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SEXUAL MISCONDUCT by School Staff. What School Staff Need to Know and Do Lynden School District. School Staff Sexual Misconduct. Definition:

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sexual misconduct by school staff


What School Staff

Need to Know and Do

Lynden School District

school staff sexual misconduct
School Staff Sexual Misconduct


A term that describes a continuum of inappropriate behaviors, from sexual talk to intercourse, which an adult in the education system exhibits toward a current district student or toward a former district student under 18 years of age.

school staff sexual misconduct3
School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct by a school employee is particularly troubling because of the trust placed in them by parents and the community. Parents/guardians leave their children in the care of school staff expecting these adults to teach their children, to positively influence their children’s character and to be protective of their emotional well-being.

school staff sexual misconduct4
School Staff Sexual Misconduct

The Lynden School District has a no-tolerance policy toward sexual misconduct by our employees and will fully investigate any reported concerns in this regard.

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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Can consist of:

  • Personal Space Boundary Violations
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Sexual Abuse
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Personal Space Boundary Violationsmay include:

  • a student sitting on a staff member’s lap;
  • hand holding;
  • excessive contact outside the bounds of school or a school-related activity;
  • back rubs.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Sexual Harassmentincludes:

  • requiring sexual favors in exchange for some other reward such as a higher grade or a starting position on a team.
  • creating a hostile environment with the use of sexual comments, jokes, gestures, pictures or other content in such a way so as to make a student’s environment unbearable. (Feeling harassed has more to do with the interpretation of the victim than how the giver of the message intends the message to be received.)
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Sexual Abuse includes:

  • encouraging a child to engage in prostitution or other sexual activity;
  • participating in pornographic photography or video production;
  • conducting sexual relationships with a current district student or with a former district student under the age of 18.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

School employees who commit sexual abuse may:

  • believe that they’re “in love” with a student.
  • be “Opportunistic Predators” who chose the education field specifically to have access to children.
  • be “Bad Judgment Predators” who initiate relationships to meet their needs.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Regardless of the employee’s motivation, the student’s well-being is no longer the top priority.

The offender’s concern is meeting his or her own needs at the expense of the child’s.

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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

How prevalent is this problem?

Studies have examined the phenomenon, but because most students do not immediately disclose inappropriate incidents, data are incomplete. It is estimated that approximately 10% of school-age children are subject to sexual misconduct by a school staff member at some time between kindergarten and the 12th grade.

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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

More on prevalence…..

  • Student victims are most often of high school age.
  • Approximately 65% of victims are 14 years and older.
  • Approximately 70% of the cases involve female victims.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Addressing the Problem:

All adults working in education share the same responsibility for creating and maintaining a safe, healthy and secure learning environment for all students, staff, parents and volunteers.

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School Staff Sexual Misconduct


  • Stringent job applicant screening procedures.
  • All District employees should know and understand the boundaries of appropriate behavior.
  • Maintain a “no tolerance” policy in dealing with staff who behave inappropriately in their interactions with students.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Common Behavioral Guidelines Governing Staff-Student Interactions:

  • Green Light Behaviors – appropriate
  • Yellow Light Behaviors – may be misconstrued and should be stopped
  • Red Light Behaviors – inappropriate unless specifically part of an education or counseling program
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Green Light Behaviors – appropriate:

  • Providing humor and friendly comments.
  • Giving compliments that are not overly personal.
  • Talking to, treating and touching all students in a consistent and appropriate manner.
  • Spending the majority of time with all students and not with one or a single group of students.
  • Limiting personal contact and only in safe-touch areas which include the shoulders, upper back, head and hands.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Yellow Light Behaviors - may be misconstrued and should be stopped, including:

  • Singling out students for favors.
  • Teasing that references gender or contains sexual innuendo.
  • Making sexist comments.
  • Being in a room alone with a student. (If unavoidable, the door and blinds need to be open and the persons should be visible.)
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Red Light Behaviors – inappropriate unless specifically part of an education or counseling program.

  • Becoming close, personal friends with a student.
  • Touching students frequently.
  • Giving personal cards, notes, e-mails, text messages, voice messages, yearbook inscriptions, etc.
  • Being in a locked room with a student.
  • Talking about student sexuality.
  • Meeting with students during out-of-school hours and away from school grounds.
  • Lap sitting of students beyond second grade.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

School employees who exploit students commonly follow a progression of 3 phases of interaction with the schools, parents and students:

  • Phase 1 – Trolling and Testing
  • Phase 2 – Grooming
  • Phase 3 – Exploiting and Lulling
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

3 Phases of Sex Offender Exploitation by a School Employee:

Phase 1 – Trolling and Testing:

  • Schools – offender looks for schools with loose sexual misconduct policies and little understanding about sexual abuse in schools.
  • Parents– offender looks for parents who need assistance with or are disengaged from parenting.
  • Students – offender looks for a student who is emotionally vulnerable and who would be more open to someone stepping in to fill an emotional void.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

3 Phases of Sex Offender Exploitation by a School Employee:

Phase 2 – Grooming:

  • Schools– offender sets up a public persona so that accusations will not be believed, or so that they can explain away any questionable behavior.
  • Parents– offender will be helpful to the family so that access to the student during non-school time is easier.
  • Students– offender will desensitize the student to inappropriate behaviors and make the student feel special through both nonsexual and sexual ways.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Phase 2 – Grooming (continued):

Students – Nonsexual warning signs include:

  • offender trying to move the relationship to a personal level;
  • telling the student their own personal problems;
  • discouraging the student from talking to other school employees about personal problems;
  • or asking the student to run personal errands.

