Cobb County superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said that like most people, he is disturbed by the allegations at Penn State and that organizations should always look a their policies when these type of incidents occur, but his staff feels that their current policies are working as designed.
“Employees in Cobb are required to notify the principals, and the principals are required to contact law enforcement,” Hinojosa said. “I would encourage employees to contact law enforcement as well.”
He also pointed out that Pennsylvania and Georgia law may be different, but regardless of the law, all employees in leadership positions should go beyond meeting the minimum requirements of the law to protect children.
“I will not speculate on (Paterno’s) termination because I am not familiar with the facts, but in my opinion he should have contacted law enforcement immediately upon being informed of the matter,” Hinojosa said.
Marietta City Schools also has a number of protocols and resources for students and staff to report any type of abuse.
“MCS Board Policy … requires all school system employees will comply with laws, statutes, board policies, administrative procedures and the standards of the Code of Ethics as provided by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission,” spokesman Thomas Algarin said.
Cobb private schools practice the same precautions not only in hiring employees but also in protecting their students.
“We care deeply about the physical and emotional safety of our students,” Mount Paran Christian School headmaster David Tilley said.
He said that in national polls, safety is the major reason parents send their children to independent schools.
“We are extremely careful regarding who checks students out of school — it must be with explicitly expressed permission of parents and it is monitored closely,” he said. “A community exists at MPCS that protects students from abuse better than less-personal and larger school environments.”
Tilley said school policies are clear and systems are in place for students and staff to report any alleged abuse and, if it ever occurred on our campus, the offender would be dealt with immediately and severely.
“Third-party background checks are conducted on every staff person who comes in contact with students — for example, teachers, coaches and substitutes,” he said.
Jack Hall, the Head of School at The Walker School, said the school has not considered making any changes to their existing policies, which he said are intended to protect both children and adults.
“If an incident of sexual abuse or harassment occurred at our school, we would act in accordance with state law which requires such abuse to be reported to law enforcement,” he said. “Of course, the school would conduct an internal investigation if such an incident occurred and appropriate action would be taken.”
Guidelines and protocols are also in place for those in higher education.
According to the vice president for external affairs at Kennesaw State University Arlethia Perry-Johnson, employees undergo a national criminal background check prior to being offered employment.
“The goal of this required process is to attempt to mitigate the hiring of any employees with a criminal record or past history,” she said.
Perry-Johnson said anyone can report concerns of abuse on the KSU campus to professors, department chairs, deans or provosts, the legal affairs office, the human resources office or through their ombudsman’s office, reporting hotline or student life channels.
“Kennesaw State University is committed to maintaining a safe campus environment and workplace for all of our students, faculty and staff,” Perry-Johnson said. “We swiftly address any concerns that are brought to our attention.”
Students at Southern Polytechnic State University are told to report incidents or suspicious actions immediately to university police, a counselor in the Career and Counseling Center, campus housing staff members or the campus affirmative action officer, said Diane Payne, the school’s associate director of public affairs.
In addition, all SPSU faculty, staff and administrators are required to complete a course on sexual harassment that covers inappropriate behavior.
“They are further obligated to take appropriate action to prevent sexual harassment and all supervisory personnel are charged with promoting and maintaining an atmosphere that deters sexual harassment,” she added.
Rebecca Long, a public relations specialist with Chattahoochee Technical College, said that while they have never had anything like what happened at Penn State happen at their school, there are policies in place to protect children when visiting their campus.
New hires at the college are also given a copy of the school’s policies that they must sign in recognition of how the college operates.
“Faculty, staff and students who witness or are victims of such behavior are encouraged to report the incident to the appropriate staff, including campus police and the school’s Title IX Officer,” Long said. “An investigation would be conducted and appropriate action taken. Should law enforcement be involved in the matter, the college’s police department has cooperative agreements and relationships with local, state and federal authorities to take action as needed for any criminal activity.”