Showing 66 posts in Schools.
Organizations that work with teenagers face questions of sexual behavior in several different situations. The most common issues that I see are (1) “sexting,” or sending sexually explicit photos to each other, (2) horseplay that turns sexual, and (3) consensual sex. Whether these require a report to authorities or only an internal response depends on several different circumstances.
I have heard many cautious lawyers and more than one self-proclaimed expert claim that elementary school teachers and child care workers should never touch their students. These “no-touch” policies have gone so far as to prevent kids from hugging one another on campuses, and even made adults afraid to help kids apply sunscreen or band-aids for fear that they could be accused of inappropriate touching. These policies actually harm children, because they ignore the fact that appropriate human touch is a healthy and necessary part of growth and development.
Many schools and child care centers have video surveillance systems in place, but do not use them properly. As an attorney defending youth organizations, I have rarely found the footage to be useful. Nevertheless, parents value the systems, so many programs have them. If you decide to install a surveillance system in your building, be sure to pay attention to some important principles.
One question that always comes up when I advise organizations about youth protection policies is what sort of training to provide to children. Whether to include that training is simply a matter of your professional judgment about how it fits into your program's mission. Many programs claim to prevent abuse, but there is no mental health research supporting those claims. However, some program have demonstrated such benefits such as prompting children to disclose abuse earlier and lessening some of the self-esteem issues that accompany abuse.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has reviewed a number of mental health studies of programs for younger children, and has published a helpful guide to those programs. It is a good place to start in deciding whether to include such a curriculum in your program, and which one will be the best fit.
Even the best child protection policy is useless if no one follows it. Effective policies require constant training and a clear protocol for reporting violations of the policy.
Orientation and Training
Every employee should go through an orientation program that includes a thorough review of the child safety policy. Volunteers are not always willing to give up the extra time for an orientation session, but you should at least require them to affirm that they have reviewed the written policy and agree to abide by it.
Once you have decided the goals of your youth protection policy and what to include, then you need to decide who is covered and where to publish it.
Who is Covered
You do not have to include every employee or volunteer in every aspect of your policy. For example, maintenance people who are not routinely on the premises and never have unsupervised access to children may not need not to be screened as thoroughly as other staff. On the other hand, a cook who sometimes substitutes in a day care class should be vetted just as thoroughly.
Whatever your program, there are a few things that you absolutely must include. The details of the components may vary, but you must have them in some form or another.
First, require criminal background checks for anyone working directly with children. The background checks rarely turn up anything, but they operate on the same principle as immunizations—if we omit them, then predators will start applying to our organizations.
The beginning of a new year is always a good time to review and strengthen internal policies. This is particularly true of child protection policies, where a few simple precautions can yield important benefits. Best practices in the industry include such policies, and many insurance companies require them. This series of posts outlines some principles that I recommend to my clients.
What Is a Child Protection Policy?
The main purpose of child protection policies is to protect children from harm while in your program, whether from staff or other children.
I just ran across an excerpt from a new book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success,” that I hope gets wide circulation. The author, Julie Lythcott-Haims, served as Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising at Stanford, and believes that helicopter parenting harms children. The part that caught my eye was an outline of recent mental health research suggesting that overly-protective parenting causes significant mental health problems:
The federal requirements for responding to campus rape has garnered much criticism for lack of due process, presumption of guilt, and discrimination against men. Recent reports indicate that it also is based on bad science.
The marquee study of campus assaults is the 2002 study by David Lisak and Paul Miller. Dr. Lisak has built a career on his subsequent claims that 90 percent of college rapes are committed by serial rapists who cannot be educated about consent. He says flatly, “These are predators.”
That study and Dr. Lisak’s claims have driven the government’s policy about campus rape. President Obama’s memo announcing his new initiative to combat campus rape cited Dr. Lisak’s study numerous times. Senators are pushing federal legislation based largely on Dr. Lisak’s claims. Activists and journalists demand action to stop campus predators. New studies and investigations of Dr. Lisak’s study, however, indicate that many of those predators do not exist.
- Staff Training
- Child Protection Policies
- Protection Policies
- Internal Investigations
- Speaking Engagement
- Risk Avoidance
- Child Abuse
- Criminal Law
- Mental Health Research
- Public Policy
- Employment Issues
- Zero Tolerance
- Child Witness
- Day Care
- Expert Witness
- Litigation (Discovery)
- Mandated Reporter
- Personal Injury
- Youth Camps