How specific are you about “boundary violations”?

I got a text from a friend recently who is a teacher in a local school district. The text exchange went like this:

Teacher: Hey! One of the lawyers in your firm is talking to our faculty today.

Me: And?

Teacher: We’re not supposed to have sex with the kids!

Well, I’m glad that point was well made.  I’m confident that my colleague’s presentation went into some detail about this.

Telling school staff not to have sex with the kids is a good start, but only that. We have to dive into the weeds on this.  We have to talk about “boundary violations.”  We know from research that the sexual misconduct that occurs in schools is most often preceded by a careful cultivation of the student, along with some testing of boundaries.  It’s called “grooming.” The wise administrator interrupts boundary violations and takes action right then, without waiting for things to escalate.

To do that, you have to clearly define what you mean by a “boundary violation.”  I came across some training material about this recently.  I was impressed with the specificity the materials provided. These material were developed for people working with children in a church ministry. The materials provide a specific list of things that are OK and things that are not. For example:

OK:  Verbal praise.  Brief side hugs or arm around shoulder.  Brief pat on the upper back or shoulder.  High fives, hand slaps, fist bumps.  Holding hands with small children.  Sitting beside small children.  Kneeling or bending down for a brief hug with small children.  Brief touching of hand, face, head, shoulder, or arm.

NOT OK: Initiating embraces, or long or inappropriate embraces.  Holding a child over 3 in your lap.  Touching any part of the leg, buttocks, chest or genital area.  Being alone in an isolated area.  Comments that relate to physique, body development, express affection.  Engaging in the following when in the presence of minors: swearing, using vulgar language, possessing or displaying sexually oriented or morally inappropriate materials.  Discussing sexual activities or engaging in sexually oriented conversations.

I think that’s a pretty good start.


 Tomorrow: A “Risky Business” frat party….