school newsletters and other materials.