On Saturday, October 21, 2017 David Wolowitz, attorney with McLane Middleton firm and consultant to independent schools nationwide, met with the Emma Willard School Board of Trustees and school administrators to share an overview of a training session he is scheduled to deliver to the adult Emma community in January.
Wolowitz assists schools “experiencing critical incidents relating to student health and safety” and has been called a “pioneer in applying behavioral risk management concepts to promote healthy school culture.”
To start the discussion, Wolowitz said that when behaviors and school culture are not in line with the school’s vision or mission, unhealthy behaviors occur and the result is a culture leading the school versus the school leading the culture. He stressed that it was imperative for schools to end “information siloing” so that misconduct was recognized early.
Wolowitz acknowledged that while serial perpetrators or predators do exist, “so many of these cases involve serial misconduct that exhibits non-sexual or pre-sexual behaviors and that the majority of offenders are opportunistic offenders or situational offenders.” When organizations have an integrated reporting system, stop information siloing, and the community trusts that the reporting process will be handled appropriately, Wolowitz says that the “slippery slope” of these kinds of misconduct is better avoided or eliminated altogether.
He discussed what he calls the “four guideposts” that educators should be looking at when analyzing behavior and culture in a school: roles, boundaries, power, and accountability. He discussed each topic and stressed the issue of power in school settings. He referenced his own practice: “Over 80 to 90 percent of cases in this area are not sexual but 100 percent of them are a power dependency relationship.”
Wolowitz also recommended partnering with an outside investigator, forming a school “Community Conduct Committee,” and keeping a database of all trainings that the school has undertaken.
He ended his discussion by stressing that all school employees are mandated reporters and if state laws did not adequately cover that, or if areas were unclear, the school should “err on the side of over-reporting,” ensure that their own policies were clear on this point, and make sure that all employees were aware of their status and trained to report every instance of abuse of a child immediately.