Plattsmouth Community Schools

PLATTSMOUTH – Plattsmouth Board of Education members are exploring the possibility of enacting a professional boundaries policy for staff members to prevent inappropriate behavior at school.

Board members spent time in their regular meeting Monday night reviewing the proposed policy. They decided to send the matter to a three-person committee for further analysis after their discussion.

One of the recommendations included in the proposed policy regards engaging in social networking friendships with students. The policy states “Material that employees post on social networks that is publicly available to those in the school community must reflect the professional image applicable to the employee’s position and not impair the employee’s capacity to maintain the respect of students and parents or impair the employee’s ability to serve as a role model for children. Employees shall not friend or follow students on any social networking site.”

Board members Cory Wehrbein and Tony Foster said they were concerned about the final sentence in that paragraph. They said that could be interpreted to mean school employees would be unable to follow nieces, nephews, cousins or family friends.

“When you say employees shall not friend or follow students on any social networking site, then you probably have every single staff member in the district in violation of this,” Wehrbein said. “That could be tough to enforce.”

“By this policy, if you’re following a relative or a family friend then that would be forbidden,” Foster said. “I’m not sure that’s the route we want to go.”

Another line in the proposed policy said staff members would be in violation for “inviting a student to the employee’s home without prior express permission of the student’s parent and school administrator.” Several board members wondered if that would impact events such as team dinners or meetings that routinely take place at the homes of high school coaches.

Other actions that would be violations for staff members under the proposed policy include:

* Using e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging or social networking sites to discuss with a student a matter that does not pertain to school-related activities, such as the student’s homework, class activity, school sport or club or other school-sponsored activity. Electronic communications with students are to be sent simultaneously to multiple recipients, not just one student, except where the communication is clearly school-related and inappropriate for persons other than the individual student to receive.

* Engaging in sexual activity, a romantic relationship or dating a student or former student within one year of the student graduating or otherwise leaving the district.

* Making any sexual advance – verbal, written or physical – towards a student.

* Showing sexually inappropriate materials or objects to a student.

* Discussing with a student sexual topics that are not related to a specific curriculum.

* Telling sexual jokes to a student.

* Invading a student’s physical privacy.

* Hugging or other physical contact with a student that is initiated by the employee when the student does not seek or want this attention.

* Being overly “touchy” with a specific student.

* Allowing a specific student to get away with misconduct that is not tolerated from other students, except as appropriate for students with an IEP or 504 Plan.

* Discussing with a student the employee’s problems that would normally be discussed with adults.

* Giving a student a ride in the employee’s personal vehicle without express permission of the student’s parent or school administrator unless another adult is in the vehicle.

* Taking a student on an outing without obtaining prior express permission of the student’s parent or school administrator.

* Going to the student’s home when the student’s parent or a proper chaperone is not present.

* Giving gifts of a personal nature to a specific student.

* Discussing alcohol, tobacco or other illicit drugs in a non-instructional setting, such as describing a party that the employee attended.

* Discussing another student’s or employee’s personal matters when it is not appropriate outside of the instructional setting.

The policy states “appropriate exceptions are permitted to the foregoing for legitimate health or educational purposes and for reasons of family relationships between employees and their children who are students in the district.”

Board members had been prepared to vote on a final reading of the policy, but they voted 8-0 to change it to a first reading instead. Foster, Matt Glup and Karen Parsons will review the language in the document as part of their Policy Committee duties. They will share their findings at next month’s board meeting.

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