567R-D - Maintaining Appropriate and Professional Relationships with Students

  • General
    Staff members are expected to maintain courteous and appropriate professional relationships with students. All staff members have a responsibility to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning through consistently and fairly applied discipline and the maintenance of appropriate and professional physical and emotional boundaries with students. These boundaries must be maintained regardless of the student's age, the location of the activity, whether the student allegedly consents to the relationship or whether the staff member directly supervises the student. Maintaining these boundaries is an essential requirement for working in Frederick County Public Schools and staff members should strive to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

    Although this policy applies to the relationships between staff members and FCPS students, staff members who inappropriately interact with any child may be disciplined or terminated when Frederick County Public Schools determines such action is necessary to protect students.

    1. Absolute Prohibitions
      There are some interactions between staff members and students that are never acceptable and are absolutely prohibited including, but not limited to:

      1. Touching, caressing, fondling or kissing students in a sexual or sexually intimate manner.

      2. Making sexual, flirtatious, or romantic advances toward a student; dating a student; discussing or planning a future romantic or sexual relationship with a student; or engaging in a sexual relationship with a student.

      3. Exposing a student to pornography.

      4. Contacting a student via social media for any harassing, discriminatory or illicit purpose.

      5. Associating with students in any setting where students are provided, are consuming or are encouraged to use or consume alcohol, tobacco, drugs or any other products or services prohibited to minors.

    2. Conduct that Could Provide Appearances of Impropriety
      Unless an educational purpose exists or an exception as defined in this policy applies, examples of situations where appropriate and professional physical and emotional boundaries are violated include, but are not limited to:

      1. Being alone with a student in a room with a closed or locked door or with the lights off.

      2. Communicating with students about sexual topics verbally or by any form of written, pictorial or electronic communication.

      3. Being present when students are fully or partially nude.

      4. Discussing the staff member's personal problems with or in the presence of students.

      5. Conducting ongoing, private, conversations with individual students that are unrelated to school activities or the well-being of the student.

      6. Inviting a student or students for social contact off school grounds without the permission or knowledge of the parents of the students involved.

      7. Sponsoring parties or other events for students outside of school unless as part of an extracurricular activity that is appropriately supervised by additional staff members or parents/guardians.

      8. Inviting a student or students to the staff member’s home without the knowledge and permission of the parents of the students involved.

      9. Visiting the homes of students without the knowledge and consent of parents.

      10. Singling out a particular student or groups of students for personal attention and friendship beyond the bounds of an appropriate educator/mentor-student relationship.

      11. Sending students on personal errands.

      12. Allowing a student to drive the staff member's vehicle or transporting students in personal vehicles without the knowledge and consent of parents and supervisors.

      13. Allowing any student to engage in behavior that would not be tolerated if done by other similarly situated students.

      14. Giving or receiving inappropriate gifts to or from individual students.

      15. Causing any student to miss instructional time or opportunities for non-educational purposes.

    3. Electronic Communication
      Staff members are encouraged to communicate with students and parents/guardians for educational purposes using a variety of effective methods, including electronic communication. As with other forms of communication, staff members must maintain appropriate and professional boundaries with students while using electronic communication regardless of whether the communication methods are provided by FCPS or the staff member uses his/her own personal electronic communication devices, accounts, web pages or other forms of electronic communication.

      FCPS policies, regulations, procedures and expectations regarding in-person communications at school and during the school day also apply to electronic communications for educational purposes, regardless of when those communications occur. Staff communications must be appropriate and professional, and student communications must be appropriate. Staff members may use electronic communication with students only as frequently as necessary to accomplish the educational purpose.

      1. Staff use of any electronic communication is subject to FCPS policies, regulations and procedures including, but not limited to, policies, regulations, procedures and legal requirements governing the confidentiality and release of information about identifiable students. Employees who obtain pictures or other information about identifiable students through their connections with FCPS are prohibited from posting such pictures or information on personal websites or personal social networking websites without permission from a supervisor.

