It all started with a Facebook post. Pushed to her limit, the 18 year old high school senior had enough of the racial harassment she alleges to have experienced at the hands of her classmates. From racial slurs to threats of lynching, the district had a major calamity on their hands, one which would require swift and strategic restorative action.
Which of the Image Restoration strategies did Hartland Consolidated Schools use to tackle such a high level crisis?
Following the allegations, the district promptly launched an investigation.
In April 2021, a subcommittee dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion was formed by the school board to create a more informed and welcoming environment for the student body. Training for staff and students, increased staffing of counselors, stronger harassment policies, and a plan for potential future scenarios were implemented into the school’s corrective action approach.
The following month, three teenagers were charged with stalking, while another was charged with assault and battery, in relation to the harassment of the student.
The school’s prompt movement towards a resolution restored justice while maintaining a positive public image, highlighting the effectiveness of the corrective action strategy. Other strategies of Image Restoration like denial or evading responsibility would have been detrimental in this scenario, as it would do nothing to stop or prevent harassment. Showing the community that you are dedicated to developing a solution and a plan to stop it from happening again will ultimately strengthen the trust of the community.
When Sears met national controversy for overcharging auto parts, they denied wrongdoing, resulting in negative public perception. In William Benoit’s Accounts, Excuses, and Apologies: A Theory of Image Restoration Strategies he asserts that “corporate attorneys may have recommended denying that the problem existed to avoid litigation, but this position could not have been expected to restore Sears’ image.” According to Benoit, they did not solve the crisis and elevate their image until corrective action was implemented.
As the school year approaches, gear up in advance of a crisis with a plan and share ideas with your team as to how you would handle the above scenario.
Remain proactive-give Nichols Strategies a call to develop a plan before a crisis hits!