While the issue of school safety has taken center stage in the news media during the past month, it is one that is always at the front of our minds as a Panama City school injury law firm. Attorney Pittman takes care to stay up-to-date on school-related safety issues on both the national and local level, so our team can better serve victims of all forms of school injury. In addition to protecting students from violence like the tragedy in Connecticut, we follow developments that can help us keep children safe from inappropriate relationships, sexual abuse, and other mistreatment in school environments.
This week, The News Herald covered the actions of the Bay District School Board relating to sexual relationships between students and faculty members as well as employee social media use. On the former issue, the board moved towards making all sexual relationships between students and faculty against policy, regardless of the age of the student or the school he or she attends. In large part, the new measure comes as a response to a teacher fathering the child of an 18-year-old student at another school.
Although she gave birth after graduation, she'd become pregnant while a student in the district. School Superintendent Bill Husfelt noted that, although they'd been unaware of the recent relationship until after the fact, the policy would give the school justification to terminate a faculty member involved in a similar relationship. Without the formal policy, a faculty member could protest such a firing and claim the relationship had not been specifically forbidden.
According to Shawn Michalik, the executive director of human resources and employee support services, the policy specifically outlines what constitutes an inappropriate relationship and lays forth the consequences of a violation. Michalik noted the board also worked on a new policy involving inappropriate relationships between supervisors and the employees they supervise.
Additionally, the board is also advertising a new social media policy for employees. According to Michalik, the union had asked for clarification given concerns raised about certain employees making poor choices online. She said the board could not tell employees what to post or not post, but the policy provides an outline of consequences. These consequences are very situation specific, but Michalik specifically mentioned a case in which an employee was fired after making inappropriate comments to a student over Facebook.
Discussing the various relationship issues covered in the new policies, both Michalik and Husfelt focused on the question of whether an act constituted a disruption of the educational process. This can mean anything that shifts the focus of the school environment, including anything that is demeaning to a student in the district.
At The Pittman Firm, we applaud any steps that provide more protection for our children. We hope the Bay District Schools continue to work to protect students from inappropriate relationships and other forms of abuse by faculty and other employees. As a civil law firm, we work with victims of Panama City school abuse to end the mistreatment and get justice for the children. Policies such as those instituted by the school board are not essential to proving a civil case, but they can provide useful support to such actions.
If your child has been the victim of sexual abuse or other mistreatment in Florida Panhandle schools, please call our firm to schedule a free initial consultation. As a lawyer for abuse victims in Panama City, Attorney Pittman can help you get justice for your child.