2018 NAIS Annual Conference How Transparent is Your School? New Expectations in School Communications Presenters: Bryan Garman, Head of School, Sidwell Friends School (DC) Linda Johnson, Esquire, McLane Middleton Professional Association Sandy Lish, The Castle Group Todays Program PART ONE: Trends in School Communications: Legal Counsels View Linda Johnson PART TWO The Schools Perspective Bryan Garman PART THREE
Communicating in the Age of Transparency Sandy Lish PART ONE Trends in School Communications: Legal Counsels View The Past and the Present From under the radar to under the microscope. Current expectation = Transparency and Accountability Communications Not Just a Media Statement What to say, to whom, and when Communications with the involved students and their parents/guardians Communications to your board and school leadership Communications to your school and greater community Press releases and community letters
Working with outside PR firm and legal counsel Internal communications Safe School Pamphlets Communication Directors Board Involvement FAQs Website videos and resources Communications Considerations Overall, when constructing a communications response to a crisis, the school should consider: the audience the message order and timing of distribution the appropriate point people for distribution.
Strategy Develop an Inside-Out Communications * Including constituent-specific messages, distribution methods, and responsibilities. * Share only undisputed facts. * Internal constituencies might include: student advisors, dorm parents, teachers, other students, counselor, security, other faculty and staff, board chair, board members, parents an alumni. * Also consider: the local community, police and local government leadership. * Discuss whether there will be an all-school meeting(s) or notice home to parents. * For teachers and staff, develop and provide language, tools and protocols for addressing questions from students, parents and others.
* Similar for Board members. Communications Team First Level: HOS, Board Chair, Legal Counsel Second Level: Leadership Team, E.C., PR Firm An Overall Communications Plan Audience Message Distribution Method Point People
Board of Trustees Provide full overview of circumstances of incident, outline response to date, outline potential risks to students involved and school. Special Executive Committee call (Monday AM) Board Chair, Head of School Faculty
Provide basic overview of circumstances of incident, and briefly outline response to date. Provide language for discussions with advisees. Remind faculty to direct all media requests to Director of Communications. Special faculty meeting (Monday AM) Head of School, Dean of Faculty Staff Provide basic overview of circumstances, and briefly outline response to date. For those staff members closest to parents
and friends of the school, provide language for potential discussions. Remind staff to direct all media requests to Director of Communications. Supervisors after special meeting with Head of School (Monday PM) Head of School, Supervisors Students Provide limited overview of circumstances, briefly outline
process to date. Ask for cooperation in limiting distribution of photos by providing amnesty, and enlisting student support for elimination of photo. Discuss intention vs. impact with respect to technology. Discuss respect as core of healthy relationships. Remind students to direct all media requests to Director of Communications. Advisee meetings (Monday PM) Advisors Parents Acknowledge basic facts of incident, empathize with families, position school relative to promoting responsible use of
technology and healthy relationships. Email from Office of Parent Programs digitally signed by Head of School (Tuesday AM) Director of Communications, Head of School, Director of Parent Programs A Specific Constituent Communication Plan
Constituent Student Time Frame/Date Day of Public Notice of Indictment Delivery Mechanism Letter Sent Content/Message Community letter sent to parents
Follow up available with advisors if necessary Day of Public Notice of Indictment All-School Meet in Advisories On-Going Individual Follow-Up/Support
Outreach Faculty Once case becomes public, advisors will have dedicated time to discuss situation with advisees. This may involve switching an assembly period for an advisory period. If more news becomes public about the case, HOS AND AHOS are the voice to the community. Advisors, Health Center, Teachers, and Health and Wellness Coordinator keep a pulse on student body to identify individuals in need of additional support over break and
upon return to campus on xxxxx. Reach out to Crisis Center of xxxxx to have on-call for additional resource/support. On-Going Updates Advisories/All-School Assembly If further news/press coverage expands, advisors will be the key disseminators of information to students through advisory periods as needed. DATE
Email Letter Emailed community letter about the incident went to faculty, staff, current parents and Board of Trustees (including corporation). *Note: Community letter sent to all faculty, staff, parents, alumni and Board of Trustees outlining complicated Boarding School landscape given Boston Globe coverage on sexual assaults and inappropriate faculty/student relationships in the media.
