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Lancaster County School District officials placed a Buford Middle School teacher on administrative leave Thursday, Feb. 20, pending an investigation of allegations she had improper communications with students.
Bryan Vaughn, district safety director, confirmed independent reports of the disciplinary matter to The Lancaster News on Friday, Feb. 21.
However, Vaughn said he could neither discuss details of the case, nor confirm the teacher’s identity, due to the district’s personnel policy.
“We have received some complaints that we feel as though we have an obligation to look into,” Vaughn said. “At this point, it’s just a situation where we’re investigating these complaints, but we thought it was proper to remove the teacher from the environment until the investigation is complete.”
Vaughn said, so far, initial findings show the teacher’s improper interactions appear to have been “mostly verbal” in nature and district officials have found no evidence to suggest any students were harmed.
Still, he said, those are the type of issues the investigation will determine.
“We are working with law enforcement and sharing information with them,” Vaughn said. “At this time, no criminal charges have been made.”
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said Friday his department was informed of the matter. Faile also said no charges have been filed.
The staff conduct policy of Lancaster County School District strictly governs teacher interaction with students. The policy calls for employees to “strive to set a positive example for students” in their dress, conduct, interpersonal relationships and communications.
Though district officials did not specify the allegations against the BMS teacher, the district’s staff conduct policy regarding interactions with students calls for teachers to refrain from using profanity, inappropriate or obscene language, or engaging in harassment, intimidation or bullying of a student.
The policy also specifically prohibits teachers from having any contact whatsoever of a sexual nature with students, including communicating any message of a sexual nature in person, in writing, by phone or electronically.
That policy applies even if the communication is conducted on the teacher’s personal, non-district electronic devices outside of work or via social networks or other Internet sites.
Vaughn said the BMS teacher was placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation, which he said could last from days to “several weeks.”
Once the investigation is complete, Vaughn said, per policy, the findings will be presented to Lancaster County School District Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore for a determination.
“It may be a situation where you confirm the allegations, or you exonerate the teacher,” Vaughn said speaking in general of such cases. “But at some point, the finding will be made and presented to the superintendent, who is the only one in the district who can make a recommendation about anybody’s employment status.
“Then, at that point, some discussions will be made and the employee will be informed of the decision and it’s up to them how to proceed.
District policy gives officials the right to ask for legal action against a teacher, if warranted.
If a teacher or other contracted employee chooses to protest the superintendent’s decision regarding
their employment, district policy affords the employee an official hearing before district school board members.
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151.