University strengthens administrative policy for minors on campus

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State officials have enacted a significant revision to a policy overseeing the supervision and treatment of minors involved in University-sponsored programs or programs housed or held at any Penn State campus.

Administrative Policy 39 (AD39) has been updated as part of the University’s comprehensive review of all of its policies, particularly those that involve children in the wake of sexual abuse charges against a retired assistant coach.

Titled "Minors Involved in University-Sponsored Programs or Programs Held at the University and/or Housed in University Facilities,” the policy is part of a series of steps that reinforce Penn State’s safety measures for children on campus and for the entire University community.

"Strengthening our policies dealing with minors on campus complements a new sustainable professional training program we are rolling out beginning this month to educate University employees on how to recognize and report child abuse,” said Susan Basso, associate vice president for Human Resources. “These two initiatives also coincide with upcoming changes to our policy on background checking that will make it more stringent. We want to ensure the safety of children on our campuses and those involved with our programs.”

A portion of the newly updated policy requires all individuals working with minors in University programs and/or on University property -- paid and unpaid, regardless of University affiliation -- to undergo a Penn State background check or a verification of successful completion of the Pennsylvania State Criminal History Record and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's Child Abuse Report. It also requires background checks to be reviewed and approved by Human Resources and obliges all individuals to self-disclose arrests and convictions to the University within 72 hours of notification.

The policy also requires annual training for authorized adults. In addition, rules and disciplinary measures are required to be communicated clearly to all program participants and staff.

Under AD39, minors now have limited access to University facilities unless specifically authorized, and parents or legal guardians must provide written approval for participation in on-campus programs. In addition, during all activities involving minors, two or more authorized adults must be present to supervise those activities. There are further specified guidelines for overnight supervision of minors in University housing facilities, including summer camps.

If a dangerous or a potentially dangerous situation is suspected, the policy states that minors will be removed, and mandatory written notification of reported or suspected assault or abuse will be submitted to the Department of Public Welfare within 48 hours of oral notification, as well as notification made to Pennsylvania's Childline toll-free number. Mandatory reporting through oral notification also should be made to representatives of University Police, the University's general counsel, the risk management department and the applicable program director. In addition, an allegation made against an authorized adult requires the removal of the adult from his or her role with minors until the allegation has been satisfactorily investigated.

Other new aspects of the policy prohibit bullying and discuss privacy issues, notably the limited use of cameras and digital equipment in areas designated as private. Also, electronic communications between a minor and an authorized adult will require the addition to the conversation of a second authorized adult, except where a current student over the age of 18 who is hosting a prospective student under 18 would not have to include another adult in those conversations. This includes Athletics recruitment and hosting by student-athletes, as well as other programs that enlist the help of current students.

"Authorized adults" are defined in the policy as "individuals, paid or unpaid, who interact with, supervise, chaperone or otherwise oversee minors in program activities, or recreational and/or residential facilities. This includes but is not limited to faculty, staff, volunteers, graduate and undergraduate students, interns, employees of temporary employment agencies and independent contractors/consultants. The authorized adults’ roles may include positions as counselors, chaperones, coaches, instructors, etc. Authorized adults are considered to be mandatory reporters as defined by Pennsylvania law." Minors are defined as individuals under the age of 18 who are not enrolled at the University or who are considered "dually enrolled" in University programs, while also enrolled in elementary, middle or high school.

“I recommend that anyone involved with youth or youth programs read the revised policies carefully to determine how they apply to them or to any program in which they are involved – whether that’s a summer camp, a 4-H program, theatre or arts programs, music lessons, tutoring, museum tours and more,” Basso said. “It’s imperative that all employees understand the new policies and follow them to the letter.”

Supervision of minors who are involved in University research is addressed by the Institutional Review Board as outlined in RA14 and is not addressed by this policy.

The original policy, then titled "Programs Involving Minors Housed in University Facilities," was enacted in October 1992. The full, updated AD39 policy is at http://guru.psu.edu/policies/AD39.html.

Contacts: 
Last Updated April 19, 2012