Minors in College Programs

Policy Statement

In order to ensure a safe environment and demonstrate best practices for Emerson College’s programs involving Minors (individuals under the age of 18), all members of our College community have a duty to:  

  1. Safeguard Minors who are using our facilities or involved with College programs and activities; and
  2. Report Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect in accordance with the Mandated Reporter Statute, Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 119, Section 51A and California Penal Code section 11165.7.  Both state agencies are a part of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare System, which provides federal oversight for child protection services.

This policy further establishes that

  • All Emerson College employees are Mandated Reporters (as further defined below); and
  • All Emerson College Police Department officers are Designated Agents (as further defined below).

This policy applies to all faculty, staff, students, third parties, and/or volunteers representing Emerson College. 

It is the policy of Emerson College that members of the College community will not engage in Child Abuse and Neglect. 

It is also the policy of Emerson College that all members of the College community, regardless of whether they are Mandated Reporters, will immediately report suspected Child Abuse to the College’s Designated Agent (as further defined below).

Policy Clarifications

All Emerson College’s programs involving Minors, whether the program is on college property or offsite, must adhere to the guidelines established below.  The exception to this Policy is third-party groups who are leasing facilities for programs that are not affiliated with or sponsored by Emerson College.  Contractual arrangements with third-party groups (typically referred to as Facilities Usage Agreement) are managed by Emerson College’s Business Services and those contractual arrangements outline the third-party obligations with respect to Minors. 

This Policy applies to events or programs that are sponsored by Emerson College, but facilitated by a third-party group, in addition to necessary third-party arrangements with Business Services.

If an Emerson College program will be providing housing for Minors at an off-campus location, the Program Administrator must contact the Office of Risk Management for insurance approval. 

Employees bringing their Minor children or guests to Emerson programs are responsible for their supervision.

This policy does not apply to Emerson College faculty, staff or students participating in community outreach volunteer programs or public events.  National and community service initiatives involving Minors coordinated by Emerson College programs under federal or state grant should consult with the Office of Human Resources and/or the Office of Research and Creative Scholarship.

Reason for the Policy

Compliance with this policy is a condition of providing Emerson College programs or services to and for Minors who are not registered undergraduate or graduate students at Emerson College. 

This policy outlines required actions for all programs serving, educating, or otherwise involving Minors, including programs held on campus or sponsored by Emerson College at offsite locations. 

Definitions

“Authorized Adult” refers to any individual over 18 years of age who is authorized pursuant to this Policy to supervise Minors involved in Emerson College-sponsored programs.

California Department of Social Services, Office of Child Abuse Prevention (CDSS) is the California state agency charged with responsibility for protecting children from Child Abuse and Neglect. 

“Caretaker” includes a child’s parent, step-parent, guardian, grandparent, teacher, babysitter, coach, school bus driver, camp counselor and any other person entrusted with the responsibility for a child’s health and welfare.  The term is meant to be construed broadly and includes a caretaker who is juvenile.

“Child” or “Minor” is an individual under the age of 18.

“Child Abuse” is the non-accidental commission of any act by a caretaker upon a child which causes or creates a substantial risk of physical or emotional injury; or the commission of a sex offense against a child as defined by the criminal laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; or any sexual contact between a caretaker and a child.  This definition is not dependent upon location (for example, abuse can occur in an out-of-home or in-home setting).

“Child Neglect” is failure by a Caretaker, either deliberately or through negligence or inability, to take those actions necessary to provide a child with minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, emotional stability and growth, or other essential care.  However, such inability cannot be due solely to inadequate economic resources or due solely to the existence of a handicapping condition.  This definition is not dependent upon location (for example, abuse can occur in an out-of-home or in-home setting).

“Designated Agent” - at Emerson College, the Designated Agent is any Officer in the Emerson College Police Department.  A Designated Agent is the individual at a private educational institution to whom Mandated Reporters can notify of suspected Child Abuse or Neglect; the Designated Agent is then responsible for reporting to the DCF or CDSS. 