Specific Constituency Communications Plan goes on to address communications to: Staff Parents Alumni and Past Parents Board of Trustees Families of Students Impacted Community Leaders
Media Outlets Important Points to Remember Get ahead of potential issues. The more serious the alleged crime or incident, the greater the need to be proactive in communicating with faculty, students, and parents. Work from the inside out. Make sure you are informing and supporting those closest to the situation first before expanding your message out. Stick to the facts. Do not share information that is still under investigation. Respect confidentiality. These communications must balance the community's desire for information with the privacy and legal interests of those involved. Acknowledge, empathize, and position. When constructing a message, remember to acknowledge the facts, empathize with those harmed, and position the school relative to the incident and the larger issues it reflects. While crises can be painful and hurtful, they can also be opportunities for learning and growth for the whole community. The No Comment Comment
Sample Media Statement to Have on Hand The school does not talk about specific student matters. We can say that one of the school's top priorities is to provide all students with a safe school and learning environment. We have policies in place that define our expectations for appropriate conduct between our students. Whenever a concern of this nature comes to the school's attention, we immediately respond to take appropriate actions including addressing the needs of all students who may be involved, communicating with their families, and carefully considering what needs to be done to address the welfare and best interests of our students and the entire community. We are aware of this situation and have taken actions which we believe best address all those concerns. In order to protect the privacy of all those involved, it would not be appropriate to discuss this further publicly. The dilemma of whether to disclose names of perpetrators to school communities
Standards of disclosure revealed in recent communications e.g. Phillips Andover, August 30, 2016 notice to community e.g. St. Georges School, September 1, 2106 report e.g. Phillips Exeter Academy, March 2, 2017 report See also: Revil v. Coleman July 19, 2016, Appeals Court of Massachusetts Factually truthful press release that school employee was on leave pending investigation of sexual misconduct when ultimately no charges were filed - is not defamatory and was not negligently published. PART TWO The Schools Perspective A Case Study .
NOTE: SIDWELL SCHOOL SLIDES NOT POSTED PART THREE Communicating in the age of transparency Current Crisis Landscape Issues in the headlines include: Sexual misconduct (leader or student) Leadership controversy Protest/disruption (#metoo / #neveragain) Free speech DACA Discrimination
Race and diversity Campus violence Title IX Scandal (faculty, board, etc.) Substance use disorder Political discourse The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved Private schools, painful secrets 19 Current Crisis Landscape Why?
24/7 news media Social media reach Hyperlocal news / blogs Cultural / social movements Millennial voice Multi-layered issues and trends Repetition of same issues at multiple schools National environment The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 20 Why Should You Plan in Advance? Its Not a Matter of If, But When
Helps minimize exposure and manage risk Promotes clear delineation of internal responsibilities Removes emotion and haste from the decisionmaking process Allows you to identify and plan for specific scenarios, responses in advance Gives you the opportunity to create and implement a framework for communications Enables swift and effective response The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 21 What Should Your Plan Include? Internal protocols Contact information (legal, leadership,
communications, public safety, etc.) List of primary audiences Communications tools, strategies and templates Potential spokespersons for specific situations Social media protocols, passwords Crisis scenarios / response strategies The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 22 How to Create Digital Transparency Use Your Web Site to Your Advantage Proactively build transparency by keeping your web site updated
Student and faculty handbooks Safety protocols Resources available to students and parents, including contact information for counseling offices and community partners Policies, procedures and expectations for student and faculty conduct Guidelines for reporting issues Calendar of educational programming available to students, faculty and staff Required training sessions and professional development opportunities for faculty and staff Archived communications from head of school The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 23
What is Expected of Communications Today? Transparency Speed Consistency Authenticity Sensitivity Confidence Compassion
Protection Balance The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 24 Message: What You Should Convey Remain Clear, Concise and Consistent Acknowledge situation Express empathy / sympathy and support Reinforce policies and procedures, educational programming, training sessions for students and faculty Affirm commitment to school and community Outline plan and expectations going forward
Align with short- and long-term objectives of the school and its core values, mission The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 25 Audience: Who Should Hear From You Know Your Stakeholders Internal Students Parents Public safety / local authorities Board of Directors Alumni / donors Community Accrediting agencies
Elected officials News media The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 26 Medium: How You Should Communicate Utilize Multiple Channels Media statement Talking points (internal and external) Community letter Q&A (master, internal, external) Community meetings / campus events Web site / dark site Social media
Newsletters or regularly scheduled communications The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 27 Timing: When You Should Communicate Theres No Easy Answer Should you be proactive or reactive? What is the potential impact of action / inaction? Do you have a position on the issue? What is your reason for speaking out? Have you engaged legal? Board? Do you need to? Who will speak for the school? Whats the buzz about the issue on campus?
What else is going on at school (events, fundraisers, enrollment campaign)? Is the issue part of the national dialogue? Could it be? The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 28 When Transparency Has Its Limits Practice measured transparency on issues that involve: FERPA Personnel Litigation
Authorities Always consider the impact on: Short- and long-term legal issues Individual and community safety Stakeholders / upcoming events What else is happening on campus / national dialogue Future communications The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 29 Contact Us Sandy Lish Principal/Founder 617.337.9526 [email protected]
The Castle Group, Inc., All rights reserved 30 NOT LEGAL ADVICE This program and these slides are intended to provide you with general guidelines about how to handle communications. All situations should be evaluated on a case by case basis. This is not legal advice. For specific situations schools would be wise to seek legal advice and assistance from an experienced public relations firm. Please complete a session evaluation and leave on the tables for collection.
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