Protection of Minors Policy
The Protection of Minors policy is effective as of April 1, 2013. Last revision approved June 5, 2018 by the following:
Audrey Anderson, Vice Chancellor, General Counsel
Eric Kopstain, Vice Chancellor, Administration
Susan Wente, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Vanderbilt University is dedicated to the welfare and safety of Minors who visit Vanderbilt’s campus and who participate in Vanderbilt’s Programs. To promote the protection of Minors, this policy 1) describes the requirements of administrators, faculty, staff, students, volunteers and others who interact with Minors and 2) informs all members of the university community of their obligation to report any instances of known or suspected abuse or neglect of Minors. This policy is supplemented by the Protection of Minors Policy Operational Guidelines.
A. Child Abuse and/or Neglect exist when there is endangerment of a Minor’s physical or mental health due to acts of commission (physical, sexual or psychological abuse) or omission (child neglect). Under Tennessee law, all adults are mandatory reporters when child abuse/neglect is suspected. For more information on child abuse and child neglect examples, see Appendix A, “Code of Conduct for Interacting with Minors and Identifying Child Abuse.”
B. Minor is a person under the age of eighteen (18).
C. Program includes, but is not limited to, a planned and/or regular event that includes Minors such as a camp, laboratory experience or internship, campus visit, club, workshop, project, lesson, team, practice, or tour.
D. Program Director is the individual who manages or coordinates the program and/or activity.
II. REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
Every member of the University community (not limited to individuals who interact with Minors) is required by law to report known or suspected instances of the abuse or neglect of Minors. Members making a report in good faith will be protected from criminal and civil liability for making the report. Additional policy requirements include the internal reporting of abuse or maltreatment of or inappropriate interactions with (including conduct code violations) a Minor in a Vanderbilt program or at an event on campus. It is important to understand that every member is required to report any type of suspected abuse, neglect or inadequate care rather than just child sexual abuse. This policy includes disclosures of abuse which may or may not involve Vanderbilt personnel.
A. Reporting Child Abuse and/or Neglect
Tennessee law defines the mandatory requirement to report child abuse or neglect as such:
Tennessee Code Annotated 37-1-403(a)(1) requires all persons to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. “Any person who has knowledge of or is called upon to render aid to any child who is suffering from or has sustained any wound, injury, disability, or physical or mental condition shall report such harm immediately if the harm is of such a nature as to reasonably indicate that it has been caused by brutality, abuse or neglect or that, on the basis of available information, reasonably appears to have been caused by brutality, abuse or neglect.” When abuse or neglect of a Minor is suspected, two reports, one external and one internal, must be made:
Tennessee law requires every person to make a report when they suspect sexual or physical abuse or neglect of a Minor. Failure to report is a Class A misdemeanor. The required report may be made to the State of Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline at l-877-237-0004, online at https://apps.tn.gov/carat/ or to a Tennessee sheriff’s office or police department, including VUPD at 615-322-2745. If the situation is a life threatening emergency, contact 911.
In addition to an external report, every member of the University community has a further obligation to report known or suspected abuse, neglect, maltreatment, exploitation, or inappropriate interactions with (including conduct code violations) a Minor on campus or in a Vanderbilt program immediately to Vanderbilt University. Internal reporting steps include:
- Immediately contact the program supervisor (where appropriate) and the Office of Risk and Insurance Management (ORIM), Protection of Minors Director at 615-936-5935.
- Program supervisors receiving any report of concern of abuse to a Minor must report the concern to the ORIM, Protection of Minors Director at 615-936-5935. This includes if the program supervisor has already made a referral to the Department of Children’s Service or Law Enforcement as outlined in the external reporting procedure above.
- Concerns may also be reported to the occurrence reporting system.
- The University compliance hotline is accessed by calling 844-814-5935 or visiting the Compliance website.
B. Other Concerns Regarding Minors
All concerns affecting the safety and well-being of a Minor on campus and/or participating in a Vanderbilt Program should be reported via the internal methods described above.
A. Minors Participating in a Vanderbilt Program
Regardless of their physical locations, Vanderbilt University Programs, including but not limited to athletic camps, academic camps, recreational camps, intern and observer placements, campus visits, and student organizations that involve service to Minors, fall within the scope of this policy. All Vanderbilt Programs that involve Minors−whether they are time-limited, part of an operational process, or involve the housing of visiting Minors in residence halls−fall within the scope of this policy.
B. Minors Participating in a Third Party Program on Vanderbilt’s Campus
Third party and external organizations providing Programs that involve Minors on Vanderbilt’s campus fall within the scope of this policy, require registration, and are subject to compliance and reporting requirements. Third party agreements will include, at minimum, language to address compliance with mandatory reporting, insurance requirements, individual background clearances and child protection training.
