Saturday, January 08, 2011

Policy on Crime

How does the District respond to reports of crime?

There has certainly been a good deal of press about how schools have responded to reports of crimes committed by students. But what is the District's policy? I can't find one that speaks to this. The Basic Rules of Seattle Public Schools says "If there has been a criminal offense, normally, the police will be called."

What if a district employee is suspected of a crime?

There is Policy F09.00 that says: "It is the policy of the Seattle School Board (1) to encourage the reporting by its employees of improper governmental action taken by district officers or employees" but this policy is mostly about Whistleblower protection. It doesn't say anything about reporting "improper" action to any outside regulatory or law enforcement authorities. The Ethics Policy says: "These ethical requirements shall apply in addition to any other applicable laws, regulations, and policies governing employee conduct." So any crime would also be a violation of the Ethics Policy.

There are other policies that talk around the question, but none that actually speak to reporting crime. So what does the District do if an employee is accused of a crime? I started looking into this as a result of the Superintendent's apparent violations of RCW 42.23.030, 42.23.040, and 9A.76.175, but don't we need a policy in case of any crime, including theft, assault, harassment, drugs, or lewd behavior?

Is this a governance question? Should there be a policy on this?

27 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think, from seeing other issues around crime at SPS, they prefer to handle it in-house. Meaning, if they find out about it, they confront the person. In the case of the Ballard principal, that's certainly what they did until the administrator being harassed could take no more and sued the district. The harassment had stopped (at least for her) but it was the district's subsequent treatment of her - the victim - that drove her to sue.

Then there's a more recent case of a SPS employee who allegedly had misappropriated some money, was caught, handed it over and was let go. Legally, that's theft but the district did nothing.

Both those crimes were on district grounds. There were crimes by SPS employees that did not occur on district grounds and so the person(s) involved were arrested.

That the district has no direct policy might make it difficult for any employee who knows of a crime in-house to do anything. What are their protections? Who do they report it to safely? What are the safeguards to a person accused but where no investigation is launched?

You'd think there would be a policy just to lay down expectations of behavior in this district. I think the district is more interested in protecting themselves.

Good question for Mr. Treat.

dan dempsey said...

It seems we will find out the answer to what the district does about crimes soon.

On Jan 5, 2011 Charlie Mas reported that crimes had been committed to the Board and asked them to refer these matters for prosecution.

Nothing is the usual response. Will it be any different this time?

Charlie Mas said...

Melissa Westbrook wrote: "Good question for Mr. Treat."

I think it is also a good question for Board members. At their community meetings, we should ask them: "Is it District Policy for district employees to report crimes committed by students or district employees that come to their attention?"

Is the answer different for students than it is for district employees? Who is held to a higher standard?

Is every fight an assault that should be reported to the police?

Should every little theft be reported?

What, exactly, is the District's Policy on reporting crime?

dan dempsey said...

Then if and when they find or devise a policy, the question will be when is this policy followed?

seattle citizen said...

Let's not forget the crimes of
*stealing time from instruction to administer tests;
*criminal waste of resources in commandeering computers for said tests;
*the assualt on reason of reducing FTE for career planning;
*Psychological Negligence of reducing counselors;
*Petty theft of ROPE money so teachers have to pay out-of-pocket for basic supplies...

Word Verifier has evidently been hanging out with Peter O-Toole, W.C. Fields, and other ACTORSH...hic!

Anonymous said...

may not be a crime... but ... i just did a draft of my family tax return, both my husband and I work for the district. it appears the district withheld too much SSI and Medicare. I haven't calculated the exact % over, but at a few hundered dollars per employee...
- anon until w-2 arrives.

(w-2 shouldn't differ from paycheck totals)
it seems odd they would f up a basic deduction.

Charlie Mas said...

SSI and Medicare deductions aren't hard to get right. Medicare is a straight percentage of pay (1.45%)and OASDI (Social Security) is a straight percentage (6.2%) until you reach a certain income level ($106,800 in 2010) then it just stops.

FICA taxes are due on all income, including salary deferred into 401(k) or 403(b) plans.

StepJ said...

If the District is still running SAP (the software application not the Assignment Plan) - then blame for incorrect calculations ls likely with IT vs. Payroll staff.

Calculation of all the w/h taxes is an automatic function of the software.

Because of the frequent changes to payroll/tax law the software company (SAP) issues Enhancement/Support packs to update the software. However, these Enhancement packs need to be applied to the system by IT for the changes to update the software.

There also needs to be an annual update to the system to enter contribution limits for SSI or 401-k. This is traditionally a function of IT.

Definately, paycheck totals and W-2 amounts should be the same. It would be difficult for them to be different as the information for each comes from the same place.

The Real Arnold said...

@Melissa: "Legally, that's theft but the district did nothing."

Not true. You might want to double check your source on this.

@Dan: "On Jan 5, 2011 Charlie Mas reported that crimes had been committed to the Board and asked them to refer these matters for prosecution."

It is a matter for the prosecutor to determine if those actions are a crime. Remember that you and Charlie once thought a portion of the Public Records Act prevented the Superintendent from assigning Principals as she sees fit - and you were proven wrong.

@Anonymous: "it seems odd they would f up a basic deduction."

It seems odd that SPS employees that got overpaid, some by 10's of thousands, didn't say anything until the last audit. Maybe they thought they just deserved it and were sticking it to "the man"?

The Real Arnold said...

"You'd think there would be a policy just to lay down expectations of behavior in this district."

Do you really need a policy to do the right thing?

