Protection of Minors and Reporting Abuse
Responsible Person: Executive Vice President
Responsible Office: Office of President
Approved by: President’s Cabinet
Effective Date: May 31, 2019
1.0 Policy Statement
Bridgewater College is committed to promoting the safety and wellbeing of Minors who visit our campus to participate in programs and activities that are designed to include children. The purpose of this Policy is to (i) describe the College’s expectations of College Representatives and third parties, including contractors, when interacting with Minors on campus, (ii) set forth criteria for Programs involving Minors to help promote their safety while participating in a Program, and (iii) inform all members of the College community of their obligation to report any instances of known or suspected Abuse or neglect.
This Policy applies to all College faculty, staff, students, volunteers and contractors working or interacting with Minors.
3.1 “Abuse” includes:
- Inflicting, threatening to inflict, or allowing to be inflicted a non-accidental physical or mental injury of or to a Minor, or creating a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or impairment of bodily or mental functions of a Minor
- Neglecting or refusing to provide care necessary for a Minor’s health, including but not limited to, adequate food, clothing, shelter, emotional nurturing and health care
- Abandoning a Minor
- Committing or allowing to be committed any act of sexual exploitation or any sexual act upon a Minor, including but not limited to, incest, rape, fondling, indecent exposure, prostitution, or allowing a child to be used in any sexually explicit visual material
- Failing to provide adequate supervision in relation to the Minor’s age and level of development
- Knowingly leaving a Minor alone in the same dwelling with a person who is required to register as a violent sexual offender
- Allowing a Minor to be a victim of sex trafficking or other form of trafficking
A more thorough definition of what constitutes abuse or neglect is found at Section 63.2-100 of the Code of Virginia, and is also described in Recognizing & Reporting Minor Abuse and Neglect (pdf) published by the Virginia Department of Social Services.
3.2 “Minor” or “Minors” is anyone who is under the age of 18, including a Bridgewater College student. Notwithstanding the foregoing, and with respect to their interactions with Minors in Programs, Bridgewater College students who are under the age of 18 are treated by this Policy similarly to all other Bridgewater College students and are subject to the same requirements that apply to other students.
3.3 “College Representative” is any College employee, student, volunteer or contractor who comes into contact with Minors through involvement in a Program.
3.4 “Program” means programs, events or activities sponsored or operated by Bridgewater College designed to include children (e.g., camps, lessons, workshops, clubs, teams, projects, or practices).
3.5 “Responsible Party” is the College employee ultimately responsible for a Program.
3.6 “Unit” is any individual, office, department, or institute that is a part of the College’s formal structure.
4.0 Behavioral Expectations
The behavior of College Representatives is expected to align, at all times, with the College’s Code of Conduct and the specific expectations for interacting with Minors found in this Policy and Appendix A.
5.0 Duty to Report Suspected Abuse and/or Inappropriate Behavior
5.1 Duty to Report. Any College employee or College Representative who, in the ordinary course of their employment or by virtue of their involvement with a Program, knows, has reason to suspect, or receives information indicating, that a Minor has been or is being subjected to Abuse, MUST report the matter immediately, either to (i) the Virginia Department of Social Services toll-free Minor abuse and neglect hotline (800-552-7096), or (ii) the local social services department of the county or city where the Minor resides or where the abuse or neglect is believed to have occurred. The Virginia Department of Social Services provides an online list of local social services agencies.
The report must be made as soon as possible, but no later than 24 hours after having reason to suspect the Abuse. Anyone who is required to report but fails to do so in a timely manner will be fined up to $500 for the first failure, and not less than $1,000 for any subsequent failure. Anyone who intentionally fails to report rape, sodomy, or object sexual penetration will be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. (Section 63.2-1509 of the Code of Virginia)
5.2 Immunity. Persons reporting Abuse to the Virginia Department of Social Services or a local social services office in good faith are immune from civil and criminal liability pursuant to Virginia Code Section 63.2-1512.
5.3 Report to Campus Police. As soon as practicable after fulfilling the reporting obligation in Section 5.1, the College employee or College Representative shall report the information to the College’s Campus Police and Safety Office (540-828-5609). The Campus Police and Safety Office will immediately notify the Executive Vice President. The Executive Vice President or designee, in consultation with appropriate College officials, will take steps to safeguard and protect the interests of victims and reporters, afford fundamental fairness to the accused, facilitate the College’s cooperation with any investigation conducted by any authorized governmental agency, and meet relevant legal requirements. The Executive Vice President or designee will notify the parents or guardians of the Minor involved if the parents or guardians of the alleged victim have not been notified and are not the alleged abusers.
Anyone who wishes to discuss any suspicious, inappropriate or unusual conduct involving a Minor while the Minor is participating in a Program or a non-College program or activity that would lead a reasonable person to have concern for the current or future well-being of that particular Minor or other Minors should immediately contact Campus Police and Safety (540-828-5609).
