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Chester County Press

OASD to reevaluate policy on relationships

08/21/2014 08:42AM ● By Acl

By Steven Hoffman

Staff Writer

The Oxford School Board discussed the policy regarding employee and supervisor consensual romantic relationships at its Aug.13 meeting.

Supervisors and their subordinates are not allowed to have romantic relationships in the Oxford Area School District. That won’t change. But superintendent David Woods told the board that after discussions with the solicitor he is recommending rescinding the policy that is on the books.

“We discovered the policy…to be unsustainable in certain sections,” Woods said. “It is our recommendation to remove this policy.”

Policy 4320 states, in part, that “Romantic and/or sexual relationships between school personnel and administrators or between supervisors and subordinate employees have the potential for adverse consequences, including the filing of charges of harassment.”

The purpose of the policy was to avoid those problems, but Woods said that the language in it could create other issues.

For example, Woods said, there is a reference in that policy that the superintendent should be notified within three days of a relationship between a supervisor and an employee. The problem then becomes what constitutes a relationship.

 “The sticking point is the relationship,” Woods said, adding that it would be difficult for the district to enforce some of the language in the policy if there was an issue.

“Our solicitor is looking to keep us from getting into that situation,” Woods said.

The superintendent explained to the board that if a situation arose where the administration found out that a supervisor was involved in a relationship with an employee, the superintendent would have the authority to move either the supervisor or employee so that they are not working in the same department.

“We don’t allow supervisor-subordinate relationships,” Woods explained. “From a supervisory level, we can move anyone for any reason. If we would have a situation, I wouldn’t need a policy from a management perspective.”

He added that because the district has more than one elementary school and more than one secondary school, there is always a lateral position that an employee could be assigned to without demoting the person.

Several school board members expressed concerns about rescinding the policy because it might leave the district vulnerable if a concerning relationship came to the administration’s attention. Dr. Jason Brady said that he understood the concerns about some of the language in the policy, but he wanted to have rules on the books that made it clear that relationships between supervisors and subordinates could not take place and if they do one of the employees would need to be transferred.

“I want to have something to fall back on. If it’s two sentences, then it’s two sentences,” Brady said.

Board president Donna Arrowood was skeptical about the policy that is on the books and said that it should be rescinded.

 “Who’s the person who is going to prove {that there’s a relationship}?” Arrowood asked. “I’m not so sure that that would be for us to decide. I’m not going to spy on anybody.”

Board member Lorraine Bell, who serves on the Policy Committee, noted that it would have to be a known, public relationship in order for the district’s administration to invoke the policy during the process of transferring an employee.

Board member Joseph Tighe echoed some of Brady’s comments, but pointed out that a relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate is really a part of a larger issue of nepotism. The district has a policy in place regarding family members working together. Tighe suggested including rules about romantic relationships in the nepotism policy.

The issue was referred to the Policy Committee for more work. The plan right now is to rescind the policy on romantic relationships between supervisors and employees once the nepotism policy is revised to include the necessary language.

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