The Lower Kuskokwim School District is breaking new ground in its efforts to protect students from inappropriate behavior by school district staff, including sexual grooming.
The district has hired Dr. Janet Barry to help audit its policies and procedures, an effort that would go beyond the standards of “best practices” set by the Alaska Association of School Boards.
Barry said that one of the main goals is to create a system for teachers, staff, students, and parents so that everyone recognizes what is and is not appropriate behavior with students. Inappropriate behaviors include communicating about personal matters on social media with students, friending students on social media, giving personal gifts and notes to students, being with an individual student behind closed doors, and being with an individual student one-on-one in a remote setting.
“We need to teach new ways to do the important things that staff need to do to connect with students in a caring way,” said Barry. “Doesn’t mean we can’t be connected, but it does mean that we have to avoid those kinds of things.”
Barry said that the procedures being developed by the Lower Kuskokwim School District could become a model for other districts in the nation for how to better protect students from inappropriate behaviors by the adults charged with their care. The timeline calls for having the audit completed and procedures in place by August.
The need to improve the district’s policies and procedures was underscored when former Gladys Jung Elementary School Principal Christopher Carmichael was arrested in December 2019 by the FBI's Child Exploitation Task Force. Carmichael later pled guilty to federal charges of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor.