A proposal that may limit interaction between teachers and students in the Alpine School District was tabled Tuesday after school board members realized that suggested revisions in the proposal would negate its intent.
The scope-of-employment policy was scheduled for approval, but as board members proposed last-minute wording changes, onlookers began pointing out problems.One policy provision would advise district employees not to invite students to their homes for instruction, counseling, administrative tasks or social activities, and a board member proposed modifying that so it read that teachers should not invite students to their homes for "school-sponsored or school-related" instruction or activities.
Former Board President Richard Sudweeks, who was in the audience, pointed out the change would defeat the purpose of the policy, because teachers could simply invite students to their homes for any type of social activity that wasn't related to school.
The policy was proposed initially in reaction to an incident in May when an Alpine teacher invited two of her fifth-grade students to spend the night in her home after they baby-sat her children. According to the former teacher, the students asked a sexual question at one point in the evening, and rather than answer them herself she gave the children a Masters and Johnson sexual textbook to read. Parents complained about the incident and the teacher was fired.
Though it seems there are a few hitches in its wording, board members believe the policy will give the district important protection.
Board members will review the policy's phrasing and may bring it up for a vote again in their next business meeting, Feb. 14.
The new policy would require teachers to obtain permission from their principal before meeting with students outside the regular school day, and children would not be permitted to visit their teachers' homes or travel with them alone. Further, the proposed policy says, "District employees shall avoid being alone at any time with an individual student unless it is necessary in the performance of professional duties within the scope of employment." Teachers will be permitted to give students one-on-one instruction in the classroom before and after school.
Alpine's attorney advised administrators recently that they should develop the new policy. Superintendent Stephen Baugh said that although most teachers are already following the outlined procedures, some employees need to be reminded.