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Investigating employee misconduct
January 18, 2021
In every school district, officials strive to create a positive and professional environment conducive to both working and learning. When allegations arise that an employee has engaged in harassment, sexual misconduct, insubordination, corporal punishment or some other form of serious wrongdoing, administrators are obligated to investigate such allegations in accordance with board policies and various laws and regulations. Even when there is no legal obligation to conduct an investigation, a well-handled inquiry can help administrators decide whether action is appropriate.
How a district handles allegations of misconduct can affect the district’s reputation, environment, operations and ability to defend against claims by third parties, and there are many pitfalls to avoid. For instance, neither the substance of the allegations nor the existence of an investigation should be disclosed to anyone without a need to know. Improper disclosure of information could lead to claims for defamation or infliction of emotional distress, exposing the district to liability.
This article will provide information and practical advice on how to handle an investigation effectively. We recommend 10 steps in responding to such situations:
1. Act promptly. Timeliness is crucial in any investigation of alleged employee misconduct. Prompt action increases the effectiveness of the investigation and maximizes the opportunity to gather reliable evidence. Criminal and civil statutes may have deadlines, so be aware that a statute of limitations may apply.