5.4 No Retaliation. The College’s Whistleblower Policy protects individuals from retaliation in employment when they make good faith reports about alleged violations of the College’s Code of Conduct.
5.5 Exceptions to Reporting. In the following situations, no reporting is required:
5.5.1 If the person suspecting the Abuse knows (has actual knowledge) that the same matter has already been reported as required by Virginia law and this Policy; or
5.5.2 If the Abuse occurred in the past AND the victim is now age 18 or older, a person may, but is not required to, report the matter to the appropriate law enforcement office. If the Abuse occurred in the past AND the victim is still a Minor, the matter MUST be reported as described above.
5.6 Additional Information. More information, including guidance on what constitutes and how to identify Abuse, is available in the Guide for Mandated Reporters (pdf) published by the Virginia Department of Social Services.
6.0 Requirements for Programs Involving Minors
The following requirements apply to all Programs:
6.1 Registration. All Programs must be registered with the Office of Campus Events at least thirty (30) days prior to the Program’s commencement. Forms for registering a Program are available from the Office of Campus Events.
6.2 Background Checks. The Responsible Party must ensure that the following categories of adults, students, volunteers and contractors undergo a background check, to include a criminal background check and a check of the relevant sex offender registries, prior to their participation in Programs involving Minors:
- Directors and supervisors of Programs involving Minors, including those who are responsible for supervising those who interact with Minors;
- Those who stay overnight with Minors as part of their responsibilities or role in a Program involving Minors; and
- Those who regularly spend time alone with Minors as part of their responsibilities or role in a Program involving Minors.
If a background check reveals adverse information or unfavorable results, an individualized assessment will be conducted, taking into account the following:
- the nature of the finding;
- the job for which the applicant is being considered;
- the underlying event(s) that occurred;
- the time elapsed since the finding;
- the applicant’s employment history and other evidence of his or her activities in the
- intervening time since the finding; and
- other relevant information.
A prior conviction shall not automatically disqualify an applicant from a program or activity, but shall be considered using the criteria identified above.
Background checks for College employees and College Representatives must be renewed every four (4) years. Any employee or student who is required by this Policy to have a background check is under a continuing obligation to disclose immediately any new felony or misdemeanor conviction to the Director of Human Resources. Employees who have a break in service of more than six (6) months, and students who withdraw, are suspended or dismissed, or who take a leave of absence of more than one semester, will be required to undergo a new background check if they reengage in a Program and would otherwise be required to undergo a background check pursuant to this Policy.
Except where required by law, criminal background checks of College faculty, staff and students obtained pursuant to this Policy will be used only for purposes consistent with this Policy and will otherwise be kept confidential. The record of information returned from the background check obtained pursuant to this Policy will be maintained separately from an individual’s personnel or student file.
6.3 Training. All individuals working with Minors in a Program, including but not limited to, College employees, students, volunteers, and contractors, are required to (i) review the Guidelines for Working With and Around Minors (Appendix A) and sign the Certification of Completion, available from the Office of Campus Events, and (ii) successfully complete an online training course on identifying and reporting incidents of child abuse designated by the College. In addition, individuals for whom a background check is required by this Policy must successfully complete an online training course entitled “Mandated Reporters: Recognizing and Reporting Minor Abuse and Neglect,” produced by the Virginia Department of Social Services, and provide the Certificate of Completion reflecting successful completion of the course. The Responsible Party is responsible for collecting the certifications and providing them to the College’s Office of Campus Events at least seven (7) days prior to the start date of the Program. Faculty and staff of the College and students with continuous service/enrollment who successfully complete the online training course do not have to repeat the course if they have completed it within two years of the start of the Program for which the training is required.
6.4 Liability Waivers. The Responsible Party, or the authorized representative of a non-College program or activity, must provide the Office of Campus Events with participation and liability waivers and consent to medical treatment signed by a parent or guardian for each Minor participating in a Program.
6.5 Exemptions. The Program requirements set forth in this Section 6 do not apply to:
- Events open to the general public not specifically targeted to Minors;
- Social functions that may be attended by Minors where parents/guardians or adult chaperones are invited/expected to accompany and supervise their Minors;
- Organized school field trips or tours where Minors are under the supervision of an authorized adult from the Minors’ school or organization; and
- Programs expressly granted an exemption by the Executive Vice President.
7. Third Party Use of College Facilities for Programs Involving Minors
All Units permitting third-party use of College facilities for programs or activities involving Minors must appoint a College Representative in the Unit to function as a liaison to the third-party entity. The College Representative shall ensure the execution of a facility use contract that has been reviewed and approved by the Office of the Executive Vice President, and which will include provisions regarding training, background checks, verification of insurance, and waiver compliance. The College Representative shall communicate with involved departments (e.g., Campus Police and Safety) as needed.