C. Visiting Minors or Minor guests not Participating in a Vanderbilt or a Third Party Program
Vanderbilt, as a research university, is generally not a proper environment for Minors who are not directly accompanied by a parent or guardian unless they are participating in a Program planned for Minors and adequately supervised by adults who have the appropriate training and credentials. Accordingly,
- Visiting Minors under the age of 16 are not permitted on any student residential housing floors or student rooms on campus (including Greek housing), unless accompanied by their parent/legal guardian or VU enrolled student sibling.
- For day and/or overnight visits, the hosting student is responsible for the Minor guest throughout the visit.
- Overnight Minor visitors in residential housing:
i. Vanderbilt students who have a Minor relative, friend or other guest visit them on campus overnight must register the visitor at least 24 hours in advance of the stay by following the Guest Registration process and completing the guest registration form on the Anchor Link page of the appropriate residence hall or house. The student must provide the age of the guest and documentation that the Minor’s parent or guardian approves the visit.
ii. Minors under the age of 16 are not permitted to spend the night in VU student residential housing; any exception for siblings of enrolled students must be approved in advance by the Sr. Director of the Office of Housing and Residential Education (OHARE).
- Pursuant to other University policies and/or Federal and/or State laws and regulations, Minors should not be present in certain facilities and environments. If a parent or guardian brings his or her Minor child to work, the parent or guardian is responsible for the Minor’s supervision and welfare and must ensure that the Minor child does not visit such restricted facilities or environments.
Visiting Minors’ procedures do not apply to Minors who are enrolled Vanderbilt students.
Minors must not be left unsupervised on Vanderbilt’s campus. It is the responsibility of those who bring Minors to campus (including Vanderbilt Program Directors or those individuals designated by third party programs) to ensure appropriate and continuous supervision. Residential Programs should increase staffing ratios to cover overnight monitoring (see Policy Guide).
E. Vanderbilt Students and Registered Student Organizations
Vanderbilt is committed to educating students about the protection of Minors. Vanderbilt students will complete training in the Protection of Minors as required by the Office of the Dean of Students. This allows Vanderbilt students to meet the training compliance requirement to interact with Minors as a part of VU academic curricula, campus service activities or registered student organization events.
The ORIM and the Office of the Dean of Students provide guidance to registered student organizations interacting with Minors and complete annual and ongoing approval and evaluations of student organizational compliance with this policy. Vanderbilt students working in campus-sponsored programs with Minors will be in full compliance as will all other personnel working in the program.
F. Employment of Minors under the age of 18
- Vanderbilt does not employ Minors in regular full-time positions.
- It may be appropriate to hire individuals who are under 18 years of age in temporary positions available through Vanderbilt Temporary Services (VTS) or in defined programs. Any position which would provide payment to a Minor, such as a stipend, student work, or other non-employee pay requires review and approval from the Office of Human Resources and the ORIM
- If Employment of a Minor is approved, the program or manager/supervisor may be required to register with the ORIM Office and be compliant with all POM policies.
- Due to safety concerns, Minors may never work in certain types of laboratories or operate certain types of machinery/equipment. The appropriate office will be consulted for approval if there is a concern for exposure/risk to a Minor.
G. Policy Exceptions to Activities that Involve Minors
1. This policy and its requirements of program registration, execute written agreement, background checks, training do not apply to:
- Events open to the general public not targeted toward children.
- Social functions that may be attended by Minors who are accompanied by their parents/guardians.
- Collegiate events sponsored by VU when Minor college students may be participants.
2. On campus residential faculty/staff and their dependents and/or guests; procedures for residential faculty/staff are established by the coordinating office.
3. The enrollment of Vanderbilt students who are under the age of eighteen (18) does not constitute a Program covered by this policy; however, anyone who knows or suspects abuse of a Vanderbilt student under the age of 18 shall report that concern in accordance with this policy.
4. Other exceptions as determined will be enumerated in the Protection of Minors (POM) Policy Operational Guidelines.
IV. COMPLIANCE PROCESS
The ORIM is responsible for administering the Protection of Minors Policy. ORIM will develop and publish policy operational guidelines for the implementation of the policy consistent with Vanderbilt’s mission and best practices in this domain. The approved Policy Operational Guidelines are incorporated by reference and made a part of this policy. Policy Operational Guidelines may include but are not limited to event registration procedures, sign in/out procedures, minimum adult: Minor ratios, procedures for research with Minor subjects, academic coursework which includes interaction with Minors, etc.
A. Program Registration, Events, and Personnel
The Program Director or Director’s designee of the Vanderbilt program or the Vanderbilt host of a third party Program shall register the Program and subsequent events with ORIM with sufficient advance notice to meet the requirements and intentions of this policy.
