Carmel Clay Schools soon may adopt a non-fraternization policy that establishes boundaries for employees in “personal relationships,” which include those of a romantic or intimate nature.
The policy was introduced at the March 12 school board workshop meeting, two months after former Supt. Nicholas Wahl and Human Resources Director Corrine Middleton resigned. The two had been put on leave in October 2017 as the school board conducted a review of district leadership, which included examining the relationship between the two administrators.
CCS spokeswoman Courtney Taylor confirmed that the new policy is related to the situation that led to the resignations but did not provide additional details.
The proposed policy states that individuals in close, personal relationships may not work in positions with a “direct, indirect or perceived reporting relationship” between the two or where one could influence the other’s terms or conditions of employment.
It states that each employee is responsible for promptly reporting any existing or potential close personal relationship that may violate the policy to the director of human resources. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination, it states.
The district’s current guidelines don’t prohibit such a relationship, although it does state that if a married or cohabiting employee directly reports to his or her significant other, one will be transferred.
At the workshop, board member Pam Knowles, a member of the policy committee, said that the board’s attorney recommended introduction of the policy. The board did not discuss the policy except to confirm that is expected to be voted upon at the March 26 meeting.
When asked to provide a copy of the policy to Current, Colleen Nobis, administrative assistant to the superintendent, stated in an email, “The policy is still under review and subject to change,” adding that she would send a copy once it had been approved by the school board.
On March 16 Taylor provided a copy of the policy and said that Nobis had been mistaken, that requests to review policies are treated as public records requests and that they are released once that process is complete.
According to Luke Britt, Indiana’s Public Access Counselor, proposed policies should be public record once introduced, even if they are not finalized. He said a “deeper” potential problem could occur if the board is developing policies “behind closed doors.”
“If they all seem like they know everything before they go to a meeting and then they have very little discussion, to me that’s a violation of open door law,” he said.
School board President Layla Spanenberg said policies originate in the two-member policy committee, which is open to the public if three or more school board members are present. The proposed policies are stored with relevant information in a database accessible to all school board members so they can review it before meetings.
“School board members have enough time to look at it,” she said. “If they have questions, they’ll call one of the two committee members.”
She said that board members bring policies up for discussions at board meetings if they have additional questions or reasons to discuss it. She said board members are “more than happy” to share proposed policies with the public.