How to Help As a Teacher or a School Administrator
In school settings, there are two main aspects on which to focus when supporting survivors of domestic violence. The first of these items is how to appropriately aid with and implement effective safety planning within your school for the child(ren) involved. The second essential item is taking the time to learn about the impact of violence and trauma on families. Developing adequate empathy and communication skills for emotionally supporting survivors is essential for helping them heal and establish a new sense of safety.
ORDERS OF PROTECTION WITHIN SCHOOLS
What do you do if a parent drops off a copy of an Order of Protection to the school office? There are several reasons it may be important for the school to have this document and engage in conversation with the parent as to how to best handle the situation. Safety planning will vary depending upon who the Order of Protection is filed against.
When an Order of Protection is filed against a child’s parent:
- Custody conditions – An Order of Protection may establish a custody agreement (though a custody agreement in family court would override this). The school must know if one parent is court ordered to only have access to their child(ren) at specific times (or court ordered to have no contact with the children at all). If the parent the Order is filed against tries to pick up their child(ren) from school and this conflicts with the Order of Protection, the child(ren) should not be released to the parent.
- Child Orders of Protection – A parent may file a Child Order of Protection on behalf of their child. In this case, the Order of Protection is directly protecting the child (rather than one parent from another with conditions that additionally impact the child). A Child Order of Protection will have clear conditions as well, thus having a copy of this will help the school know who should not be permitted access to the child.
When an Order of Protection is filed against an adult who is not a parent:
- Review your school’s procedure for handling non-authorized adults on campus. Be prepared in case the adult shows up looking for the child for the sake of harming the child or to use as a threat against the child’s parent.
When an Order of Protection is filed against another student:
- A Child Order of Protection may be filed to protect one student from another. This can be tricky to enforce on campus due to the frequently close proximity of students. Though this can take quite a bit of creativity and extra work for school faculty, it is essential to prioritize student safety and emotional well-being in order to establish an environment in which students can sufficiently grow and learn. Class schedules may have to be adjusted, teachers consulted, etc. Involving the parent and the child in this planning is crucial for developing a sense of safety and empowerment for the child. The student against whom the Order is filed additionally has a legal right to go to school, thus some flexibility with the Order of Protection may be discussed at court specifically related to how it will function on the school campus.