Instructions for Program Registration are located on the homepage of the ORIM. The ORIM will review the information submitted for approval and may require additional information or procedures to be put in place. After receiving approval, Programs shall provide separate event data and names of personnel who will be interacting with Minors during each program activity. This information will be entered into the Protection of Minors Web Application prior to each event and monitored by ORIM for compliance. Activities with Minors should not commence until program activities and personnel are in compliance with the policy.
B. Execute Written Agreement(s)
Participation Agreement/Waiver of Liability: For all Vanderbilt Programs involving Minors, the parent or guardian shall receive, review, and sign a university participation agreement before his or her Minor child can participate in the Program.
The Program Director or Director’s designee of a Vanderbilt or Third Party Program shall contact the ORIM for a copy(ies) of the agreement(s) appropriate for the Program. Additional agreement components should include permission to treat in the case of an emergency, photo/media release, and emergency contacts. Others may be recommended based on the program activities.
University participation agreement language shall include a Protection of Minors provision which gives the parent/guardian information on Vanderbilt’s child abuse reporting obligation and provides contacts for the parent in the case of a concern. The ORIM will provide appropriate language to meet this criteria.
C. Background Clearance Checks – Initial and Interval
An approved background clearance shall be required of each adult prior to his or her interaction or participation with Minors in Programs covered by this policy. This includes but is not limited to third party or non-Vanderbilt personnel who work with, instruct, or otherwise engage with Minors on Vanderbilt’s campus, as well as Vanderbilt administrators, faculty, staff, students, and volunteers who work with, instruct, or otherwise engage with Minors participating in a Vanderbilt program.
Background checks that are defined by and acceptable to the University must be conducted and the results evaluated prior to the adult beginning to work with, instruct, or otherwise engage with Minors. Individuals working with Minors in an active Vanderbilt program will submit to a criminal background check at a minimum interval of every four years. Following the completion of any background check, there is an affirmative duty for all faculty and staff to notify Vanderbilt University, through the conflict of interest process, of new arrests and the disposition of any outstanding charges within three business days of such occurrences, and to cooperate in providing information necessary to evaluate the circumstances of the arrest and charges. There is also an affirmative duty for faculty and staff to report to their supervisor within three business days any adverse information resulting from subsequent background checks obtained at any practice site and to cooperate in providing information necessary for evaluating the circumstances of the adverse information. Likewise, faculty and staff members have a duty to disclose within three business days any protective orders related to a criminal charge.
It is the responsibility of the Program Director or Director’s designee of the Program to ensure that each participating adult has submitted the background request information and has subsequently received clearance to participate prior to interacting with Minors. The ORIM will maintain a catalog of individuals who have been cleared to participate through the University approved background clearance process.
Offices/Schools completing background clearances approved to meet Protection of Minors criteria will notify the ORIM of relative adverse information resulting from a completed initial or subsequent background clearance when the candidate or other University member is applying to a position or school where there will be interaction with Minors and the Office/School is considering proceeding with the candidate’s hire/appointment/admission. A decision not to allow an individual to participate in a Program covered by this Policy based on the background check or subsequent re-check will be made by ORIM after consultation where applicable with the Office of the Provost, Office of General Counsel, Office of Human Resources, Dean of Students, or appropriate school Dean. Any decision to deny participation in a program involving Minors must be consistent with applicable university policies on the use of background checks.
D. Training – Initial and Annual Required
Vanderbilt University requires that each adult shall complete training in the protection of Minors before he or she participates or engages with Minors in a Vanderbilt Program or a Program that takes place on Vanderbilt’s campus. The training shall be completed annually and will be documented with the adult signing (or verifying in an electronic format) a statement indicating his or her understanding, receipt, and agreement to follow Vanderbilt University policies and procedures.
The training shall include but is not limited to: Vanderbilt University’s policies regarding interactions with Minors, behavioral signs that Minor victims may exhibit, sexual abuse and sexual harassment of Minors, inappropriate behavior with Minors, reporting requirements and procedures, and other topics as appropriate. The ORIM will maintain a catalog of individuals who have met training requirements for participating in programs with Minors.
It is the responsibility of the Program Director or Director’s designee of the Program to ensure that each participating adult has completed the appropriate training module and maintained annual compliance required prior to interacting with Minors.
E. Compliance Monitoring and Program Reviews
The ORIM will conduct periodic monitoring and reviews of registered programs to assure compliance with this and other University policies and POM policy guidelines. Programs found to have violated the compliance elements of this policy may be subject to a delay in event start and/or removal of personnel from positions which include Minor interaction. Compliance escalation will be conducted, as necessary, for individual and/or departmental refusal to comply with this policy.
It is a requirement of this policy that personnel have met the compliance prior to the first day of the scheduled event. Personnel hired on an ongoing basis in a long term event must be in compliance prior to any interaction with Minors.
