Adult-Student Interaction Policy

At Burke's, we place a high value on close teacher-student relationships and their role in the learning experience. We also recognize the power imbalance between adults and students and the risk to students, adults, and the school of behavior that crosses or may be interpreted as crossing the line of propriety. It is imperative that adults hold themselves to the highest standard in avoiding any behavior or language that might be physically or emotionally threatening to a student or be considered sexual in nature.

Burke's teachers are expected to observe the following guidelines while also exercising common sense in responding to the genuine physical and educational needs of our students:

  • Limit physical contact with students. While younger students may need a comforting hug after a fall or a conflict — and hugs of greeting and celebration are common in a close-knit community like ours — it is wise to hug students briefly at their instigation rather than to initiate a hug on your own. Focus on getting the student back to the play or work at hand.

  • Avoid accompanying students into the bathroom except in emergencies and situations that require immediate action. Any teacher who feels uncomfortable accompanying a student to the bathroom should ask another teacher for support.

  • When meeting alone with students, except in situations that require privacy, make every effort to keep interactions visible or audible to others by keeping doors or shades open and sitting within view of doors and windows. Teachers whose classroom spaces or meeting times with students make this difficult should discuss such situations with their supervisor.

  • Avoid driving alone with a student.

  • Avoid making comments to students about their physical appearance.

  • Avoid discussing the personal affairs of other students or colleagues.

  • Limit the sharing of personal information, particularly in instances where the boundary between personal and professional opinions or statement might be blurred, such as political conversations. Our goal is to help students learn to ask relevant questions and make thoughtful and informed decisions. When students ask for or receive too much personal information from teachers, their innate desire to please teachers can set up conflicts between what the teacher says, what their parents say, and what they are thinking that impede the learning process and distract the students from the overall goal of improving their own thinking and decision making.

  • Limit contact with students outside of official duties and outside of school, and seek supervisor approval for contact with students outside of school.

  • Take precautions to respect student privacy and maintain propriety when supervising bed checks on Outdoor Ed trips, asking another teacher for support as needed.

  • Refrain from giving gifts of a personal or intimate nature to students.

The following are examples of interactions and communications with students that are prohibited:

  • Using personal email, phone, or text to communicate with students. Electronic communication with students should be on school platforms only.

  • “Friending,” “following,” or messaging a current student on a social networking site.

  • Being alone with students in their cabins or tents on Outdoor Ed trips.

  • Flirting with students, teasing with sexual overtones, or speaking with sexual innuendo.

  • Any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature with respect to students, even if a student initiates, invites, or is apparently accepting.

School employees are required to report to any member of the Administrative Team any behavior they deem inappropriate between an adult employee and a student. All reports must be communicated to the Head of School. In some circumstances, employees will also have the duty to report such conduct in accordance with mandated reporter requirements. Any employee who engages in behavior that violates this policy or who fails to report such activity by others will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. The school will not retaliate against anyone who reports conduct that may violate this policy, and any employee who retaliates against an individual who makes a report under this policy will be subject to discipline.

Burke’s encourages parents or other members of the school community who have concerns about adults crossing appropriate boundaries with students to inform the Head of School or Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.

Katherine Delmar Burke School

An independent K–8 school for girls
7070 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone: 415.751.0177 Fax: 415.666.0535
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Adult-Student Interaction Policy