Health and Safety of Minors Policy

Established: January 2020
Responsible Office: Finance and Administration
Responsible Senior Staff Member: Vice President for Finance and Administration  
Drafted By:  Health and Safety of Minors Project Team
Date Last Revised: January 12, 2021

Statement

Mount Holyoke College is committed to creating an environment that is safe and secure in all of our College Sponsored Programs (“Programs”), services and activities, including those that are geared towards Minors-persons under 18 years of age. Mount Holyoke has zero tolerance for the mistreatment or abuse of Minors in its Programs.  The purpose of this Policy is to promote the safety of Minors engaged with Mount Holyoke by creating specific standards to register all Programs involving Minors, to properly screen and train all authorized Program staff and to outline specific policies and protocols. In addition, this Policy establishes the expectations and reporting mechanisms that should be followed when concerns arise.

Scope / Responsibilities

This Policy applies to any Program, activity or service involving Minors that occurs on College property, at off campus Mount Holyoke events and activities, and at any Mount Holyoke College-sponsored Program, activity, or service involving Minors, wherever it occurs. 

Exclusions

This Policy and its procedures do not apply to:

  1. Events, services or activities open to the general public where parents or guardians are expected to attend and appropriately supervise the Minor or Minors in their care;
  2. Courses in which minors are enrolled;

Definitions

Access

Authorized Adults who interact with, and have access to, Minors are classified in these policies as having High or Low Contact.

High Contact:

  • is involved with the care, supervision, guidance, or control of Minors;
  • works with or around Minors on a Program that meets regularly or involves multiple interactions;
  • is expected to have one on one contact with a Minor; or
  • is a consistent and regular volunteer for Programs involving Minors.

Low Contact:

  • works with or around Minors for a one-time Program (but not Programs that meet regularly or involve multiple interactions);
  • is always supervised by another adult when interacting with Minors; or
  • is not responsible for supervising Minors.

If a Program Manager is unsure of the access level of an Authorized Adult, then the Program Manager shall assume the individual will have High Contact.

Authorized Adult

A person 18 years of age or older who supervises, teaches, counsels, volunteers or otherwise works with Minors participating in a Program.  The term Authorized Adult does not include a person whose only role is to make a presentation to a group of Minors who are under the supervision of another adult at the time of the presentation.

Child Abuse

The endangerment of a Minor’s physical or mental health due to injury by act or omission, including acts of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and economic exploitation. For more detailed information regarding the definitions of “abuse,” “neglect,” “exploitation,” “abandonment,” and related terms under Massachusetts law, please refer to the definitions of abuse and neglect, utilized by the Massachusetts  Department of Children and Families, and associated state-mandated reporting requirements.

College Sponsored Program (“Program”)

Any activity, event, recital, lesson, class, camp, or other interaction intended for Minors, including, but not limited to Programs paid for, organized by, or operated in whole or in part by the College, on or off campus. 

Minor or Child

A person under 18 years of age, who is not an enrolled Mount Holyoke student. Enrolled students, regardless of age will instead fall within the scope of Mount Holyoke’s Gender Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Program Manager

A College community member who has been identified as a primary leader within a College Sponsored Program. Each Program is required to identify a Program Manager.

Prohibited Conduct

Under this Policy, no Program Manager, Authorized Adult, volunteer or any other Mount Holyoke employee, student or volunteer shall engage in any of the following behavior with a Minor:

