Boundaries Between Teachers And Students: Important For Maintaining Safe Student Environments

A 53-year-old Wisconsin teacher is accused of sexual assault involving "inappropriate touching" of a minor student.

There are no details on what actually transpired, but the police department opened an investigation. The school district and the high school where the alleged perpetrator worked have been fully cooperating with the investigation. WIFR Newsroom "Beloit High School teacher arrested over alleged sexual assault of a child" (Feb. 19, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

The training of teachers and other staff should include training on boundaries, including physical boundaries. Not all physical touching crosses boundaries. Treating a simple injury or giving a pat on the shoulder for a job well done are proper touches. What determines proper physical interaction is why and how adults touch children.

Touching a child with the intent to harm, hurt, threaten, scare, and/or for sexual reasons is prohibited and is a violation of appropriate boundaries. All forms of sexual touching between adults and students are illegal, no matter the intent. This includes an adult sexually touching a child, as well as a child sexually touching an adult.

How can schools help school employees maintain proper boundaries with students?

  • Do not allow school employees to email, text, or communicate with students electronically without copying the parent or guardian.
  • Do not allow school employees to transport a student unless there another safe adult present.
  • Do not allow school employees to touch students inappropriately. Interrupt employees who are touch students other than using a pat on the back or shoulder and caution them to check their conduct.
  • Maintain open rooms so that a teacher meeting one-on-one with a student can be seen by anyone passing by at any time.
  • Make sure you have several reporting methods available so any employee, volunteer, or student may report inappropriate touching or sexual abuse.
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