Instructional Tunes from VEA Legal Services
September 29, 2021
September 29, 2021
Some instructional tunes from VEA Legal Services.
By Dena Rosenkrantz
While you may sing as you go about your work, VEA Legal Services wants to remind you that there are some songs you definitely don’t want for your theme song. Use these tunes as common-sense reminders to steer clear of trouble (with apologies to the composers, lyricists and performers):
“Baby You Can Drive My Car”: Are you employed to drive a school vehicle? Make sure you keep your driver’s license current and that you obey the rules of the road at all times. If your school job involves driving, a ticket or accident behind the wheel of your personal vehicle could affect your license and cost your school job. Even school jobs that do not require driving can be affected by off-duty traffic charges. Law enforcement officials notify school officials if a school employee is arrested. Finally, we recommend that you not drive students in your personal vehicle without a written order from your school supervisor. Accidents happen to even the most careful driver and being alone in a car with a student or students makes you vulnerable to accusations of inappropriate behavior or speech. Which leads to…
“I’ll Be Watching You” or “I Think We’re Alone Now”: Avoid being alone with a student. Leave the door open and the window clear. Remember that other people can see and hear your interactions with students—consider how they’ll understand the scene. When you offer encouragement or reward a student, a social worker or concerned observer could conceivably see “grooming,” actions taken to befriend and establish emotional connection with a child to lower inhibitions in preparation for sexual abuse.
“Pennies from Heaven”: Even small amounts of money can have huge significance for your school job. Make sure you record all funds received and disbursed, and promptly turn in records and funds. Keep school money separate from your own. Don’t borrow or use school money, even for a short time. Using petty cash to buy lunch with plans to return the money after you visit the bank could be grounds for a criminal charge. Even grants or checks made out to you may be considered school funds that you have to turn in not cash for yourself.
“Do You Want to Hear a Secret”: No school employee, not even a guidance counselor, is allowed to keep a student confidence. State law requires school employees to report suspected child abuse. Licensed instructional and administrative personnel must notify a student’s parent of any communication giving reason to believe the student is suicidal. Don’t invite students to share personal information with you, but be prepared and follow up when a student does confide something. You may have to pass the information on to school colleagues and document that you’ve done so. In the opposite direction, be careful what you let your students know about your personal life.
“When I’m 64”: You are surrounded by young people and feel young at heart. But school is your job and you can’t behave like one of the kids. Joking, teasing, gossiping, and flirting with your students can lead to trouble. Your judgment that a kid “can take it” or “enjoys the attention” could be misplaced. “Groundhog Day” is a movie title, not a song, but think about how it applies to your work. You get older every year but the new students you get every year don’t. You do things better each year but you must also consider that your students may react differently because you look and sound different than you used to. Behavior that students loved early in your career may have different impact years later; update your routine and wardrobe.
Rosenkrantz is the director of VEA Legal Services.