Monday, August 20, 2012

5 Takeaways From the Colleps Sex Scandal

The principal and administrative staff at Kennedale High School are having a tough week.  Their school is in the news which, in this case, is not a good thing.

Former KHS teacher Brittni Colleps was convicted this week of having sex with four students while a teacher at the school.  All of the students were over 18 at the time of the incident so she was convicted under a Texas law that criminalizes sex between students and teachers regardless of age.  Colleps, who apparently had a broad definition of group work, was identified by her tattoo in a cell phone video made by one of the boys.  The video was played in court.

Our culture tends to minimize this type of behavior when boys are involved.  The teacher gets called a few names, the boys get a wink and a pat on the back.  Let's be clear, teachers engaged in sex with students is wrong at any age, on any level.  We know that and can applaud the judge who did the right thing by sentencing Colleps to five years in prison.  

But that's not what I want to talk about today.  Today I want to talk about what you should if you find your school embroiled in a sex scandal.

  1. Don't panic.  A sex scandal at your school is a terrible, terrible thing.  You're going to get bad press.  People are likely going to lose their jobs.  You'll feel guilty, duped, and angry.  Panic will only cause you to make bad decisions and a bad situation will become worse.  Stay calm.
  2. Resist the urge to investigate.  I know you want to know what's going on.  I know you want to start protecting you school's reputation.  Stop.  This needs to be investigated by the police and/or child protective services.  An investigation conducted by the school may taint evidence or witness statements.  You may be a part of a joint school-police-CPS investigation but for now wait for direction from other agencies.  
  3. Provide for the safety and care of students.  Remove the teacher from contact with students.  If school is in session, send a substitute to the room and have the teacher sit in the conference room.  Support students but again resist the urge to question students until authorities arrive.
  4. Develop a communication plan.  Your statement will likely be something like, "That's a personnel matter so I can't discuss things in detail but please know that we have taken steps to keep children safe" but eventually you'll have to tell the community something.  
  5. Begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild.  The healing process will be slow and painful especially for the students involved.  Make sure they are taken care of.  Keep your notes and memory fresh as the case moves through the court system.  

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