A Guide to Keeping Minors Safe at Your School
In recent years, schools have been propelled into the spotlight because of lawsuits stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse toward minors. It’s no surprise that these are serious liability issues for any business, but certain organizations are especially at risk if there’s frequent, unsupervised interaction between minors and adults.
These four steps can help ensure your school doesn’t have to undergo expensive and compromising lawsuits.
1. Conduct Background Checks
One of the most important things you can do to minimize risk is to take on staff and volunteers carefully. When conducting background checks, you should:
- Require all paid staff do a federal criminal background check.
- Search for all potential employees and volunteers in the National Sex Offenders Public Registry to check for any type of sex offender record.
- Require all applicants—whether paid or volunteer—to provide a list of non-family references, complete with contact information. Ask specific questions about the applicant’s reputation and character to evaluate whether he or she will present a risk to your school.
- Require documentation for all background and reference checks conducted.
2. Enforce Supervision Procedures
It’s important to set guidelines for paid employees and volunteers for two reasons. First, it protects minors from ill-intentioned adults and makes the environment safer. Second, it protects employees and volunteers from potentially false allegations, which is also important.
Of course, not all of these suggestions will be feasible. However, you should institute any applicable guidelines in order to have a preventative system in place. Some suggestions for supervision guidelines include:
- Assign two adults in the room with children
- Discourage one-on-one contact
- Require two or more children to be present with one adult and having a leader or principal randomly checking in on classrooms on a regular basis
- Consider implementing a policy that volunteers must be members of the community for at least eight months before being allowed to supervise children or youth alone
3. Require Education and Training
An important step that some schools overlook is providing adequate education and training, so all employees and volunteers understand the risk of sexual misconduct allegations. Be sure to emphasize that sexual misconduct training isn’t accusatory; rather, it’s for their protection. It’s a good idea to re-train all staff annually as a reminder about the seriousness of the risk.
4. Respond Appropriately
Many employers get into trouble not because they failed to conduct the necessary background and reference checks, but because when there was evidence of accusations or problems, they didn’t react quickly and appropriately.
In training sessions, stress that all staff—including volunteers—are required to:
- Report suspicions or evidence of abuse to senior staff members, provided they themselves are not involved in the allegation. Senior staff should forward these reports immediately to the proper law enforcement officials.
- Take immediate action and remove the employee or volunteer allegedly responsible from duty. Don’t allow him or her to supervise or come in contact with youth until the investigation is complete.
- Keep detailed, written records of the allegations and interviews from all victims and alleged abusers. Documentation is the key to reduced risk in allegation response situations. Re-visit your records and make sure they reflect the adequate background checks and reference checks you conducted.
You have the duty to protect your staff, volunteers and participants from the risks of harassment. With proper guidance and careful planning, you can minimize risks and liabilities.
A member of the ‘A’ Team is always available to help you minimize risk. Chat with us.
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