Smith aims to up ‘trust factor’ in school district

Instead of voting on proposed revisions to the district’s Staff/Student Non-Fraternization Policy (P-4118.24) during its March 31 meeting, the Board of Education decided to defer voting to “a later date.”

Adopted in 2008, the policy prohibits any sexual relationship, contact, or sexually nuanced behavior or communication, regardless of who initiates the behavior or whether it is welcomed or reciprocated, between a school employee and student “while the student is enrolled in the Wilton Public Schools.”

Superintendent Kevin Smith said the proposed policy revisions stem from questions he’s received about the policy and the district’s view on student safety, which, he said, reflect “a crisis of confidence and lack of trust with our school leadership.”

Smith said the cases involving former Wilton educators Eric Von Kohorn and Timothy Leonard “deal specifically with this policy” and are “part of the reason” why the board is looking at it.

“We had a paraprofessional at our preschool arrested for child pornography [Von Kohorn]. It was revealed that he had [done something to] a child, and it was also revealed that this person did admit to helping a child to the bathroom,” said Smith.

“The trouble for me is that, administratively, there wasn’t the kind of follow-up that you’d expect. There should have been follow-up. I’ve really struggled with that.”

As a result, Smith said, the district launched a review of all its personnel files and policies and examined its procedures to see if they “really address those policies.” He said new policies have also been introduced.

“Earlier this year, we took all of our staff through sexual abuse prevention training [and] we’ve taken our staff through mandated reporting changes,” said Smith. “We have updated that policy.”

Smith said he struggles with “the lack of trust that has come up” in the district and believes “further consideration” needs to be given “to the steps we take to restore trust for those who don’t trust us.”

“As for the question of accountability and who’s ultimately responsible — as superintendent of this district, it is my responsibility,” he said.

“You all hold me responsible for the work of this district [and] you have my firm commitment that we are addressing all of these concerns as they come up.”

Smith said he would like the board’s Communications, Alignment and Policy Committee to look over the non-fraternization policy again and make sure the revisions present the policy “as part of all of the work” the district is doing to ensure that everybody who is responsible for the well-being of Wilton’s students are involved in ensuring their safety and providing them support.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “we are first and foremost about keeping kids safe and supporting kids.”