  1. Have one-on-one contact with Minors. There must be at least: two (2) adults and one Minor or two (2) Minors and one adult present (The Rule of Three). The only exceptions to this Policy are as follows:
    1. There is a familial or legal guardian relationship between the adult and the Minor.
    2. There are prospective students participating in pre-enrollment overnight visitation through Admissions or Athletics with a Mount Holyoke College student host who is an Authorized Adult.
    3. There are prospective students participating in a virtual admission program or event with an Authorized Adult, including interviews and information sessions conducted online.
    4. In-person admissions, recruiting, instructional and research settings where one-on-one interaction must occur, or may occur unexpectedly. In such settings, free access by other Authorized Adults to and from any space must be maintained at all times. Examples of methods to achieve free access include: using no window or door coverings that would restrict or eliminate visibility into the room and ensuring doors that are used to enter and exit the space are unlocked and accessible. If visibility and access cannot be maintained, the Rule of Three must be in place at all times.
    5. Emergency Exception: The prohibition of one-on-one contact identified in this Policy may be temporarily suspended if an emergency situation warrants it (e.g., one adult accompanies a Minor to the emergency room, summons law enforcement, or searches for a missing Minor). An alternative adult must join the group to reestablish the Rule of Three as soon as feasible.
  2. Engage in Discrimination or Harassment. The College does not tolerate any discrimination or harassment involving Minors participating in Programs, services or activities, on the basis of a Minor’s age (except as permitted by legitimate Program requirements), color, creed, disability, gender identity, national/ethnic origin, race, religion, sex (except as permitted by legitimate Program requirements), or sexual orientation.
  3. Use cell phones, cameras, imaging, or digital devices in an inappropriate way.  Use of a device capable of recording or transmitting visual images in locker rooms, restrooms, or other areas where privacy is expected by participants is strictly prohibited.
  4. Meet with Minors outside of established times for Program activities including but not limited to visiting a youth at their home, hosting a youth in an Authorized Adult’s home, transporting the youth in a personal vehicle, etc.
  5. Touch Minors in a manner that a reasonable person could interpret as inappropriate.
  6. Engage in abusive conduct of any kind toward a Minor, including but not limited to verbal abuse, striking, hitting, punching, poking, spanking, tickling, kissing, full-frontal hugs, lap sitting, wrestling, piggyback rides, touching of bottom, chest or genital areas, massaging, masturbating, restraining or engaging in any physical act of affection that is unwanted by the minor.
  7. Shower, bath, or undress with or in the presence of Minors.
  8. Share a bed or sleeping bag with a Minor.
  9. Use, possess, and/or be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, provide any of the same to any Minor.
  10.  Be alone in a vehicle with a Minor at any time. 
  11.  Have direct electronic contact with Minors outside of professional communication without another person included in the communication. This includes but is not limited to telephone, social media, text, in-game chat and email.
  12.  Make sexual materials in any form available to Minors participating in Programs or activities or assist them in any way in gaining access to such materials.
  13.  Seek out Minor Program participants or accept invitations to connect on social media or gaming platforms including but not limited to Facebook, Instagram, X-box, Twitter, etc.
  14.  Leave a Minor in the care of a person who is not an Authorized Adult.

Procedures

As set forth in further detail below, prior to the occurrence of any College Sponsored Program, the Program Manager or the Program Manager’s designee must: 

  1. Register the Program through the Five College Portal at least 21 calendar days prior to the start of the event;  
  2. Screen and select Authorized Adults who will participate in the Program; and 
  3. Verify that all Authorized Adults who will participate in the Program have completed the required training. 

Programs are not permitted if the proceeding steps have not occurred.

I. Registration

Each Program Manager must register the Program through the Five College Portal by completing an event registration form at least 21 calendar days prior to the start of the Program.

II. Screening and Selection

All Programs must adhere to screening and selection criteria required by the College. The College may conduct a background screening on any Authorized Adult at any time after employment or volunteer services has begun.

All Authorized Adults with any access to Minors are required to complete the following every three (3) years: 

  1. A multi-state criminal background check (CORI) that includes county-level information; and
  2. A national sex offender registry check (SORI).

Additionally all students and employees will be screened by the College’s Title IX and Residential Life Offices for pending or prior conduct violations.

Once a Program Manager registers the Program through the Five College Portal, Five College Compliance and Risk Management Office will conduct necessary background checks.

