LKSD Wraps Up Audit To Prevent Sexual Abuse In Schools
The Lower Kuskokwim School District just wrapped up a year-long effort to better protect its students from sexual abuse.
In fall of 2020, LKSD hired an education expert to help overhaul its policies and practices for preventing student sexual abuse. Dr. Janet Barry audited the district’s hiring practices, staff trainings, and other areas for sexual abuse prevention. After many improvements made over the past year, she said that the district is in good shape to protect its students.
“What LKSD is doing now, in the system they've created, is to stop abuse before it starts by taking away opportunities,” Barry said.
Barry said that part of this system is identifying and banning inappropriate behaviors that adults can use to sexually groom students. In the Sept. 15 school board meeting, board members took action towards listing examples of those prohibited behaviors explicitly in the district policies. Some of those behaviors include texting or messaging particular students frequently, being overly touchy with a student, or being alone with a student behind closed doors at school.
LKSD also updated its procedures for handling reports of inappropriate sexual behaviors. The report will now be reviewed by a three person team consisting of the district’s superintendent, human resources director, and safety officer. The district’s previous policy did not clearly state who would be responsible for investigating a report. The district also created a checklist for school principals to follow if they receive a report of inappropriate behavior. The district also updated its training for staff and volunteers to identify and report inappropriate behaviors they see.
“It is simply the best, most engaging, most complete training that I have seen in any school district,” Barry said.
These improvements come on the heels of former Bethel elementary school principal Christopher Carmichael’s arrest and conviction of sexual abuse crimes against children. LKSD Superintendent Kimberly Hankins said that she couldn’t speculate whether the updated policies and processes would have prevented Carmichael from abusing students.
“All I can say is the purpose of the audit was to examine existing policies and procedures, advise us of ways we can continue to improve, and really work to promote student health and well-being,” Hankins said.
In her final notes to the district, Barry said that LKSD should add more specific guidelines for investigations, and codify the list of banned inappropriate behavior into LKSD’s policies. Superintendent Hankins said that the district is working on adding those changes.