Harrisburg – Dedicated to the safety and security of the thousands of pre-school, elementary, middle and high school aged children who participate in programs held on Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education university campuses and other properties each year, the Board of Governors today adopted a comprehensive policy on the protection of minors.
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 intended to protect children from physical and sexual abuse.
“This is a very serious issue for every university in every state in the country, and one we are addressing in the most comprehensive way possible,” said State System Chancellor Frank T. Brogan. “We have conducted a broad review of policies nationally in order to identify best practices and have integrated those with state and federal laws to develop a very strong policy. We are dedicated to protecting minors on campus.”
The new policy will apply not only to PASSHE 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 as well.
The policy includes a detailed “code of conduct” that spells out expectations for everyone on campus who works with children. All adults or program staff who work with minors of any age will be required to be trained on policies and issues related to minor safety and security. They also will be subject to criminal background screenings.
Program administrators of nonuniversity groups will be required to certify that they and their employees have satisfactorily completed required training before being allowed to use university facilities.
Depending on their role and level of involvement with minors, those working on campus will be required to undergo training on how to detect and report abuse or neglect as well as on sexual and other unlawful harassment, safety and security protocols, and crime reporting procedures. They also could be required to receive first aid/CPR and medication management training and be trained in the areas of participant conduct management and disciplinary procedures.
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 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.
Outside vendors using university facilities for non-university-sponsored programs or events primarily serving minors will be required to include in their agreement with the university information identifying authorized adults or program staff, supervision ratios, training, and background screening consistent with the policy.
The new policy will take effect Dec. 31. In the meantime, the universities will conduct the required training necessary for its implementation.
“When it comes time for implementation of this policy, we will be ready,” Mr. Brogan said.
The new policy continues the State System universities’ efforts to ensure their campuses are safe living, learning environments. For example, PASSHE earlier this year teamed up with Stop it Now! of Northampton, Mass., to develop a first-of-its-kind program to train “Prevention Squads” to help prevent child sexual victimization on college campuses. Participants from all 14 State System campuses are taking part in the pilot program, which eventually could become a training model for colleges and universities across the country.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, with about 112,000 students. The 14 State System universities offer degree and certificate programs in more than 120 areas of study.
The universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. The universities also operates branch campuses in Oil City (Clarion), Freeport and Punxsutawney (IUP) and Clearfield (Lock Haven), and offer classes and programs at several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and in Center City in Philadelphia.