Ethics Hotlines in Schools

Charter schools have taken a beating this year, with allegations of waste, fraud, and (financial) abuse making headlines. Some public school systems were in the news last year for alleged cheating scandals. There have been claims of retaliation against whistleblowing public educators. As small as the actual number of offenses may be, these kinds of allegations undermine the credibility of school systems everywhere.

Savvy school boards and school administrators recognize the importance of assuring employees, parents, and other stakeholders that allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse will be investigated and handled appropriately. Typically they do so by implementing anonymous whistleblower hotlines and other ethics policies, procedures, and practices.

They also educate employees and the public about how to use the hotline or other reporting mechanisms, often supplemented with a list of FAQs (frequently asked questions) posted in a convenient site.

Here are some examples of helpful FAQs:

  • What are waste, fraud, and abuse?
  • What is the purpose of the hotline?
  • Why did [school system] implement a waste, fraud, and abuse hotline?
  • What issues should be reported via the hotline?
  • What issues should not be reported via the hotline?
  • Who can file a report?
  • Why should I file a report?
  • Do I have to give my name?
  • What information should I provide?
  • What can I expect when I contact the hotline?
  • What other options do I have for reporting suspected waste, fraud, or abuse?
  • Where can I learn more about [school system’s] ethics policies, procedures, and practices?

School boards and administrators will also want to develop, communicate, and enforce policies that prevent or deter retaliation against those who report instances of wrongdoing. They will also want to develop clear procedures for handling all allegations in a timely and appropriate manner. And, they should also introduce initiatives that encourage ethical behavior. If school boards and administrators take these steps, they will reassure employees, parents, and other stakeholders that the school system operates with integrity.

Third party providers such as Ethical Advocate will help establish and manage anonymous telephone and web-based hotlines, and can provide related training and support for administrators and staff. Please contact us. We look forward to answering your questions.