“Key Personnel” refers to individuals who are primarily responsible for educating, training, serving and/or monitoring Minors participating in a program, but whom may not have direct care and/or supervisory duties for those Minors.

“Mandated Reporters” - at Emerson College, all employees are Mandated Reporters including faculty and student employees.   Mandated Reporters are defined at M.G.L. c.119 51A and C.P.C. 11164-11174.3 and include, but are not limited to, the following professions:  any physicians; medical interns; hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons; medical examiners; psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers, drug and alcoholism counselors; emergency medical technicians; dentists; nurses; chiropractors; podiatrists; optometrists; osteopaths; public or private school teachers; educational administrators; guidance or family counselors; day care worker or any person paid to care for or work with a Child in any public or private facility, or home or program funded by the state, which provides day care or residential services to Children or which provides the service of child care resource and referral agencies, voucher management agencies, family day care systems and child care food programs; probation officers; clerks/magistrate of the district court; parole officers; firefighters; police officers; office for Children licensor, school attendance officers, human services professionals.  

Massachusetts Department of Children and Families(“DCF”) is the Massachusetts state agency charged with responsibility for protecting children from Child Abuse and Neglect.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare System is a Federal Government agency that plays a major role in supporting states in the delivery of services through funding and legislative initiatives.  

“Resident Program” is a College program in which participants are provided with overnight housing and the program generally includes evening social activities, meals, transportation (if needed).  These types of programs generally run two or more days.  Participants are supervised for the entire duration of the program.

“Responsible Dean or Department Head” refers to the Dean or Department Head having responsibility over an academic or administrative unit, respectively, which oversees or sponsors an Emerson College program involving Minors.

“Program Administrator” refers to the individual(s) coordinating the program as authorized by the Responsible Dean or Department Head.

“Unsupervised Access” means being alone with a single Minor where they cannot be observed by others.

Statements of Elaboration of the Policy

I. Program Registration

Program Registration process is required for two key reasons:  safety protocol and awareness.  The key purpose is to ensure all necessary Emerson College personnel are notified of this Policy and to ensure the mandated safety protocol is followed.  The registration process further provides Program Administrators, faculty, and staff with tools for promoting awareness and education relating to the prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

The registration process includes:

A.  Program Registration Form

B.  Identifying Authorized Adults

C.  Training for Authorized Adults and Key Personnel

D.  Background Checks for Authorized Adults and Key Personnel

E.  Code of Conduct for Authorized Adults and Key Personnel

F.  Best Practices for Program Administrators, including guidance on Program Registration, Communication Plan, Medical Emergency Plan, and Supervision

A. Program Registration Form

Program Administrators must submit a “Program Registration Form” to the Responsible Dean or Department Head for approval.  Once approved, the Program Registration Form should be submitted to the Office of Human Resources at least sixty (60) days prior to the start of the program. 

The Office of Human Resources will partner with and guide Program Administrators through program registration to ensure adequate disclosure, identification, training and background checks are completed for Authorized Adults and Key Personnel.  Each program may slightly differ in its registration requirements, depending upon the location, participants, sponsors, and other factors.    

The Office of Human Resources maintains program registration records for internal administrative audit purposes only.  The Office of Human Resources recommends that Program Administrators also maintain program registration records as well as supplemental program material.  Program design, content, selection, audience and overall implementation is solely managed by the Responsible Dean or Department Head and/or Program Administrator.

B.  Authorized Adults

For all Emerson College’s programs involving Minors, the Program Administrator prepares and submits to the Office of Human Resources a list of all Authorized Adults and Key Personnel (submitted as Page Two of the above-referenced Program Registration Form).

Minimum requirements for Resident Programs are:
One Authorized Adult for every 8 Minors ages 9 to 14;
One Authorized Adult for every 10 Minors ages 15 to 17.

Minimum requirements for day programs are:
One Authorized Adult for every 10 Minors ages 9 to 14;
One Authorized Adult for every 12 Minors ages 15 to 17.