If you know of theft or other illegal things, committed by a student or employee, then PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL THE POLICE! If you see something, say something!Do not wait for permission from downtown!

Charlie Mas said...

I think it is up to a judge to determine if the actions were a crime, not the prosecutor.

It is up to the prosecutor to decide if it is worth the time, money and effort to try the case.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arnold, I'm confused. Are you saying my terminology is wrong (theft versus misappropriation of funds) or that this didn't happen?

Yes, if there is a crime, it should be reported to the police. But every governmental entity should have some policy in the employee handbook about what to do about various types of crimes.

SPS said...

In the case of the lunch lady at the Salmon Bay cafeteria who embezzled $30,000 (I could be wrong on the amount??) she was fired.

In the case of the drug and alcohol counselor at RBHS who was selling drugs during the school day, he was fired.

But were these crimes reported to the police? Were these people ever prosecuted?

The Real Arnold said...

@Melissa: "Arnold, I'm confused. Are you saying my terminology is wrong (theft versus misappropriation of funds) or that this didn't happen?"

No, neither of those. The incident did occur from what I hear. You said the district "did nothing." That is incorrect.

@Charlie: "I think it is up to a judge to determine if the actions were a crime, not the prosecutor."

I disagree, in part. If the prosecutor doesn't think an action or incident is a crime, then they will not file charges, and no prosecution will occur. So it IS up to the prosecutor. Yes, considerations of time, money, and effort do come into play. But, a judge cannot file charges just because they think a crime has been committed, otherwise they wouldn't be impartial (they can file suit in civil proceedings as a citizen, but they would not be presiding over that case).

Melissa Westbrook said...

I meant the district did nothing from a legal standpoint which is what this discussion is about. They could have called the police and had this person arrested and didn't.

Charlie Mas said...

The Real Arnold wrote: "Remember that you and Charlie once thought a portion of the Public Records Act prevented the Superintendent from assigning Principals as she sees fit - and you were proven wrong."

Actually, I don't remember this. I don't recall ever questioning the superintendent's authority to assign principals - except that when assigning them to alternative schools Policy C54.00 requires community input on the decision.

Can you remind me of this situation?

The Real Arnold said...

@Melissa: "They could have called the police and had this person arrested and didn't."

This is what I am talking about. Are you absolutely certain they didn't call the police?? (There's a reason I am asking you this question - check all your sources again. Someone is bound to fill you in.) And just because someone calls the police doesn't mean the police will arrest someone.


Thanks for all you do with this blog.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, I am sure they did not notify the police. I checked.

The Real Arnold said...

@Melissa: "Yes, I am sure they did not notify the police. I checked."

Then you have bad sources. Sorry.

The Real Arnold said...

@Charlie: "Can you remind me of this situation?"

Yes, it took me a while to review all the posts from 2010, but the post in question is from July 26, 2010. Here is a link to the comments section: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=28765366&postID=420210569218277657

In the comments section you pose the hypothetical about principals.

My overall point is that people should not presume a "crime" has been committed if you are unfamiliar with how such laws are applied. While I'm no expert, I do deal with these occasionally.
Dan says that you "reported that crimes had been committed to the Board and asked them to refer these matters for prosecution." A few posts ago someone mentioned prosecutorial discretion. Again, just 'cause soemthing is reported does not mean it will get prosecuted. I remember reading in the Times last year (I can't remember the date, nor can I find the article) that the county prosecutor isn't going to take fraud cases to court if they are less than $10,000. So I doubt anything referred to the prosecutor by the board about MGJ is going to go anywhere.

Not trying to burst-your-bubble. Just info to consider.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arnold, show me the police report. If they reported it to the police, there would be a police report. I can find none.

The Real Arnold said...

Melissa,

I don't have a copy of it, but I know they did file one.

seattle citizen said...

The Real Arnold,
Charlie can defend himself, but you seem intent on making it appear he said something he didn't, and I'm not sure why. I looked at the post and comments you linked to, and these are Charlie's pertinent quotes, the only two that relate to principal assignment. From the entire post/comments, it appears that Charlie was looking at procedure and had legitimate questions about it, but not that he was making any claims as to the resultant actions that might be taken given procedure/policy.
Here are his two quotes:
"Does this means that no principal can be re-assigned against their will unless the District has a written statement that describes how those assignments are made?"
And:
"I was thinking of the state law that requires local government organizations (such as the school district) to have written procedures. I seriously doubt they have such procedures for principal assignments. Consequently, the law appears (to my untrained understanding) to allow those adversely affected by undocumented procedures to have them reversed.

As far as I know, however, the statement that the Superintendent has final say on principal assignments may be all of the decision-making process documentation necessary and everyone's work site is contingent on her whim."

Pretty clear to me Charlie was telling us how things looked to him, but making clear that they could be otherwise.

I see no point in belaboring the issue by continuing to call Charlie out: He was offering his perceptions and was open to changing those perceptions.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arnold, I can only go with what I know and what I have been told. So we will have to agree to disagree.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a hot link to the reference made by The Real Arnold.

It reads to me more as if I were asking than stating, but I'm grateful for the reminder.

The Real Arnold said...

Seattle Citizen - I'm not "belaboring the issue". Charlie asked for specifics and I provided them. If you don't like my posts, don't read them.

seattle citizen said...

The Real Arnold,
Of course I'll continue to read your posts, they're cogent and informational. My apologies for accusing you of belaboring, I must have read it wrong and it appeared that you were trying to paint Charlie into a corner. Reading back, your tone seems moderate. I must have been off my feed that day.