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Appropriate Boundaries Between Catherine Cook School Staffulty and Students

As employees of an educational institution, faculty and staff are held to a higher standard by parents, caregivers, students, colleagues, and members of the public. The information below is being provided in compliance with Illinois School Code provisions enacted under Public Act 102-0676, referred to as Faith’s Law.  This document describes the expectations for Staffulty regarding maintaining a professional relationship with students, including but not limited to, expectations for staff-student boundaries, and recognizing the age and developmental level of students served.

The School supports and endorses a strict policy of respect toward students and expects employees to act at all times as adult role models. Students typically respond better to faculty and staff and evidence greater levels of respect when appropriate expectations are established from the beginning of the relationship. Therefore, faculty and staff members should not engage in any interaction or communication that may reflect even the appearance of impropriety or make students feel unsafe. If a faculty or staff member is not sure whether a particular comment or action may be appropriate, it is far better to avoid the behavior than risk negative consequences. All Staffulty must adhere to the core principles, values, and responsibilities applicable to Illinois educators outlined in the Code of Ethics for Illinois Educators, 23 Ill. Adm. Part 22.  The expectations contained in this policy are in addition to all applicable federal and state law and regulations and other applicable policies and procedures.

All Staffulty are explicitly prohibited from engaging in grooming behaviors or sexual misconduct with students. Sexual misconduct is any act, including, but not limited to, any verbal, nonverbal, written, or electronic communication or physical activity, by an employee or agent of the School with direct contact with a student that is directed toward or with a student to establish a romantic or sexual relationship with the student.  Such an act includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:

  • A sexual or romantic invitation.
  • Dating or soliciting a date.
  • Engaging in sexualized or romantic dialog.
  • Making sexually suggestive comments that are directed toward or with a student.
  • Self-disclosure or physical exposure of a sexual, romantic, or erotic nature.
  • A sexual, indecent, romantic, or erotic contact with the student.

The following are examples of inappropriate interactions and communications with students. This list is not all-inclusive, and other similar activities should also be avoided:

  • Meeting with a student or contacting a student outside of the Staffulty member’s professional role and/or without express consent of their parents/guardians. Staffulty are strictly prohibited from using any form of communication with students (including but not limited to e-mails, letters, notes, text messages, phone calls, conversations) that includes any subject matter that would be deemed unprofessional and inappropriate between Staffulty and a student;
  • Giving out any phone numbers or asking for other students’ phone numbers for use in situations other than for legitimate school reasons;
  • Encouraging or allowing students to call faculty or staff members by an unapproved nickname;
  • Touching students or their clothing in non-professional ways or inappropriate places;
  • Making personal comments to students (about their clothing, appearance, expression, personal habits, etc.);
  • Sending emails, texts, or notes to students of a personal nature;
  • Inviting a student to visit social media sites and/or “friending” a student on social media;
  • Giving students rides in a personal vehicle, except in emergency situations and with consent of parents/guardians and/or supervisor, documented in writing. If at all feasible, Staffulty should be accompanied by another Staffulty member when transporting a student. If it is not feasible to obtain advance permission or notify a parent/guardian prior to transporting the student (such as an emergency situation or when a parent/guardian cannot be contacted), Staffulty should take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the student. Within a reasonable period of time following transportation of a student, Staffulty should document what actions were taken and notify both their supervisor and the parents/guardians in a follow up communication;
  • Taking or possessing a photo or video of a student for personal use;
  • Discussing with students the personal affairs of other students or colleagues;
  • Speaking with innuendo to suggest a relationship or sexual subjects;
  • Flirting with students;
  • Visiting students to “hang out” in their hotel rooms when on overnight events;
  • Swearing, making inappropriate sexual/racial/or ethnic comments, or telling off-color jokes.

In addition, employees should never physically move, grab, or touch a student, or grab something from a student with aggression or because of frustration. A teacher or staff member should never treat a student with anything less than respect and dignity. If a student does not follow directions as expected, employees should communicate clearly the instructions and, if the student does not listen or respond properly, take appropriate action. This action could include any number of responses, such as separating the student from the group; walking up to the student and ensuring that the student clearly sees the employee communicate with them; removing the student from the activity; communicating with the parent after the event; writing a counseling report; reporting the student to another appropriate School authority, etc.

Moreover, any employee who is also a parent of a student at the School is expected, when acting in a parental role or capacity, to address perceived problems or alleged inequities by other students (bullying, etc.) in the same way all other parents are to address such actions. Generally, the employee should report the problem to the appropriate administrator and should not take personal action to address the situation.

A professional relationship must be maintained with students and families at all times. Care should be exercised, since some relationships (e.g. babysitting) may place faculty in an unintended – and possibly unprofessional – situation. In general, employees of the School, with the exception of Teaching Assistants, are prohibited from babysitting, house-sitting, or engaging in other work for current students and families of the School. Teaching Assistants may not babysit or house-sit for families whose children are currently in their classrooms. Teachers may not tutor students in their current grade or within their cohort. Employees should not invite students to their homes or engage in social activities with students outside of the School or in School-related activities, unless authorized by the Head of School.

All employees are expected to take responsibility for the safety and welfare of students. If a faculty or staff member observes any employee, parent/guardian, volunteer, or contractor engaging in any type of inappropriate or questionable behavior with a student or violating any aspect of this policy, they should report the information immediately to the student’s division head or Human Resources. In addition, as a part of every employee’s obligation to keep children and the campus safe, a teacher or staff member who receives information reflecting that any person who regularly or periodically visits the School’s campus (student, employee, parent, spouse of an employee, family member, volunteer, or contractor) has engaged in behavior that could constitute abuse or has been accused, arrested or convicted of any type of abuse or sexual misconduct toward any other person must immediately report such information to a division director or the Head of School. This reporting requirement is in additional to the individual’s requirements to report suspected child abuse under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (ANCRA) and Title IX, if applicable.

Any employee who engages in behavior that violates this policy or who fails to report such activity by others will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.