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Procedure: Maintaining Professional Staff/Student Boundaries

Boundary Invasions

In a professional staff/student relationship, staff maintain boundaries that are consistent with the legal and ethical duty of care that school personnel have for students.

A boundary invasion is an act or omission by a school employee that violates professional staff/student boundaries and has the potential to abuse the staff/student relationship.

An inappropriate boundary invasion means an act, omission, or pattern of such behavior by a staff member that does not have an educational purpose and results in abuse of the staff/student professional relationship. This can be prevented by maintaining professional boundaries with students. 

Educators, volunteers, students, parents, and other concerned adults are the key to stopping unprofessional conduct toward students. Hence, the following information will help you protect students, your school, and the profession. 

Reporting Violations

All school staff members or volunteers must promptly notify the supervisor of a staff member or volunteer suspected of engaging in a boundary invasion toward a student. 


Staff members should:

  • Not wait before reporting suspicious behavior or try to determine whether there is an innocent explanation;
  • Not confront or discuss the matter with the staff member at issue or with anyone else, but maintain confidentiality to protect privacy and avoid rumors; and
  • Document for their own records, that they notified an administrator, including to whom and what they reported. 

Students and their parents/guardians are strongly encouraged to notify the principal (or other administrator) if they believe a staff member or volunteer may be engaging in inappropriate boundary invasion conduct with a student.


Inappropriate Boundary Invasion

A boundary invasion is an act or pattern of behavior by a staff member or volunteer that does not have a bona fide health, safety, or educational purpose for the student. Staff members are expected to maintain professional boundaries with students

Additional policies that govern these actions may include but are not limited to: Board’s policy on Harassment and Sexual Harassment of Students (Policy 3205), Prohibition of Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (Policy 3207); Nondiscrimination (Policy 3210); Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX); the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (Chapter 49.60 RCW); or that constitutes misconduct under RCW 28A.640 and .642 or WAC 181-88-060 or any conduct that would constitute a violation of Chapter 9A.44 or 9A.88 RCW.

Staff members and volunteers shall not engage in boundary invasions of students, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

[A detailed list is included in appendix A of this policy]

  • Any type of inappropriate physical or sexual conduct with a student or any other conduct that violates the board’s policies regarding student welfare, the educational environment, or conduct toward current or former students. Inappropriate physical conduct includes overly affectionate hugging, kissing, or being “overly touchy” with students.
  • Showing pornographic, intimate or unduly revealing photos to a student or asking a student to provide intimate or unduly revealing photos; taking inappropriate photographs of a student, or taking an inordinate number of photographs of a student; 
  • Any kind of flirtatious or sexual communication with a student. 
  • Singling out a particular student or students for personal attention and friendship beyond the professional staff-student relationship. This includes but is not limited to, favoring one or more students with special privileges, allowing them to remain in the classroom during non-class times, unilaterally removing a student from another class or activity, or engaging in “peer like” behavior with one or more students; [An exception would be strategies to build rapport for instructional/classroom related relationships] 
  • Providing alcohol, drugs or tobacco to students or failing to report their use of these substances; 
  • For non-guidance/counseling staff, encouraging students to confide their personal or family problems and/or relationships. If a student repeatedly initiates such discussions, staff members shall refer the student to appropriate guidance/counseling staff. In either case, staff involvement should be limited to a direct connection to the student’s school performance; 
  • Sending students on personal errands unrelated to any educational purpose;
  • Banter, allusions, jokes or innuendos of a sexual nature with students;
  • Favorably commenting on a student’s appearance if it is unduly revealing;
  •  Disclosing personal, sexual, family, employment concerns, or other private matters to one or more students; 
  • Addressing students, or permitting students to address staff members or volunteers with personalized terms of endearment, pet names, or otherwise in an overly familiar manner; 
  • Discussing personal topics or interests with students. If staff members have educational or legitimate school business to conduct, they shall include a parent/guardian and/or a school administrator on the communication. If staff members receive a student’s communication, the staff member shall reply by including the student’s parent/guardian and/or an administrator. Staff members should use school e-mail addresses and phone numbers and the parents’ phone numbers for communications with students, except in an emergency.
  •  Exchanging or providing personal gifts, cards or personal letters with an individual student; 
  • Socializing or spending time with students (including but not limited to activities such as going out for beverages, meals or movies, shopping, traveling, and recreational activities) outside of school-sponsored events, except as participants in organized community activities; 
  • Giving a student a ride alone in a vehicle in a non-emergency situation or failing to timely report that occurrence; 
  • Providing a student with information or views about other students or staff members without a legitimate professional purpose. 
  • Asking a student to keep a secret or not to disclose any inappropriate communications or conduct. 
  • Unnecessarily invading a student’s privacy, (e.g. walking in on the student in the bathroom or a hotel room on a field trip); 
  • Being alone with an individual student out of the view of others, and/or 
  • Any home visits unless other adults are present, the student(s) are invited for an activity related to school, and the student’s parent/guardian and an administrator are informed and have consented.