For individuals with High Contact with Minors, additional screening by Program Managers could include:  

  1. Conducting face-to-face interviews using behaviorally-based standardized questions designed to assess for potential risk to abuse; and
  2. Contacting a minimum of three references, at least one of which is personal, using behaviorally-based questions that assess abuse risk.

Questions and concerns about the process or information gathered through screening should be directed to the Five College Director of Compliance and Risk Management.

If an individual has been authorized to participate in one Program and wishes to participate in an additional Program, the Program Manager for the additional Program must contact the Five College Office of Compliance and Risk Management to verify eligibility.

III. Training

Once every three years, all Authorized Adults must complete two training modules: 1) a policy training course; and 2) a child abuse prevention training. Additional training modules may be assigned as needed by the Program Manager and in consultation with Five College Risk Management. 

All training will be administered through the Five College Portal.

Expectation to Report Suspected Violations

The College does not condone Child Abuse, and will take prompt action upon receiving any report of suspected Child Abuse. The College encourages all community members to report suspected violations of this policy, inappropriate or suspicious behaviors that may not rise to the level of abuse, Minor-to-Minor sexualized behaviors and abuse or behaviors that could be perceived as sexualized or abusive, and suspected child abuse and neglect.

All Authorized Adults and employees are obligated to report suspected violations of this policy, inappropriate or suspicious behaviors that may not rise to the level of abuse, Minor-to-Minor sexualized behaviors and abuse, and suspected child abuse and neglect. Notifications to the College should be made through the College’s online incident reporting form or directly to the Mount Holyoke College Police Department. The College will review and conduct an assessment of all reports. 

The internal reporting obligations under this policy exist in addition to any reporting obligation mandated by state law. For greater clarity: if an individual has a reporting obligation under both this policy and applicable law, that individual must make both reports. Failure of an employee to make an internal or external report under this policy may result in criminal and/or disciplinary actions.

Assessment, Investigation, and Resolution

The College will address all reports of suspected Child Abuse. In all instances, the College will—at a minimum—conduct an initial assessment of the report. The initial assessment will include a determination of any immediate, emergency, and / or interim steps that should be taken to reduce the risk of harm to individuals or to the campus community pending final resolution of the matter. The safety and well-being of the affected Minor(s) will be given priority when determining any such interim steps.

If a report contains allegations that would constitute Child Abuse, the College will refer the matter to law enforcement.

If a report contains violations of this Policy, the College will undertake an investigation into the matter. The investigation will follow applicable procedures, if any, within the Student Honor Code, Faculty Handbook, and Staff Handbook, if applicable. Unless appropriate College personnel are specifically instructed otherwise by law enforcement, the College will conduct its assessment and review regardless of whether a criminal investigation is also pending. In the event that the College is directed by law enforcement not to pursue an internal investigation, the College will continue to fully cooperate with the law enforcement investigation.

Violations and Sanctions

Violations of College policies by students, faculty, and staff are adjudicated according to the procedures outlined in the Student Code of Conduct, the Faculty Handbook, and the Staff Handbook, respectively, with disciplinary consequences imposed by the adjudicating authority up to and including dismissal from the College or termination of employment. Conduct that violates local, state, federal, or otherwise applicable laws, statutes, regulations, codes, or ordinances, domestically or internationally, may be punishable under those laws.

Statement of Non-Retaliation

Harassment and retaliation (including, but not limited to adverse employment consequences) of or against any person who, in good faith, reports a suspected violation of law or College policy is prohibited. Any person who retaliates against someone who has reported a suspected violation in good faith is subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment. Any employee who believes that they have been retaliated against after making a good faith report is encouraged to report the alleged retaliation.

Related Information

Related Policies

  • Sexual and Romantic Relationship Policy
  • Gender Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy - student handbook
  • Sexual Harassment Policy- staff handbook
  • Sexual Harassment Policy - faculty legislation