SUBJECT: Employee and Professional Conduct
To set clear and explicit professional conduct standards for all employees working at the Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB). It is recognized that grounds for discharge, non-renewals, or other adverse change in affecting the employment of WSSB staff are broader than stated herein. The grounds set forth as unprofessional conduct in this policy shall not limit discharge, non-renewal of employees, or other employment action by WSSB.
PUBLIC POLICY GOALS
- To protect the health, safety, and general welfare of students, whether on the WSSB campus or through services provided via contractual and outreach functions.
- To assure the citizens of the state of Washington that WSSB employees are accountable for acts of unprofessional conduct.
- To define and provide notice to WSSB employees of the acts of unprofessional conduct for which they are accountable.
Applicability of policy to private conduct: As a general rule, the provisions of this policy shall not be applicable to the private conduct of a WSSB employee except where WSSB employee’s role as a private person is not clearly distinguishable from the role as an employee of WSSB.
WSSB Employee Definition: As used in this policy, the term "employee" means any employee, volunteer and WSSB Board of Trustees member.
Student Definition: As used in this policy, the term "student" means the following:
- Any student who is under the supervision, direction, or control of WSSB, including outreach functions provided by WSSB throughout the state.
- Any student attending a school related activity at which the employee is performing professional duties.
- Any former student who is under eighteen years of age and who has been under the supervision, direction, or control of an employee. Former student, for the purpose of this section, includes but is not limited to drop outs, graduates, and students who transfer to other districts or schools.
ACTS OF UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT
Misrepresentation or falsification in the course of professional practice: Any falsification or deliberate misrepresentation, including omission of a material fact by an employee concerning any of the following is an act of unprofessional conduct:
- Statement of professional qualifications.
- Application or recommendation for employment, promotion, certification, or an endorsement.
- Application or recommendation for college or university admission, scholarship, grant, academic award, or similar benefit.
- Representation of completion of in-service or continuing education credit hours.
- Evaluations or grading of students and/or personnel.
- Financial or program compliance reports submitted to state, federal, or other governmental agencies.
- Information submitted in the course of an official inquiry by WSSB related to the following:
(a) Good moral character.
(b) Acts of unprofessional conduct.
- Information submitted in the course of an investigation by a law enforcement agency or by child protective services, regarding school related criminal activity.
Alcohol or controlled substance abuse: Unprofessional conduct includes:
- Being under the influence of alcohol or of a controlled substance on school premises or at a school-sponsored activity involving students, following:
A. Notification to the employee by his or her employer of concern regarding alcohol or substance abuse affecting job performance;
B. A recommendation by the employer that the employee seek counseling or other appropriate and available assistance; and
C. The employee has had a reasonable opportunity to obtain such assistance.
- The possession, use, or consumption on school premises or at school-sponsored activity of a controlled substance without a prescription authorizing such use.
- The consumption of an alcoholic beverage on school premises or at a school sponsored activity involving students.
Disregard or abandonment of generally recognized professional standards: Any performance of professional practice in flagrant disregard or clear abandonment of generally recognized professional standards in the course of any of the following professional practices is an act of unprofessional conduct:
- Assessment, treatment, instruction, or supervision of students.
- Employment or evaluation of personnel.
- Management of moneys or property.
Unauthorized professional practice: Any act performed without good cause that contributes to one of the following unauthorized professional practices is an act of unprofessional practice:
- The intentional employment of a person to serve as an employee in a position for which certification is required by rules of the state board of education when such person does not possess, at the time of commencement of such responsibility, a valid certificate to hold the position for which such person is employed.
- The assignment or delegation in a school setting of any responsibility within the scope of the authorized practice of nursing, physical therapy, or occupational therapy to a person not licensed to practice such profession unless such assignment or delegation is otherwise authorized by law, including the rules of the appropriate licensing board.
- The practice of education by a certificate holder during any period in which such certificate has been suspended.
- The failure of a certificate holder to abide by the conditions within an agreement, executed pursuant to WAC 180-86-160, to not continue or to accept education employment.