Reporting Violations

Students and their parents/guardians are strongly encouraged to notify the principal (or other administrator) if they believe a teacher or other staff member may be engaging in conduct that violates this policy or procedure.

Staff members are required to promptly notify the principal or the supervisor of the employee or volunteer suspected of engaging in inappropriate conduct that violates this policy or procedure.

When an administrator receives information that a boundary invasion has occurred or might have occurred, the administrator must document, in writing, the concern and provide a copy of the documentation to the human resources department. The human resources department will see that the matter is investigated and documented, and if a boundary invasions have occurred without a legitimate educational or safety purpose, that appropriate action is taken and documented.  Human resources will maintain a file documenting reports, letters of direction and discipline relating to professional boundary investigations.

Reporting Sexual Abuse

In some situations, the person engaging in boundary invasions with a student may also have engaged in child abuse or sexual abuse, which is defined in Board Policy 3421 – Child Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Prevention. Remember that according to law (RCW 26.44.020) and Board Policy 3421, all school personnel who have reasonable cause to believe that a student has experienced sexual abuse by an adult or student are required to make a report to Child Protective Services and/or law enforcement. (See Board Policy 3421.) Reporting suspected abuse to the building principal or supervisor does not relieve professional school personnel from their reporting responsibilities and timelines.

Disciplinary Action

Staff member or volunteer violations of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Violations of this policy may occur by ignoring professional boundaries as well as failing to report another staff member or volunteer who is ignoring professional boundaries. In any disciplinary situation, the Superintendent should consider whether the conduct violates the Code of Professional Conduct in Chpt. WAC 181-87 and whether a report to the Office of Professional Practices is warranted.


All new staff members and volunteers will receive training on appropriate staff /student boundaries within 3 months of employment or beginning of service.  Such training may be on-line training. Site administration and classified employee supervisors shall see to it that detailed training covering this entire procedure shall occur annually for all schools and work sites. Site administration and classified employee supervisors will also address professional boundaries at staff meetings early in the year.

Dissemination of Policy and Reporting Protocols

This policy and procedure will be included on the district website and in all employee, student and volunteer handbooks. Annually, all administrators and staff will receive copies of the district’s reporting protocol. The district shall also provide a copy of this policy and procedure to students and their parents during each school year.

Additional Guidelines


  1. Prevent One-on-One Access to Students


  1. It is encouraged that windows should remain uncovered except in lockdown situations
  2. When an educator meets in the classroom alone with a student, the door should remain open
  3. Discourage educators from one-on-one contact with students in private settings
  4. Require educators and students, when meeting in one-on-one situations, to meet in places observable by others, such as offices with windows or outdoors, if privacy is needed
  5. When a counselor or administrator meets alone with a student, the door should have windows that are not covered
  6. Assign at least two educators to monitor bathrooms and locker rooms of their gender, when possible
  7. When dealing with a toileting incident, two adults should assist the student if possible
  8. Assign at least two educators to be present to assist students with activities such as putting on bathing suits and taking showers
  9. Encourage educators to include another adult in electronic communications with students
  10. Prohibit educators from:
  • Taking a student without another adult to private areas, such as storage closets, athletic training rooms, hotel rooms, or personal vehicles
  • Sleeping in the same room overnight with students, unless the student’s parent or guardian is present
  • Taking a student into the educator’s home, unless the student’s parent or guardian is present
  1. Require educators to:
  • Inform a program supervisor before moving students out of the program area or to a different location on or off campus
  • Use separate bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers from student or, if separate facilities are not available, schedule separate usage times
  • Release students only to an authorized parent, legal guardian, or other adult specifically authorized by the custodial parent or guardian and only after confirming their identification



