Internal investigations are an unfortunate necessity in today’s work environment. However, in the case of investigations in school districts–these are positively critical. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to provide internal investigations training to numerous public school district investigators, faculty members, and administrators. The common denominator in talking with all of them is the sheer volume of investigations these days–and the complexity of cases involving students, teachers AND parents.
It can be challenging to manage the conflicts that arise when a student alleges that a teacher behaved inappropriately or when a parent outright accuses a teacher of behaving inappropriately with their child. And, then add on the types of cases involving allegations of teacher’s adjusting grades, administrators playing favorites and “politics”, department heads misappropriating funds, and the garden variety of cases involving employee misconduct. It is up to investigators to gather evidence, document appropriately, manage political interference, deal with a ton of conflicts–and ultimately determine if allegations can be substantiated.
Internal investigations in the public sector are particularly challenging when a collective bargaining agreement(s) are in play. The reason is that many CBA’s require certain disclosures at the onset of investigations, which means the “accused” often has a right, according to contract, to know who his/her accuser is and what he/she is being accused of. In the private sector, unless a union is present, this isn’t the case. Most of the time, an accused is the very last to know that an investigation is underway…the reason is so investigators can covertly gather facts and then confront the accused with those facts. The result is a tight case with minimal “rumor mill” madness. However, in a public sector environment (school districts…) the accused often gets “tipped off” that he/she is being investigated and is usually placed on paid administrative leave until the case is concluded. And, the sheer fact that this person is aware that a case is underway, creates a great deal of drama, conflict, distractions, and sometimes even public relations’ nightmares. These unfortunate circumstances makes it tough for school investigators–but not impossible. The key is in acquiring the right set of skills to be a good investigator!
Working as an investigator requires professional training, excellent communication and conflict resolution skills–and documentation skills. If you have found yourself in the position of having to conduct investigations, but you’re practicing the “flying by the seat of one’s pants” approach, then it’s time for you to get some professional development. For more information, go to HR-investigations.com to learn more about our professional training programs.
Until next time…
Natalie Ivey, MBA, SPHR
President & CEO
rpchr.com & HR-investigations.com