For Minor’s restroom breaks, Authorized Adults should use discretion based upon the activity location.  For example, if restrooms are not conveniently located nearby, the Authorized Adult should not allow any one Minor to leave to use the restroom.  It is suggested that a Minor be paired with another Minor (preferably identifying as the same gender if disclosed or known).  An Authorized Adult may also escort one or more Minors to a restroom, but should wait outside the restroom area.

C. Training

For all Emerson College’s programs involving Minors, the Program Administrator distributes to all Authorized Adults and Key Personnel instructions for completion of an online training program (program link and instructions are provided by the Office of Human Resources to the Program Administrator). 

All Authorized Adults and Key Personnel must complete the training prior to the start of the program. 

All Authorized Adults should also familiarize themselves with the Emergency Evacuation Procedures posted by the Emerson College Police Department. 

D. Background Checks

For all Emerson College’s programs involving Minors, the Program Administrator distributes to all Authorized Adults and Key Personnel a copy of Emerson College’s current background policy and instructions for completion of a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Acknowledgement.  The CORI Acknowledgements are collected by the Program Administrator and submitted to the Office of Human Resources a minimum of thirty (30) days prior to the start of the program.

The background search is administered by the Office of Human Resources.  At a minimum, a background check will include a review of the CORI.  A background check may also include a review of the Sex Offender Records Information (SORI) database, as well as a national criminal or sex offender search.  All such background checks shall be conducted in compliance with the applicable provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services.

If background search results in adverse action, the Office of Human Resources confidentially facilitates any necessary communication between the affected individual and Program Administrator.

Background checks for returning staff must be repeated every two (2) years.  Some programs may require more frequent background checks.

Failure to comply with a background check may result in immediate suspension or termination.  Authorized Adults and Key Personnel are encouraged to self-disclose to the Office of Human Resources any changes to their arrest or conviction record that may occur while they are participating or supporting a program.

Emerson College programs that provide opportunities for registered graduate students to work with Minors at other institutions or businesses, in which the Minors are the responsibility of the other institution or business, should consult with the Office of Human Resources to determine if any necessary background checks or training be provided for our graduate students.  In most cases, our graduate students will be asked by the other institution or business to undergo a background check.  If no background check is requested and/or training provided by the other institution or business, or if this process is not known or confirmed by the other institution or business, then the Emerson College program should adhere to the CORI and training components of this Policy.

If the Minor’s parent, guardian or adult supervisor is present either as part of an audience or otherwise onsite during an Emerson College program, course, event or presentation occurs, then they are the Authorized Adult.  Therefore, no background check is required for Emerson College personnel or volunteers.

For guest Minors visiting campus for a day visit escorted by an Emerson College student or staff member, including prospective athletes or pre-enrollment visits, the Emerson College student or staff member is not required to undergo a background check.  The Emerson College student or staff member escort will be vetted by Athletics or Admissions, or the respective department. 

E. Code of Conduct

For all Emerson College’s programs involving Minors, the Program Administrator distributes to all Authorized Adults and Key Personnel a copy of this Policy as well as a Code of Conduct Acknowledgement Form.  The form is used to ensure Authorized Adults and Key Personnel are informed about the policy, informed about the training requirements and acknowledge to adhere to the Code of Conduct outlined below.  The forms are collected by the Program Administrator and submitted to the Office of Human Resources a minimum of fifteen (15) days prior to the start of the program.

