Jan 22, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterRiverton school administrators said they tried to be fair to employees with families when they crafted a potential new policy this month addressing the presence of children in the workplace.
"We believe this policy will help those that may have stretched courtesy a little further than we'd like," Fremont County School District 25 Superintendent Terry Snyder said last week. "We want to be a family-friendly organization and be able to accommodate emergencies with families and quick inconveniences, but we also want to have a policy with enough clarity that it would not take away our employees' ability to responsibly carry out their functions."
The District 25 Board of Trustees first heard information about policy 5043 on Jan. 8. The board will consider the policy on first reading Jan. 22 and again during two subsequent meetings before the policy is officially accept.
The document, which applies to all district employees, including coaching staff and volunteers, states that the presence of a child or children under the charge of a district employee during that employee's work day is inappropriate and is to be avoided except in emergency situations.
If the child must come to the workplace, his or her parent employee must obtain a supervisor's permission before the child arrives. The policy gives supervisors the right to refuse permission if the presence of the child or children is likely to create an unsafe or unproductive work situation.
"We had situations where we really believe that the presence of a family member was taking away from (an employee's) focus," Snyder said. "And I believe if the parent couldn't supervise their child the way a 5- to 7-year-old needed to be supervised, there was some danger for that (child) also."
The policy also outlines guidelines for parents who get permission to bring a child or children into the workplace. The child must be under the direct supervision of the parent employee at all times, and children aren't allowed in hazardous areas like laboratories, kitchens and workshops. The policy states that the parent employee is responsible for his or her child's safety and is financially responsible for any damages caused by the child.
In addition, employees with children in the workplace can't ask their co-workers to supervise the youngsters, and a child who has an illness may not be brought to the workplace under any circumstances. Supervisors can ask that the child be removed at any time if the policy has been violated.
On the "family-friendly" end, the policy states that brief, informal visits by an employee's children or other dependents are acceptable as long as the visits are infrequent and are not distracting or disruptive.
"It was a balancing act," Snyder said. "We wanted to add some structure but leave just enough (leeway) so if you have a situation where the wife got sick and you have to make arrangements for 10 minutes for the kid to come to your room, we can allow for those types of life events to happen."
He added that modifications can be made to the policy in the future.
"We'll find out if it's too restrictive or whether we need to change it," Snyder said. "But this was a policy we believed we needed to put in place."
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