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Hart superintendent responds to editorial

Posted: June 22, 2008 5:56 p.m.
Updated: August 23, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Half of The Signal's June 15 editorial summarized recent allegations of "sexually inappropriate" conduct by William S. Hart Union High School District employees and a volunteer.

The critical question, and the one that district staff has already been answering for understandably concerned parents, appears below the fold. That question is: "Where is the district on this?"

The Hart district utilizes very stringent hiring procedures. Every applicant is fingerprinted. Those prints are screened through the Department of Justice database, which includes a check for sex offenses.

Potential employees must provide proof of a non-reactive tuberculosis test and of course, references from previous employers are checked.

It should be noted that, while the Hart district Governing Board approves all hiring, it does so on the recommendation of district staff. The Governing Board members are not directly involved in the screening or interviewing process for individuals seeking employment with the district.

Whenever the district has become aware of possible impropriety with a student, we have worked diligently to gather information as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, and to assist law enforcement in every way possible as it conducts its investigation of the allegations.

While The Signal might wish to become privy to detailed accounts of possible misconduct, confidentiality laws clearly prohibit the district from publicly disclosing that information. Doing so would not help law enforcement in its fact-finding, and could possibly jeopardize the investigation.

The Hart district takes very seriously any and all allegations of inappropriate behavior by its employees. The district consists of more than 3,262 teachers, counselors, coaches and classified staff, and we value the trust and confidence the community has placed in us for over 60 years.

Student safety is our highest priority, and when an employee uses his or her authority to harm a child, either physically or emotionally, the district uses its full authority to investigate the situation and discipline the offender.

Criminal prosecution is, of course, outside of the purview of the district, but as stated earlier, we will always cooperate fully with law enforcement in investigating allegations of wrongdoing.

So, what is the Hart district doing right now? The Signal shouldn't sell short the June 9 session with Sgt. Dan Scott.

Sgt. Scott is involved in all of the pending investigations. His insight on this topic was indispensable. That meeting was attended by all school site administrators and district managers.

In the fall, principals and assistant principals will be working directly with their site staff members to ensure that all adults on campus are aware of the laws and policies regarding the manner in which adults and students work together.

On Aug. 4, all district administrators will participate in an extended workshop where the rules regarding appropriate contact between staff and students will be reinforced.

As part of the program, attendees will work in small groups to consider various hypothetical situations where they will review what is proper and what is not proper.

When schools reopen, principals will facilitate similar exercises with their faculties, re-examining professional standards and ethics, including their responsibility to report any inappropriate relationship of which they might become aware. The consequences for such behavior will also be re-emphasized.

Good teachers have relationships with their students. In the vast majority of instances, these relationships are healthy, nurturing, ethical and completely appropriate. Students trust and confide in their counselors, coaches, campus supervisors, and other adults at school.

Parents typically value these relationships, and entrust the safety and well-being of their children to us, the adults. This is what parents and their children expect and deserve from us.


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