- Site Inspections allow a district to identify potential problematic situations. It is important for Site Administrators to be aware of employee tendencies and inspect sites for suspicious things such as the teacher who allows free and open access to classrooms during recess and lunch while providing candy as an enticement.
- Investigations should be conducted without prejudice. Police do not want sexual abuse and molestation investigations to be tainted nor would this ever be to the district’s advantage. Remember, this is a criminal matter.
- Early Case Evaluation – A district should also allow for early case evaluation and involve their defense counsel to evaluate potential early resolution of claims.
- Understanding the AB 1432 Legal Requirements – Effective January 1, 2015, AB 1432 requires that all school districts, county offices of education (COEs), state special schools and diagnostic centers operated by the California Department of Education (CDE), and charter schools and their school personnel in California, provide training to employees on child abuse and neglect reporting . These agencies are required to do all of the following:
- Annually train employees, including substitutes, within the first six (6) weeks of each school year.
- Train new employees, including substitutes, within six (6) weeks of employment.
- Develop a process to provide proof of completing the above training to the school’s governing board or body of the school district, county office of education, state special school and diagnostic center or charter school.
- Report to the Department of Education the training being used if other than the online training module provided by the State Department of Social Services (DSS)
- Create a Social Media Policy and train all employees on the risks of student communications through social media vehicles.
- Establish Communication Protocols in advance of experiencing an unfortunate situation where a high profile incident such as sexual abuse or molestation has occurred and the media has become aware.
Many times districts are not equipped or prepared to deal with the media onslaught that these types of incidents elicit. Statements are often made to the press that compromise and prejudice a district’s liability position. It is important for a district to formulate a Crisis Management Strategy and identify a spokesperson within the district that is trained and prepared to make statements on behalf of the district or use an outside Public Relations type firm.
Crisis Communications Webinar: The video below is a 1-hour webinar that reviews the traits and practices that are common to successful crisis management campaigns, as well as the most common public relations pitfalls in times of high-profile crises.
Districts must not try to handle issues alone and hope they go away. Districts must immediately report the incidents to the appropriate agencies. They should also report to their insurance program provider, which should have resources to help with investigations, case analysis and consultation with expert defense attorneys.