By Nora Jacobs, Hennes Communications
NOTE: While this article is aimed at school-related allegations of sexual misconduct, the lessons here are applicable to all market sectors.
As we have seen on the national stage recently, there appears to be no statute of limitations when it comes to allegations of sexual misconduct. Thanks especially to the visibility of the MeToo movement, victims of sexual misconduct are coming forward to report incidents sometimes dating back decades — incidents that, at the time, these victims were not able to reveal. That means almost any organization is vulnerable to this issue, even if the alleged misconduct took place long before the accused perpetrator had any connection to the entity now facing outrage.
Even if you have clear policies to surface and investigate allegations of sexual misconduct, even if you conduct rigorous background checks as part of your hiring process, it’s impossible to completely protect your organization from the crisis that surely will result if this type of behavior is linked to someone on your board, your staff, your administration, your faculty, your volunteer corps, or any other group associated with your operations.
Schools in particular have a high vulnerability to this threat given the close and unequal relationship between students and teachers. Indeed, sexual misconduct frequently tops the list of crisis threats schools now tell us they want to prepare for. This article, authored by our colleague David Wolowitz, co-chair of the education law group for McLane Middleton, P.A., provides some excellent advice for schools to help them prepare for and manage a crisis involving sexual misconduct. In our experience, his recommendations regarding board-administration relationships and the need for clear guiding principles are spot-on.