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K-12 School Employee Sexual Abuse and Misconduct: An Examination of Policy Effectivenss

Billie-Jo Grant, Walter Heinecke
Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 2019 February 27, : 1-22
Despite federal and state laws and policies aimed at preventing sexual misconduct by school employees, one in ten American students will experience sexual abuse or misconduct at the hands of a K-12 school employee. To explore why such sexual misconduct continues to occur, this study examined the effectiveness of education policies by investigating whether and how school employees understand these policies, how they are implemented, and how loopholes may undermine their intent. This qualitative case study was conducted in three Virginia school districts and included 46 semi-structured interviews with school district employees and county, state, and federal government employees associated with cases of school employee sexual misconduct, and extensive document analysis of school policies and procedures, laws, and court records. Analyses revealed an absence of policy implementation, demonstrated most seriously by a lack of awareness and understanding of policies among school employees, underreporting, and ineffective data collection. The study also identified a number of loopholes in the implementation of policies, resulting from a mismanaged intergovernmental system. The analysis suggests that understanding and implementation of policies meant to prevent sexual misconduct by school employees are fragmented; this fragmentation may be contributing to the continued prevalence of sexual misconduct by school employees.


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