Policy for the Safety & Protection of Minors

Policy Statement

Harvard University is committed to providing a safe environment for everyone on its campuses and in its programs. This includes the thousands of minors who participate in programs and activities both on and off campus.  Members of the Harvard community who interact with minors in any official capacity are expected to foster and maintain an appropriate and secure environment for minors.

Reason for Policy

Harvard engages in a wide range of academic, recreational, and service programs that involve minors.  Program characteristics vary significantly and specific policies and procedures are most effective if tailored to the complexity and scale of  each Program.   Through this Policy, the University explains its minimum standards and expectations. See also the Minors in Labs Policy

This Policy establishes:

  • Minimum standards of conduct for interacting with minors;
  • Procedures for reporting, and responding to, suspicions of abuse or neglect of minors;
  • Guidelines for the operation of programs that involve minors;
  • Minimum training requirements for Harvard community members who oversee programs that involve minors; and
  • Background screening requirements for Harvard community members who interact with minors in programs with particular characteristics.

Entities/Individuals Covered By This Policy

  • All Schools, departments and other units of the University
  • All members of the University community:
    • Faculty, including senior, junior, and visiting faculty
    • Other salaried and non-salaried academic appointees, including post-doctoral fellows, research fellows, and teaching assistants
    • Staff, including salaried exempt workers and hourly non-exempt workers
    • Students
    • Volunteers
  • Non-Harvard organizations that operate programs for minors in Harvard facilities, covered by virtue of their facilities use agreements with the University
  • Contractors, including independent contractors, external consultants, workers hired through an outside employment agency, and workers employed on campus through service vendors

Key Definitions

  • Minor - A Minor, as defined in this Policy, is any person under the age of 18.  For the purposes of this Policy, it shall exclude:
    • Minors enrolled at Harvard College or Harvard University’s graduate and professional schools as full-time students; and
    • Minors receiving medical or dental care from Harvard University Health Services (HUHS), a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital, or the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.
  • Program – Any organized event or activity that includes participants who are Minors, offered by an academic or administrative unit of Harvard or recognized student organization, whether on or off-campus, or by non-Harvard organizations using campus facilities.  It shall exclude:
    • Events or activities that are open to the general public where parents/guardians are expected to provide supervision;
    • Events or activities where parents/guardians are explicitly required to accompany Minors;
    • Online courses;
    • Official Harvard admissions-related activities for prospective students, aged 16 and over, including alumni interviews, visits by candidates for admission and visits by prospective students and student-athletes.  Harvard community members engaged in such admissions-related activities will, at minimum, be required to comply with the Guidelines for Interacting with Minors.  Tub Sponsoring Offices will provide copies of the guidelines to relevant parties and determine whether additional procedures, such as training and screening, are required;
    • Minors employed by Harvard, age 16 and older.  Hiring managers will, at minimum, be required to comply with the Guidelines for Interacting with Minors.  Tub Sponsoring Offices will provide copies of the guidelines to relevant parties and determine whether additional procedures, such as training and screening, are required;
    • Minors aged 16 or older holding regular employment positions at Harvard.  Being paid does not automatically exempt a Minor from the Policy -- e.g., paid internships. Hiring managers will, at minimum, be required to comply with the Guideliens for Interacting with Minors. Tub Sponsoring Offices will determine whether additional procedures, such as training and screening, are required; and
    • Research protocols involving Minors as human subjects, which are subject to the requirements specified by the relevant Institutional Review Board (IRB).
  • Program Administrator(s) – An individual designated as the primary contact for the Program.  The Program Administrator must be a Harvard faculty or staff member or a Harvard student.   Responsibilities of the Program Administrator shall include:
    • Submitting the Program registration to the Youth Protection Registration Portal;
    • Completing Harvard’s Minors training program for Program Administrators;
    • Confirming that the Program’s Responsible Adults have been screened and that they have successfully completed the required training programs (the Program Administrator is also responsible for creating and facilitating Program-specific trainings, if applicable) and
    • Distributing the Guidelines for Interacting with Minors to the Program’s Responsible Adults and other adult participants.
  • Responsible Adult – An individual aged 18 and older, paid or unpaid, who participates in:
    • A Program where the individual may have one-on-one contact with a Minor, or contact with a group of Minors without another adult present, in a non-public setting; or
    • A Program that has a residential component and the individual has access to the residence(s); or
    • A Program that involves physical contact and/or disrobing; or
    • Any athletics Program.

Matriculating Harvard students under 18 can be Responsible Adults.  