These non-sexual activities are ways to determine the

degree to which the exploiter can influence the student.

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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Phase 2 – Grooming (continued):

Students – Sexual warning signs may include:

  • offender scheduling appointments with the student in the evenings;
  • (taking pleasure in) talking about the student’s sexual matters or romantic relationships;
  • engaging in seductive behaviors;
  • recommending drugs or alcohol as a means of relaxing;
  • or initiating physical contact or suggesting a sexual relationship.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

3 Phases of Sex Offender Exploitation by a School Employee:

Phase 3 – Exploiting and Lulling:

  • Schools– offender begins to be more aggressive in defending behavior by indicating that he or she is more caring and engaged with students than others in the school system.
  • Parents – offender will begin to assume more support from the family while isolating the student from the parents.
  • Students – offender bribes, isolates, extorts, intimidates and/or coerces the student.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Any act of sexual misconduct by a school employee is extremely serious. Sexual exploitation can be suspected as a result of:

  • a student, staff person or community member report.
  • an observation of inappropriate sexual behavior.
  • an observation of inappropriate nonsexual behavior (i.e. flirting or being seen together in unsanctioned social situations).
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Criminal vs. District Matter:

  • Suspected sexual abuse by a school employee is a criminal matter and will be reported to the appropriate enforcement agency – local law enforcement and/or Child Protective Services. State law mandates certificated staff report (or cause to be reported through a supervisor) suspected child abuse by anyone to CPS within 48 hours of becoming aware of the concern. Failure to do so could result in the loss of an employee’s licensure. The Washington State OSPI Office of Professional Practices will also be notified.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Criminal vs. District Matter:

  • Sexual harassment or inappropriate boundary-setting behaviors are initially investigated by administration or by an outside agency on behalf of the District. At any time, depending on the information learned, a specific matter may be turned over to local law enforcement, Child Protective Services and/or the Washington State OSPI Office of Professional Practices.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

In responding to a complaint / concernregarding possible sexual misconduct by a staff member, the District is committed to a rapid and effective investigation that:

  • minimizes trauma to the alleged victim;
  • maintains confidentiality as much as possible and respects the due process rights of the staff member in question, and;
  • minimizes the possibility of tainting the investigation.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

During an investigation, especially if the staff member is placed on administrative leave, fellow staff may want to know:

  • Why is a colleague on leave?
  • Can they talk with the person? … and, if so,
  • What are they allowed to say?
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

This is typically a time of tension.Administrators will usually be asked not to state the reason for the staff member’s leave. Staff members may even be directed not to contact the person in question. This is in the best interest of the alleged victim and the staff person being investigated. It also helps to maintain the integrity and validity of the investigation. This is often difficult because a natural reaction is to want to reach out and support your colleague. And, we know that in a vacuum of information, rumors ensue. All staff are asked to refrain from engaging in any conversation that could harm persons or the process.

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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Post Investigation – 3 Possible Findings:

  • Unfounded – allegation(s) found to be untrue or the situation was misconstrued.
  • Unsubstantiated – not enough evidence to confirm the allegations.
  • Substantiated – a preponderance of evidence supports the allegations. Appropriate sanctions, whether administrative, criminal or both will be applied.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Regardless of the outcome of an investigation,

  • staff and students may deal with supportive or negative emotions about or toward the alleged victim.
  • staff may wrestle with issues of loyalty to their colleague, with anger toward him/her or guilt (i.e. I should have known.).
  • students may also deal with feeling defensive for the staff person or with anger toward him/her.
  • students may begin to question their relationships with other school employees.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Regardless of the outcome of an investigation (continued),

  • some, perhaps many, in the school community may struggle with the question, “Should I have known…..?”
  • media attention will add to the trauma of the school community.
  • there will be negative reactions from the community (i.e. The District should have known earlier; The District acted too slowly; The District was too aggressive, etc.).
  • healing will be needed and it takes time.
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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

Our commitment to our students……

If any Lynden School District employee suspects or witnesses any instance of sexual misconduct by school staff, they must communicate their concern to their supervisor, to another administrator in the District or law enforcement.

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School Staff Sexual Misconduct


Though rare, sexual misconduct by those who work with children is a reality that can devastate students, parents, school districts and entire communities.

The reality is that the overwhelming majority of America’s school employees are committed and caring professionals whose top priority is the safety and well being of students.

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School Staff Sexual Misconduct

References / Resources:

  • American Association of University Women (2001). Hostile Hallways.
  • Canfield and Associates.
  • Hendrie, Carolyn (1998). “Sex With Students: When Employees Cross the Line.”
  • Reynolds, Barbara (2002). Crises and Emergency Risk Communication.
  • Seattle Public Schools (2007). Adult Sexual Misconduct: Keeping Students and Staff Safe.
  • Shakeshaft, Carol (2004). Educator Sexual Misconduct: A synthesis of Existing Literature.
  • Shoop, Robert J. (2004). Sexual Exploitation in Schools: How to Spot It and Stop It.
  • Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E.)
  • U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. The Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Center.
  • Van Dam, Carla (2006). The Socially Skilled Child Molester: Differentiating the Guilty from the Falsely Accused.