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Harassment Matters

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Posted in:  
Legal
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December 4, 2017

I am thankful. As I sit down to compose this article, it's Cyber Monday. Our family returned yesterday evening from a delightful weekend trip to Dallas, where we people-watched and purposely did no shopping. We had a lighthearted time with lots of laughter all around.

Although it’s unfortunate to have to think of pesky legal issues during this season of joy and extra days off, think we must. Lately, numerous incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace have been reported in the media. As this issue unfolds and more people come forward, we’re likely in a place where addressing harassment (sexual or otherwise) will be a top priority for some time to come.

As you know, schools aren’t immune. Now is a great time for school leaders to evaluate their harassment policies and procedures applicable to both employees and students. Ask targeted questions about your policies when reviewing them. Are they in keeping with the current social and legal climate? Are there logical procedures in place for reports to be easily made? Does the post-report process demonstrate the district's thoughtful, sincere and timely investigation and possible action?

Finally, consider opportunities to better educate students and staff about harassment. Get out ahead of this before it comes to you in the form of an incident. If you can prevent even one person from being a victim, it will have been time well spent. Please contact me should you have any questions.

About the Author

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Terri Thomas

Director of Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC.  Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS) from 1999 to 2015 and represents many school districts throughout all parts of the state.

It’s no accident that Terri wound up practicing school law.  She grew up in the school business. Terri’s father, the late Howard Thomas, was a school superintendent for 25 years in several Oklahoma school districts, including Pauls Valley—Terri’s hometown—and Ardmore. After graduating from Pauls Valley High School, Terri received her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

She and her husband, Norman Thompson, and their 8-year old daughter, Mary, reside in Oklahoma City.