Dealing with Sensitive Personnel Matters

By Nora Carr

When an art teacher was caught by a principal in a suburban elementary school classroom with his sleeve rolled up, a makeshift tourniquet on his arm, and a heroin injection poised in his hand, even veteran school officials were shocked.

Thankfully, no children were present, but the incident horrified parents, confused students, humiliated staff, and dominated local news coverage.

Amplified online and on talk radio, the story soon shifted -- as most crises do -- to whether the district had strong enough policies and procedures in place to screen personnel and keep kids safe.

While rare, criminal and unsavory acts by school personnel are inherently tough to deal with from a communications perspective. Sharing enough information to keep parents, staff, and the media satisfied without violating student and employee privacy rights is a tough balancing act.

Say too little, and people generally fill in the blanks with something much worse than the truth. Say too much, and the district might wind up in court. 

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