LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County school employees are soon to have a new rule: no fraternizing among the ranks.
The policy making its way through drafting couldn't be more clear: "In order to promote a professional work environment that is free from harassment, hostility and/or discrimination, administrators are expected to refrain from dating subordinates."
The motivation for the proposal is decidedly less than transparent.
Asked to explain the recommended new rule, superintendent Heather Fiorentino said she came from a military family where cavorting between the brass and the enlisted was verboten. If the district has such a restriction written into the policy manual, she said, then it's clear for everyone.
But has there been a problem that needs fixing?
"The issue has arisen over the years," Fiorentino acknowledged. "But I can tell you I have addressed it. … I can just tell you, it's a good thing to have a rule."
She declined to offer up any names or examples, though.
"I don't have any juicy gossip, and I'm trying to prevent any future juicy gossip," Fiorentino said.
During a workshop Tuesday, School Board members asked the superintendent and her top staff about the impetus for this measure. They also wanted more information about how the district would define dating. If two people live together but swear they're just sharing a house, for instance, is that dating?
Assistant superintendent Renalia DuBose, who's spearheading a rewrite of the entire policy manual, told the board that the administration had much debate about the issue and tried to cover all potential questions, even going so far as to define "relatives."
"Trust me, we talked this one through," DuBose assured the board.
Board member Kathryn Starkey said she had no knowledge of past relations that would have led to the need for the policy change. But neither did she oppose the addition.
"Lots of businesses have policies against dating," Starkey said.
The district has spent months updating the policy manual, revising rules that don't jibe with statute and eliminating rules that no longer make sense. The goal is to have the work completed before the start of the next school year.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.