May 15, 2012
IU outlines new policy to protect children on campus and at university events
By Dann Denny May 15, 2012, last update: 5/15 @ 1:25 a.m.
Many Penn State University officials were rocked to the core when former Nittany Lions assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of assaulting a boy in a Penn State locker room, and now faces 52 criminal counts related to sexual abuse of 10 boys older than 15.
That was also an eye-opener for many other universities, including Indiana University, which has recently adopted a policy that institutes steps designed to increase the safety and protection of children who take part in university-sponsored programs and activities on IU campuses.
The policy -- resulting from a review of procedures and practices by legal, planning and public safety staff -- lists measures that will be taken to help protect children.
"Many children take part in Indiana University programs and activities on IU campuses, and their safety must be our highest priority," IU President Michael McRobbie said in a prepared statement. "This policy adds procedures intended to promote a culture of caution and safety, while providing flexibility for the continued operation of a wide variety of programs."
IU spokesman Mark Land said IU personnel have already been following many of the practices outlined in the new policy, "but when you have a situation similar to what happened at Penn State, it only makes sense to review and put into writing our policies and procedures to make sure we are doing all we can do to protect children while they are on campus. There are a lot of good people working at Penn State, and still something very unfortunate happened there. If we don't learn from that situation, that's on us."
Land said the policy -- which is in effect and posted on the university's website -- covers children under age 18 who are on the IU campus for some function, such as some kind of summer camp. The policy governs programs sponsored by all Indiana University units as well as programs run by external organizations using IU facilities, including ongoing or planned programs and events designed to include children -- such as camps, lessons, workshops, clubs, teams, practices, tours and open houses.
The policy requires all faculty and academic employees, staff, students and volunteers who suspect an incident of child abuse or neglect to contact the state Child Protective Services department or local law enforcement officials, as required by Indiana law. In addition, IU personnel must report suspected abuse of minors to the IU director of public safety, who will notify Child Protective Services.
The new policy also calls for:
• Faculty, staff, students, volunteers and other personnel who work with children to have undergone criminal background checks and sex offender registry checks within the past three years. The checks must be repeated at least once every three years.
• IU units must maintain up-to-date lists of all programs they sponsor that involve children, including locations and contact information. Programs involving children will register their information with the university director of public safety using an online form.
• Programs that involve children must have policies addressing aspects of child safety -- such as transportation, weather emergencies, supervision and training. Programs that involve overnight stays or use of university residences by children must have additional policies in place to ensure safety.
• Regularly scheduled IU classes or activities designed primarily for enrolled IU students 17 and older are not covered by the policy, but the state law that requires reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect applies to anyone younger than 18, whether a student or not.
While background checks are generally required for volunteers, the policy provides an alternative for large, one- or two-day events that rely on large numbers of volunteers. Subject to approval by the university director of public safety, such events may register volunteers in advance, check names against the sex offender registry and require photo IDs from volunteers at the event.
The policy was developed by the Office of the Executive Vice President for University Regional Affairs, Planning and Policy, and will be administered by University Director of Public Safety Jerry Minger. Violations may result in sanctions, including the cancellation of programs and disciplinary actions for individuals. Suspected violations of law will be referred to law enforcement and may result in prosecution.