President's Perspective

President's Perspective

President's Perspective

More action needed to stop inappropriate student-teacher relationships
 
Kentucky School Advocate
November 2016
 
By Allen Kennedy
KSBA President
The 2016 KSBA Fall Regional Meetings have once again come and gone, but one aspect of the sessions proved especially thought-provoking and, to me, worth more exploration.

During the regional meetings, Executive Director Mike Armstrong shared his video interview with Jimmy Adams, executive director of the Education Professional Standards Board, focusing on recommendations from an EPSB task force on combatting inappropriate student-teacher relationships.

I found the discussion between the two (Mike was a member of the task force) to be very interesting and important enough to expand upon. Our obligation as board members is to implement policies. It is the responsibility of the superintendent and staff to enforce the policies protecting our students from inappropriate relationships.

This subject of inappropriate relationships looms wide in our society today. The rise in the number of these incidents is having an effect in education and is troubling to me. A key ingredient to public education is the fact that there should be a high level of public trust. We seem to be seeing an erosion of that trust in today’s society.

A number of news outlets and publications, including the Lexington Herald-Leader, have reported that Kentucky had the second-highest per capita rate of inappropriate relationships in the country in 2014, according to research by former U.S. Department of Education official Terry Abbott. Having served on the Education Professional Standards Board, I can attest to a significant increase in inappropriate student-teacher relationships during my tenure on the board. In (successfully) lobbying for study of the issue back in 2015, State Rep. Regina Bunch cited a 2000 study by the American Association of University Women reporting that 10 percent of the students between eighth and 11th grades felt they were victims of inappropriate sexual conduct from a teacher or other school employee. For school personnel to sexually abuse a child in such a nature is inexcusable and a complete breach of the trust they have been granted.

Kentucky is not the only state to experience this pattern. The San Antonio News reported there was a 27 percent increase of inappropriate student-teacher relationship investigations in Texas in 2014. The number of investigations jumped from 141 during the 2009-10 academic year to 179 in 2013-14, out of a half-million certified instructors in that state.

What are the answers to positive action moving forward? I think once a policy is formulated, the implementation of training for all school personnel is the first positive move. A copy of Robert J. Shoop’s outstanding book, Sexual Exploitation in Schools: How to Spot It and Stop It, is an excellent training resource. It is a short read, at 138 pages, and the last chapter includes Action Steps for the District, Principals and Educators. I think it should be required reading for all school personnel, especially those in the classroom. It could also be used in training sessions through KSBA and colleges preparing teachers of the future. I was first introduced to the book as a member of the EPSB during a training session.

The EPSB task force report on the topic, released this summer, also is worth reviewing for action steps. You can find it by going to www.epsb.ky.gov/boardinfo/committeeminutes.asp.

Finally, I also believe a collaborative effort of all partners working together to develop steadfast policies and procedures is important to control this issue in our schools.
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