No member of the Harvard community or contractor shall serve as a Responsible Adult in a Program unless and until such a person has:

  • Tub Sponsoring Office(s) – Office designated by each school or central unit with responsibility for:
    • Reviewing and approving Programs involving Minors via the Youth Protection Registration Portal, including Programs offered by non-Harvard organizations using Tub facilities;
    • Administering and supporting institutional training;
    • Ensuring that all required screening has occurred, and that any person whose screening produces information that bears adversely upon his or her ability to provide for the safety and well-being of Minors is prohibited from having contact with Minors; and
    • Monitoring compliance with the Minors Policy at the Tub level.
  • Youth Protection Officer – Individual appointed by the VP of HR  with responsibility for:
    • Maintaining the Minors Policy and biannually evaluating it for effectiveness;
    • Providing advice to the community on Policy requirements;
    • Developing and providing tools and online resources to assist Tubs in meeting Policy requirements (background screening, template documentation, training, abuse or neglect reporting, etc.); and
    • Annually, conducting a census of Programs, assessing Policy compliance and reporting results and any associated recommendations to the University Risk Management Council (URMC).
  • Mandated Reporter -- Massachusetts law requires Mandated Reporters to immediately make an oral report to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) when, in their professional capacity, they have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 years is suffering from abuse and/or neglect.  All members of the Harvard community and contractors/consultants, who, while representing or serving Harvard or otherwise participating in a Harvard program, interact with Minors are considered Mandated Reporters

Procedures

Mandatory Requirements

Program Registration and Approval

  • Program Administrators must register Programs in the Youth Protection Registration Portal annually. 
  • Tub Sponsoring Offices must develop and implement a Program review and approval process, including escalation procedures for adjudication on Programs with a higher risk profile (e.g., residential/travel components) – see Program Evaluation section of this Policy, under Recommended Practices.
  • The Youth Protection Officer must, at least annually, conduct a census of Programs, assess Policy compliance and report results and any associated recommendations to the URMC.
  • Tub Sponsoring Offices are also responsible for ensuring that the Program complies with any other University Policy or federal or state law. For example, if the Program is a recreational camp it may be subject to the requirements of certain state regulations as set forth in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Regulatory Standards for Recreational Camps. Further information and guidance on recreational camps is provided in the Publications and Advisories section of the Office of General Counsel http://ogc.harvard.edu/pages/publications.

Guidelines for Interacting with Minors

  • All members of the Harvard community,  contractors and volunteers who interact with Minors while participating in a Program must abide by the Guidelines for Interacting with Minors.  

Background Screening

  • Those who qualify and wish to serve as a Responsible Adult, including current Harvard faculty, staff, and students, will receive a Working with Minors background screen to be successfully returned with no adverse results before the start of the Program. Responsible Adults staying overnight in dorms and/or working with Programs that are considered recreational camps will also receive the Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) screen. If the Responsible Adult will be driving Minors, then a motor vehicle driving record search is also required.
  • The Program Administrator is responsible for providing the names and contact information for all Responsible Adults involved in Programs in the Youth Protection Registration Portal
  • No one other than a Responsible Adult shall be permitted to have unsupervised, one-on-one contact with a Minor in a non-public setting.
  • The Tub Sponsoring Office is responsible for ensuring that all required screening has occurred, and that any person whose screening, after an individualized determination, produces information that bears adversely upon his or her ability to provide for the safety and well-being of Minors is prohibited from having contact with Minors.
  • The Tub Sponsoring Office shall coordinate the screening process for members of the Harvard community with the Tub’s Human Resources office, its background screening vendor, and/or other Tub offices as determined by the applicable Tub (e.g., the Tub’s Student Dean’s office). These offices should ensure that information produced in connection with the screening is handled in accordance with University employment and privacy policies, including the University's Background Screening Guildelines. The Tub Sponsoring Office is responsible for referring all screening results that bear adversely upon an individual’s ability to provide for the safety and well-being of Minors to the Youth Protection Officer for advice and direction, in consultation with the Office of the General Counsel.
  • Screening for contractors or other individuals employed or otherwise affiliated with non-Harvard organizations shall be handled by such non-Harvard organization. The non-Harvard organization must certify to Harvard in writing what screens were completed and that nothing in the background of the individual bears adversely upon his or her ability to provide for the safety and well-being of Minors.
  • After the initial screening, the Tub Sponsoring Office shall screen Responsible Adults at least every three years.
  • The Tub Sponsoring Office is responsible for monitoring compliance with the background screening requirement.
  • The cost of background checks will be borne by the Program.

