Why has the State System adopted this policy?
The State System is committed to protecting the safety and security of the thousands of pre-school, elementary, middle, high school, and minor-aged university students who participate in programs held on State System university campuses and other properties each year. The new policy combines existing practices with new measures designed to ensure the safest possible environment for all children on campus.
The policy also integrates provisions included in new and anticipated state laws to protect children from physical and sexual abuse.
Child protection legislation recently enacted into law strengthens the definition of child abuse; increases penalties for abusers; improves child abuse reporting; protects children from abuse by school employees; expands due process protections; and improves investigations and prosecutions.
Bills include, but are not limited to:
• House Bill 112 (Vereb)—Act No. 56
• House Bill 726 (Petri)—Act No. 108
• House Bill 431 (Gingrich)—Act No. 31
• House Bill 436 (Stephens)—Act No. 32
• Senate Bill 21 (Ward)—Act No. 33
• Senate Bill 23 (Baker)—Act No. 117
• Senate Bill 24 (Vulakovich)—Act No. 29
• Senate Bill 33 (Mensch)—Act No. 34
Future action is pending on House Bill 435 (Moul), legislation providing for background clearance requirements for those who work or volunteer with children and updating the list of criminal offenses that prevent individuals from working in jobs or programs where they are responsible for children.
Who does this policy apply to?
The new policy will apply not only to State System administrators, faculty, coaches, staff, and students, but also to outside contractors and volunteers involved with university-sponsored programs or who come onto campus to offer programs independent of the university.
Thousands of minors participate in programs on the State System university campuses throughout the year, including summer camps, educational and cultural competitions and events, tutoring programs, and a broad array of other activities. A number of campuses also offer on-campus daycare facilities. Many of the programs are offered by groups not affiliated with the universities. The new policy will apply to those groups.
When will the policy take effect?
While the new policy will take effect Dec. 31, the universities will begin to conduct required training on policies and issues related to minor safety and security for everyone on campus who works with children. Program administrators of non-university groups will be required to certify that they and their employees have satisfactorily completed required training before being allowed to use university facilities.
Who is a mandated reporter?
In a situation of suspected child abuse, all members of the university community, contractors, and volunteers will be mandated reporters under the new policy. Mandated reporters are required to immediately notify the state Department of Public Welfare (1-800-932-0313) if they suspect that a child is a victim of abuse. Immediately following the report to DPW, the mandatory reporter must notify the designated person in charge at the university who will assume responsibility for facilitating the university’s cooperation with the investigation of the report.
In what other ways is the State System helping prevent child victimization on college campuses?
The State System has teamed up with Stop It Now! to develop a first-of-its-kind program that trains “Prevention Squads” to help prevent child sexual victimization on college campuses. The first training sessions were held at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and Slippery Rock University, with additional training sessions planned this fall at Bloomsburg University and Cheyney University. The pilot program, which all 14 State System universities will eventually participate in, provides participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to help prevent children from becoming victims of sexual abuse.