Haste Can Compromise Investigations

Published: December 8, 2011

I had a rather interesting discussion with one of my associates this morning involving the need for campus employees to act promptly when they encounter situations like bullying, hazing, sexual misconduct of employees, sexual abuse of children and other situations that have sadly sometimes been mishandled by K-20 employees over the years. School employees must act immediately when they witness or receive a report that a student has been bullied.  

Although I agree with this sentiment, I also feel pretty strongly that there is another important aspect to these investigations. There are times when campus officials must not rush so much at the onset that the quality of the investigation is compromised. 

While the term “investigation” may initially make the reader think of sexual exploitation cases, it is also especially important in situations where a student reports that bullying or hazing have taken place. For example, if a student trusts a campus employee enough to report bullying or hazing and the response by campus officials is too rushed, the quality of the investigation and thus the resolution of the overall situation can easily suffer. 

As with victims of sexual crimes, victims of bullying and hazing often do not provide complete disclosure during the initial report due to embarrassment and/or questions in their mind about how effectively the campus employee will be in handling the incident. Moving too quickly upon the initial disclosure can in some cases damage the opportunity to properly uncover and document more serious situations than those initially reported by the student. 

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I am not suggesting that days or weeks go by before reporting requirements are met or appropriate actions are taken. Simply, the desire to handle the situation promptly must not erase the need for a proper and thorough handling of the situation. Being thorough can be just as important as being prompt in taking action.

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