- The failure of a certificate holder to comply with any condition, limitation, or other, order or decision entered pursuant to chapter 180-86 WAC.
- PROVIDED, that for the purpose of this section, good cause includes, but is not limited to, exigent circumstances where immediate action is necessary to protect the health, safety, or general welfare of a student, colleague, or other affected person.
Sexual misconduct with students: Unprofessional conduct includes the commission by an employee of any sexually exploitive act with or to a student including, but not limited to, the following:
- Any sexual advance, verbal or physical;
- Sexual intercourse as defined in RCW 9A.44.010;
- Indecent exposure as defined in RCW 9A.88.010;
- Sexual contact, i.e., the intentional touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a student except to the extent necessary and appropriate to attend to the hygienic or health needs of the student;
- PROVIDED, that the provisions of this section shall not apply if at the time of the sexual conduct the participants are married to each other.
Furnishing alcohol or controlled substance to students: Unprofessional conduct includes the illegal furnishing of alcohol or a controlled substance, as defined in chapter 69.50 RCW, to any student by an employee.
Improper remunerative conduct: Any deliberate act in the course of professional practice which requires or pressures students to purchase equipment, supplies, or services from the employee in a private remunerative capacity is an act of unprofessional conduct.
Failure to assure the transfer of student record information or student records: The failure of an administrator to make a good faith effort to assure compliance with RCW 28A.225.330 by establishing, distributing, and monitoring compliance with written procedures that are reasonably designed to implement the statute shall constitute an act of unprofessional conduct.
This policy provides an overview of conduct expected of all agency staff. Other Administrative Policies, WSSB Personnel Policies, and the agency's nondiscrimination policy provide further detail on specific areas. This policy provides a central point of contact within the department for staff to seek advice on ethical issues and report violations of the Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act (Chapter 42.18 RCW).
I. Specifically, employees shall:
A. Be independent and impartial in the exercise of assigned duties, avoiding actions that create even the appearance of using the employee's positions for personal gain or private benefit. This includes:
- Not using state employment for private gain or advantage.
- Using agency facilities, equipment, materials, and time only for official agency business.
- Not asking for or accepting any gift or compensation from any source except the agency for performing, delaying the performing or not performing assigned duties.
- Not personally benefiting from any contract, sale, lease, or purchase made under the employee's supervision or control.
- Not engaging in any employment, business, or professional activity which could represent a conflict of interest.
B. Strengthen public confidence in the integrity of state government by demonstrating the highest standards of personal integrity, fairness, honesty, and compliance with both the spirit and the letter of the law and agency policies.
C. Create a work environment that is free from all forms of discrimination and harassment. This includes:
- Following and abiding by agency policies regarding nondiscrimination, sexual harassment, and client rights.
- Not using the employee's position for purposes of establishing or promoting personal or financial relationships with clients.
D. Manage human and environmental resources for the benefit and enjoyment of both current and future generations.
E. Conduct the public's business openly and consistent with law.
F. Serve the public, students and interact with co-workers with respect, concern, courtesy, responsiveness, recognizing that service to the public is the primary mission of state government.
G. Promote an environment of public trust free from fraud, abuse of authority, and misuse of public property.
H. Report suspected fraud, abuse of authority, and misuse of public property to the appropriate authorities.
I. Respect and protect privileged information to which an employee has access in the course of official duties. This includes:
- Not accepting employment or engaging in any business or professional activity which the employee might reasonably expect would require the employee to disclose confidential information about clients or students.
- Not using access to agency information for personal reasons.
J. Comply with established laws and agency policies regarding political activity.
II. Ethics Questions and Complaints Center.
The Superintendent's office (phone: 947.3301, or mail stop S-27) shall serve as the agency's central point of contact for:
A. Staff to seek advice about ethical issues; and
B. Purposes of reporting complaints about violators of the Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act (RCW 42.18).
III. Former Employees:
Upon termination of employment with the state, employees are subject to the provisions of RCW 42.18.221. To avoid conflicts of interest, current employees who contemplate doing business with the state after leaving state employment and former employees who wish to engage in such business activity shall review RCW 42.18.221 and related statutes and may want to seek legal advice.