Outlined below is Emerson College’s Code of Conduct relating to our all programs involving Minors.  All staff, faculty, volunteers and student representatives working in programs involving Minors will:

  • Understand and comply with the mandatory regulations and Emerson College’s policies and best practices relating to programs involving Minors;
  • Commit to report suspected child abuse or neglect;
  • Cooperate fully in any investigation of such;
  • Use positive reinforcement rather than criticism, competition, or comparison when working with Minors; 
  • Treat all participants with respect, loyalty, patience, courtesy, dignity and fairness;
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries at all times, both physical and verbal;
  • Never be alone with Minors at College activities without another adult being present;
  • Never be the only adult in a restroom, shower room, locker room, or other dressing or housing area whenever Minors are using such facilities;
  • If monitoring an area or dealing with an emergency or discipline of a Minor, ensure you are in an observable area (not an enclosed, private room) and ensure doors are ajar so that you can signal to another adult for assistance;
  • Adhere to standards where safety is the priority and no physical or emotional abuse is tolerated, including but not limited to, profanity, striking, spanking, slapping, humiliating, ridiculing, threatening or degrading behaviors;
  • Do not exchange personal social media account information with Minors;
  • Do not post photos of Minors on personal social media accounts or personal devices;
  • If permission has been granted for photography, only photograph yourself with Minors in a way that reflects and is used for educational purposes and is intended to be displayed on Emerson College’s official website or social media site;
  • Do not be alone in a vehicle with a Minor and do not use personal vehicle for transporting Minors;
  • Do not use, be under the influence or in possession of tobacco products, alcohol or illegal drugs at any time during programs involving Minors.

F. Best Practices

Program Administrators should refer to the “Emerson College’s Minors in College Programs, Program Administrator Best Practices Handbook” for the current practices including, but not limited to, the coordination of transportation, food, housing or facilities usage, staffing requirements, contract, waivers, release and insurance requirements (as applicable to their program). 

(Note:  for this handbook or for situations whereby programs opt to design and use their own customized program handbook, the terms of this Policy prevail and supersede.  For example, if a handbook identifies staffing requirements which are inconsistent with the staffing requirements noted above in this Policy, this Policy dictates and a program must ensure the minimum staffing requirements as outlined in this Policy.)

II. Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect

At Emerson College all employees, including faculty and student employees, are Mandated Reporters.  Reports must be made immediately to Emerson College Police Department, as further outlined below.

State regulations require a Mandated Reporter report suspected child abuse when the Mandated Reporter has “reasonable cause to believe” that a Minor is being or has been abused in some way.  State regulations do not require the Mandated Reporter to provide conclusive proof that abuse occurred.  Educators and other school personnel are neither expected to be, nor should they act as, investigators.  The benefit of the doubt is always given to the Minor.  Waiting for conclusive proof may put a Minor at risk.  Failure to make a report can result in criminal penalties.  Failure to make a report may also subject an Emerson employee to discipline up to and including termination of employment.  Filing a mandated oral and written report in good faith protects the Mandated Reporter from civil and criminal action even if the report is deemed unfounded after investigation

Massachusetts law allows Mandated Reporters who are members of public or private educational institutions to notify a “Designated Agent” at the institution who then becomes responsible for notifying the appropriate governing agency.  Emerson College has designated all Officers of the Emerson College Police Department as our Designated Agent(s), and Mandated Reporters should report suspected Child Abuse and Neglect immediately to the Emerson College Police Department Emergency Line 617-824-8888.  (Note:  Emerson College Dispatchers are not Designated Agents.  Dispatchers immediately notify an Emerson College Officer who will handle the reporting.)

The College will not retaliate or discriminate against any person who, in good faith, suspects and submits a report of Child Abuse or Neglect. 

Sanctions

Failure to report Child Abuse or Neglect is punishable by law; violations may result in civil or criminal liability for the Mandated Reporter(s) and/or the College. This policy will be strictly enforced.  Failure to comply may result in program cancelation or postponement as well as disciplinary action.

Cross References to Related Policies

Questions about this policy should be directed to

Office of Human Resources – Senior Compliance Officer – (617) 824-3013

For more information about child protection services and government programs, visit:

Key Office to Contact Regarding this Policy and its Implementation

  • Office of Human Resources – (617) 824-8580 or hr_service_center [at] emerson.edu
  • Emerson Police – (617) 824-8555 (business line)

Links to Procedures and Forms:

Date of Initial Policy:  August 2015 (pilot)