      2. FCPS discourages staff members from communicating with students electronically for reasons other than educational purposes. When an electronic communication is not for educational purposes, the section of this policy titled "Exceptions to This Policy" applies, and if concerns are raised, the staff member must be prepared to demonstrate that the communications are appropriate. This policy does not limit staff members from communicating with their children, stepchildren or other persons living within the staff member’s home who happen to be FCPS students.

    4. Exceptions to This Policy
      The goal of this policy is to protect students from harm and staff members from allegations of misconduct by requiring staff members to maintain appropriate and professional boundaries with students. FCPS does not intend to interfere with or impede appropriate interactions between staff members and students.

      An emergency situation or an educational purpose might justify deviation from appropriate and professional boundaries set out in this policy. Likewise, staff members might be related to students or have contact with students outside the school environment through friends, neighborhood or community activities, or participation in civic, religious or other organizations. These contacts might justify deviation from some of the standards set out in the “Conduct that Could Provide Appearances of Impropriety” section of this regulation, but under no circumstance will these outside relations disrupt the educational environment. In addition, every measure shall be taken to avoid any appearance of impropriety and under no circumstance shall any outside relations be used to justify deviating from the "Absolute Prohibitions" section of this policy.

      The staff member must be prepared to articulate the reason for any deviation from the requirements of this policy and must demonstrate that he/she has maintained an appropriate and professional relationship with the student. To avoid confusion, Frederick County Public Schools encourages staff members to consult with their building administrators/department heads prior to engaging in behaviors or activities that might violate appropriate and professional boundaries as defined in this regulation.

    5. Consequences
      Employees who violate this policy will be disciplined, up to and including termination of employment. FCPS will report violations of this policy to the appropriate contractor, agency or university if the staff member is not an FCPS employee. If a School Board member violates this policy, the violation will be reported to the School Board chairman. In addition, FCPS will report certain violations to law enforcement and Child Protective Services, as required by law.

    6. Reporting
      Any person, including a student, who has a concern about or is uncomfortable with a relationship or activities between a staff member and a student should bring their concern immediately to the attention of a building administrator, counselor or department head. If discrimination or harassment is suspected, the process in Section IV of Policy 506P, Personnel – Prohibition Against Harassment and Retaliation will be followed.

      Any staff member who possesses knowledge or evidence of possible violations of this policy must immediately make a report to their building administrator/department head or the Executive Director of Human Resources. All staff members who know or have reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or harassment shall immediately report the suspected violation in accordance with Policy 508P, Personnel- Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting and the Code of Virginia, § 63.2-1509. Staff members may be disciplined for failing to make such reports.

      A staff member who reports in good faith a violation of this regulation will not be subjected to discrimination or retaliation. If such discrimination or retaliation occurs, the staff member shall report to the Executive Director of Human Resources.

      If contacted, the Executive Director of Human Resources will disclose an employee’s formal discipline imposed for violations of this regulation to school divisions seeking references; likewise, a volunteer’s dismissal from volunteer services for violation of this policy will be disclosed as appropriate.

    7. Training
      Frederick County Public Schools provides training for staff on the prevention of misconduct and abuse and disseminates information about relevant FCPS policies to staff, students and parents.


    Legal Reference(s):
    Code of Virginia, as amended, Section(s) 63.2-1509


    Cross Reference(s):
    Policy 218P, Administration- Human Rights

    Policy 506P, Personnel- Prohibition Against Harassment and Retaliation

    Policy 508P, Personnel- Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting

    Policy 567P, Personnel- Acceptable Computer System Use

    Regulation 567R-A, Personnel- Acceptable Computer System Use

    Regulation 567R-B, Personnel- Electronic Mail, Social Media and Networking

    Regulation 567R-C, Personnel- Instructional Use of Social Networking Sites by Employees


    Adopted: August 11, 2015
    Amended: May 24, 2021 (Effective July 1, 2021)