  1. Enforce Professional Boundaries with Supervision


  1. Require that supervisors:
  • Receive training on professional boundaries
  • Make periodic unannounced visits in class and during activities to observe whether educators are following professional boundaries
  • Document specific observations about how educators interact with students
  • Correct and provide prompt feedback to educators regarding their adherence to professional boundaries
  • Stop any interaction with a student that appears suspicious
  • Discontinue any adult’s participation in activities or programs involving students if someone suspects or alleges an inappropriate boundary invasion
  1. Train all staff members, volunteers, and students, on how to report suspected professional boundary violations
  2. Require that educators report suspected violations of professional boundaries
  3. Encourage parents or legal guardians to report any suspected professional boundary violations


  1. Coaching Sports


  1. In coaching any sport, be mindful of touching involved from coaches, and seek ways to mitigate.
  2. Coaches should inform players that coaching generally involves physical touch for the purpose of teaching the sport, but anyone uncomfortable can ask not to be touched and the coach will strive to respect the student’s wishes. Students should have the opportunity to tell the coach privately that they do not want coaching to include touch, and coaches should not publicly reveal such communication, but should share it with any assistant coaches.
  3. If possible, assign two coaches or a second adult at practices.
  4. Wrestling coaches should not demonstrate holds on student wrestlers unless there has been a meeting that school year with parents and the student and parent agree to a specific coach demonstrating with the student. Coaches should permit parents to attend wrestling practices.


  1. Reporting


When an administrator receives a report that an employee, volunteer, or contractor has perpetrated sexual misconduct against a student or a suspicion of such, the administrator will follow the district’s reporting protocol. Based on the circumstances, the administrator might need to inform:


  • The Title IX coordinator
  • The district’s legal counsel
  • The district’s head of compliance
  • Campus police or the district’s student protection officer


The administrator should consider whether state or local laws require informing the local police and /or state or local child protection authorities.


The administrator should take immediate steps to prevent further harm to the alleged victim or other students, such as removing the alleged abuser from the program or activity or limiting that individual’s contact with students pending resolution of the matter.


Appendix A


Taking an Undue Interest in a Particular Student:

  1. Having a “special” friend or a “special relationship” with a particular student.
  2. Favoring certain students by giving them special privileges.
  3. Favoring certain students, inviting them to come to the classroom at non-class times.
  4. Getting a particular student out of class to visit the teacher during the teacher’s prep period.
  5. Engaging in peer-like behavior with students including rough-housing.


Using Poor Judgment in Relation to a Particular Student:

  1. Allowing a particular student to get away with inappropriate behavior.
  2. Being alone with the student behind closed doors at school.
  3. Giving gifts or money to a particular student.
  4. Being overly “touchy” with a certain students.
  5. Touching students for no educational or health reason.
  6. Giving students rides in the educator’s personal vehicle, especially alone.
  7. Frequent electronic communication or phone contacts with a particular student.


 Becoming Involved in the Student’s Private Life:

  1. Talking to the student about the educator’s personal problems.
  2. Talking to the student about the student’s personal problems to the extent that the adult becomes a confidant of the student when it is not the adult’s job role to do so.
  3. Initiating or extending contact with students beyond the school day in a private or non-group setting.
  4. Taking a particular student on personal outings, away from protective adults.


Not Respecting Normal Boundaries:

  1. Invading the student’s physical privacy (g., walking in on the student in the bathroom).
  2. Inviting students to the educator’s home.
  3. Visiting the student’s home.
  4. Asking the student to keep certain things secret from his/her parents.


Sexually Related Conduct:

  1. Engaging in sex talk with students (sexual innuendo, sexual banter, or sexual jokes).
  2. Talking with a student about sexual topics that are not related to specific curriculum.
  3. Showing pornography to the student. 
  4. Asking for or sending nude pictures (sexting).






Adoption Date: August 24, 2010; Revised: July 25, 2017, March 26, 2024