Training

  • Program Administrators and Responsible Adults are required to participate in a training program. The program will cover:
    • Harvard University policies regarding interactions with Minors;
    • Background screening requirements;
    • Examples of appropriate and inappropriate behavior with Minors, as outlined in the Guidelines for Interacting with Minors;
    • Behavioral signs that a Minor may be a victim of abuse or neglect; and 
    • Reporting requirements and procedures for suspicion that a minor may be a victim of abuse or neglect.
  • The training program is a minimum requirement. The need for additional, Program-specific training will be determined by the Program Administrator and the Tub Sponsoring Office, as appropriate.
  • Training of Program Administrators and Responsible Adults must take place prior to involvement in the Program and refresher training will be required every three years.
  • The Tub Sponsoring Office is responsible for registering Program Administrators and Responsible Adults for the training program and monitoring compliance with the training requirement. The Tub Sponsoring Office provides support for the training program, including maintenance of training records.

Reporting Abuse and Inappropriate Activity Involving Minors

  • All members of the Harvard community and contractors/consultants, who, while representing or serving Harvard or otherwise participating in a Harvard program, interact with Minors are required by this Policy to report any instances of suspected abuse or neglect of a Minor, as well as situations involving inappropriate activity with a Minor.
  • While concerns and observations may initially be discussed with the Program Administrator and/or  a supervisor, reports of suspected abuse and/or neglect shall be made to the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) as soon as possible: Urgent: 617-495-1212 (Longwood 617-432-1212) Business: 617-495-1215.
  • The Youth Protection Officer, HUPD and the Program Administrator are available to provide support and advice to members of the Harvard community who suspect abuse or neglect of a Minor.
  • The Youth Protection Officer shall provide a redacted summary of reports of suspected abuse and neglect and their disposition to the University Risk Management Council (URMC).
  • Further details are located in Appendix A of the Policy. 

Non-Harvard Programs / Leased Facilities

  • Prior to permitting a non-Harvard organization to use Harvard facilities for Programs involving Minors, the non-Harvard organization must execute a license agreement that contains the terms and conditions set forth at the end of this Policy in the section entitled “Leased Facilities,” Appendix D.   Questions about these terms should be discussed with the Office of the General Counsel.
  • Programs sponsored by non-Harvard organizations must be registered in accordance with the requirements set forth above, and the Tub Sponsoring Office shall designate a Harvard faculty or staff member or Harvard student as the Program Administrator.  
  • Program Administrators for non-Harvard organizations using Harvard University facilities for Programs involving Minors shall ensure that the third parties are aware of and compliant with the requirements outlined in this Policy.

Policy Exceptions

Recommended Practices

Program Evaluation

  • All existing and planned Programs should evaluate the structure of the Program and the suitability of the environment in which the Program operates or will operate to determine whether all reasonable steps have been taken to provide for the safety and protection of Minors.  In addition, the Program’s capacity and associated plans to respond to emergency situations should be assessed.  Sample risk factors to consider during this evaluation can be found at the end of this Policy in the section entitled Program Evaluation/Risk Assessment, Appendix B.

Program Policies, Procedures and Related Forms

  • Programs should develop specific Program policies and procedures.  The extent of procedures and associated participation agreements, waivers, health declaration or medical treatment forms, emergency plans, grievance procedures etc., will be commensurate with Program characteristics such as Program type, participant profile, duration, etc.  All Programs must adopt a grievance procedure to handle complaints from Program participants and their parents and guardians promptly and equitably.
  • Programs with a residential component should develop specific Program policies and procedures to promote the safety and well-being of participants.  Items to consider can be found at the end of this Policy in the section entitled Residential Programs – Recommended Policies and Procedures, Appendix C. 
  • Programs should assess any additional and specific training requirements for Program staff e.g., first aid training or CPR certification.

Participant Registration

  • Program Administrators should consider obtaining as a minimum:
    • Emergency contact details; and
    • Participation agreement/waiver forms.
  • Additional participant information may be warranted, such as medical treatment authorization or medical disclosure forms, depending on the specific characteristics and duration of the Program.

Emergency / Medical Planning

  • At a minimum, Program Administrators shall develop a plan for responding to emergency events, including communication to participants and parents/guardians, and shall understand how emergency situations at the Program level interface with Tub-level emergency plans.

Supervision – Counselor to Participant Ratio

  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Health's recommended staff-to-camper ratios should be used as a guide for determining an appropriate level of supervision of Minors.
  • The Department’s regulations require different ratios for varying ages. Generally, the ratios are:
    • One supervisory staff person for every five campers ages six or under; and 
    • One supervisory staff person for every 10 campers over the age of six.
  • The regulations include additional guidance on supervision for special needs camps, primitive, travel and trip camps, and specialized activities. See State Sanitary Code, Chapter IV) "Minimum Sanitation and Safety Standards for Recreational Camps for Children" at 105 CMR 430.000. For the complete regulations, visit:http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/regs/105cmr430.pdf.