8. Policy Enforcement
8.1 Sanctions. College employees and students who fail to comply with this Policy are subject to disciplinary procedures in accordance with state and federal laws, College rules, regulations and policies, and applicable provisions of the College’s student code of conduct. Sanctions for violations of this Policy will depend on the circumstances and the nature of the violation, but may include the full range of available sanctions applicable to the individual including suspension, dismissal, termination of employment, and, where appropriate, exclusion from campus. The College may also take necessary interim actions before a final determination of whether a violation has occurred. The College may terminate relationships or take other appropriate actions against non-College entities that violate this Policy.
8.2 Program Suspension. The College reserves the right to immediately suspend or cancel any Program involving Minors that has not met the criteria set forth in this Policy.
Guidelines for Working With and Around Minors
Minor abuse and neglect is a difficult and emotionally-charged subject. The effects of child abuse can be devastating, especially if children are left unprotected or do not receive help to cope with the abuse. The most serious effect is that children can (and do) die as a result of abuse. Minors suffering from abuse may also develop behavioral difficulties, problems at school, delays in development, and emotional problems like depression and withdrawal.
These guidelines are intended to provide information about your conduct in order to prevent abuse or unfounded allegations of abuse; define abuse and describe signs to look for; and explain how to respond to abuse or suspicions of abuse.
What if a child tells me he or she is being abused?
- Stay calm; ensure that the child is safe and feels safe.
- Assure the child that you are taking what she/he says seriously.
- Be honest; explain you will have to tell someone else to help stop the abuse. Avoid making promises you cannot keep.
- Make a note of what the child has said as soon as possible.
- Do not confront the alleged abuser.
- Do not investigate on your own.
- ALWAYS REPORT.
- Behavioral Expectations for Working with or Around Minors
Those associated with Programs involving Minors, and those interacting with Minors otherwise on campus, shall observe the following “dos” and “don’ts” in order to maintain a safe and positive experience for Program participants, encourage parental confidence, and avoid mistaken allegations.
- Report any instance or suspected instance of Abuse involving a Minor as required by Virginia Law immediately.
- Maintain the highest standards of personal behavior at all times when interacting with Minors.
- Whenever possible, try to have another adult present when you are working with Minors in an unsupervised setting.
- Conduct necessary one-on-one interactions with Minors in a public environment where you can be observed.
- Ensure that adults and Minors have separate accommodations, and that Minors are housed with Minors of the same gender and of a similar age group.
- Whenever possible, try to avoid being alone with a Minor, particularly in a restroom, changing area, or shower area (follow the “rule of three” and always make sure there is another person with you). Should you need to be alone with a Minor in a changing or shower area, by no means should you be unclothed with a Minor, and showering or bathing with Minors, even when you are not alone with one, is never acceptable.
- Treat all Minors in a group consistently and fairly, and with respect and dignity.
- Be friendly with Minors within the context of the formal Program while maintaining appropriate boundaries.
- Online engagements with Minors, including via social media, email, or text messages, must be justified by the particular Program, and include a second adult or at a minimum, take place in a public forum.
- Maintain discipline and discourage inappropriate behavior by Minors, consulting with your supervisors if you need help with misbehaving youth.
- Be aware of how your actions and intention might be perceived and could be misinterpreted.
- Consult with other adult supervisors or colleagues when you feel uncertain about a situation.
- Spend significant time alone with one Minor away from the group or conduct private interactions with Minors in enclosed spaces or behind closed doors.
- Engage in or permit inappropriate touching, including between Minors, or have any physical contact with a Minor in private locations.
- Allow children to sit on your lap.
- Use inappropriate language, tell inappropriate jokes, or make sexually suggestive comments around Minors, even if Minors themselves are doing so.
- Allow children to use inappropriate language unchallenged.
- Give personal gifts to, or do special favors for, a Minor or do things that may be seen as favoring one Minor over others.
- Share information with Minors about your private life or have informal or purely social contact with Minors who are Program participants outside of Program activities.
- Strike or hit a Minor or use corporal punishment or other punishment involving physical or emotional pain or discomfort.
- Relate to Minors as if they were your peers, conduct private correspondence or take on the role of “confidant” (outside of a professional counseling relationship).
- Tell children “this is just between the two of us” or use similar language that encourages children to keep secrets from their parent/guardians.
- Date or become romantically or sexually involved with a Minor. Don’t show pornography to Minors or involve Minors in pornographic activities.
- Provide alcohol or drugs to Minors or use them in the presence of Minors.
- Give any Minor a ride in a car or van unless you have express permission from the parents, and transporting a Minor is permitted only if at least two adults are present in the vehicle at all times, or multiple minors are in the vehicle at all times.
III. The following is advice from the Virginia Department of Social Services on recognizing the signs of child abuse and neglect: