by Ben Scungio | You wake up early on a lovely Tuesday summer morning and peruse your emails while enjoying a coffee. As a school administrator, one email from a parent immediately catches your attention. It contains the following complaint:
“My child witnessed times (during or immediately) before or after football team activities in the spring of 2022 where older football team members engaged in highly inappropriate physical contact with younger team members and/or prospective team members.”
By the end of the week this information hits the media. Now what?
Our BRCSM attorneys addressed these issues at the recent RISSA-RIASBO Legal Institute.
Districts benefit from a disciplined response to any crisis which will ensure that students and staff are safe; a disciplined response tends to reduce a district’s reputational damage, too.
Let The Professionals Help
It is critical to form a crisis management team, create incident reporting forms and implement policies to guide a district through an appropriate response. A crisis management team should always include a crisis management specialist.
These professionals can assist by leveraging their experience in public relations and helping negotiate engagement with the public, reviewing press releases for coherence and relevancy, and avoiding common mistakes when dealing with the media.
Similarly, your legal counsel can help you determine process steps, such as when and how to perform an independent or internal investigation, what to do with the results of an investigation, liaising with local and state law enforcement, meeting specific reporting requirements and understanding liability issues. Your attorney can also help with a forensic review after the crisis has abated, including how to remediate the issue for the future.
We all know that crises in the educational environment are inevitable. But we can prepare for them by following a few simple steps:
a. Regularly review, revise, and update policies.
b. Employees should become familiar with policies.
c. Avoid lax enforcement.
d. Document steps taken.
e. Exercise best judgment aligned with policies.
f. Know that investigations are a good and bad thing.
Remember that the golden rule in crisis management is “Any action that protects students is always the right decision.”
If you would like more information on planning for a crisis or any other education-related issue, contact Ben Scungio here.