Selected Related Policies and Resources
Background Check Policy for Vanderbilt Faculty
Tennessee Code Annotated Title 37, Part 1, Chapter 4: Mandatory Child Abuse Reports
Code of Conduct for Interacting with Minors and Identifying Child Abuse
This Appendix provides:
- Guidance and expectations on your conduct in order to prevent and report child abuse.
- Guidance on how to identify child abuse.
Code of Conduct for Interacting with Minors
You are required by Tennessee law and Vanderbilt University policy to report actual or suspected abuse or other improper conduct involving a Minor. You also are also required to comply with the following Code of Conduct when interacting with Minors:
- Do not spend time alone, either on or off campus, with a Minor away from others. If one-on-one interaction is required, meet in open, well-lit rooms or spaces with windows observable by other adults from the Program.
- Do not engage in any sexual actions, make sexual comments, tell sexual jokes, or share or view sexually explicit material with or within the vicinity of Minors.
- Do not touch Minors in a manner that a reasonable person could interpret as inappropriate.
- Do not shower, bathe, or undress with or in the presence of a Minor.
- Do not engage in any abusive conduct of any kind toward, or in the presence of, a Minor, including but not limited to verbal abuse, hitting, punching, poking, or restraining, except as required to protect a Minor or others from harm. All incidents involving such conduct, whether or not required to protect a Minor or others from harm, must be documented and disclosed promptly to the Program Director and the Minor’s parent/guardian.
- Be aware of the impact of your words and language on Minors.
- Do not use, possess, or be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while on duty or when responsible for a Minor’s welfare.
- Do not meet with Minors outside of established times for Program activities. Any exceptions require parental authorization and must include more than one adult from the Program.
- Do not engage or converse with Minors through email, text messages, social networking websites, or other forms of social media at any time except and unless there is an educational or programmatic purpose and the content of the communications is consistent with the mission of the Program and the university.
- When transporting Minors in a Program, more than one adult from the Program must be present in the vehicle, except when multiple Minors will be in the vehicle at all times through the transportation. Avoid using personal vehicles if possible.
- Do not tell children “this is just between the two of us” or use similar language that encourages Minors to keep secrets from their parent/guardians.
Identifying Child Abuse
The mandatory reporting requirement under Tennessee law does not require confirmation of the presence of abuse; if there is a reason to believe abuse has occurred, the abuse must be reported. The appropriate authority will complete an investigation.
Different forms of child abuse include physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. General definitions of abuse are listed below and can be found on the TN Department of Children’s Service Child Abuse Hotline FAQ web page and in the Tennessee statutory code.
Note that the possession, viewing and distribution of child pornography and solicitation of a Minor are forms of child abuse and shall be reported in accordance with Tennessee Law and Vanderbilt institutional policy.
Non-accidental trauma or physical injury of a child, or failure to protect a child from harm.
Physical abuse may be detected by signs such as:
- Injuries such as burns, marks, and scalds.
- Bruising which is repeated and on parts of the body where accidental injury would be unlikely to occur.
- Untreated injuries.
Failure to provide for a child's physical survival needs to the extent that there is harm or risk of harm to the child's health or safety.
Neglect may be detected by signs such as:
- A Minor failing to attain age-appropriate development. Neglect may be a long term problem, so in addition to awareness of a lack of care, it is important to notice physical and behavioral signs.
- A Minor being left alone and unsupervised.
- A Minor’s basic physical needs (food, shelter, clothing) not being met.
Includes penetration or external touching of a child's intimate parts, oral sex with a child, indecent exposure or any other sexual act performed in a child's presence for sexual gratification, sexual use of a child for prostitution, and the manufacturing of child pornography. Child sexual abuse is also the willful failure of the parent or the child's caretaker to make a reasonable effort to stop child sexual abuse by another person.
Warning signs differ by the age of the Minor. You should be aware of the following possible warning signs:
- Sexual behavior or language that is not appropriate for the child’s age.
- Overly compliant behavior.
- Withdrawal or depression.
- Unexplained anger.
- Refusal to be left alone.
- Finding reasons not to go home.
- Finding reasons to avoid being with a specific person that the Minor used to spend time with.
- Failing grades or a change in school behavior.
- Bed-wetting or bowel-movement accidents in children who have previously outgrown it.
Sexual Exploitation and Solicitation
- Possession of material that includes a Minor engaged in sexual activity or simulated sexual activity that is patently offensive.
- To knowingly promote, employ, use, assist, transport or permit a minor to participate in the performance of, or in the production of, acts or material that includes the minor engaging in sexual activity or simulated sexual activity that is patently offensive.
- It is an offense for a person eighteen (18) years of age or older, by means of oral, written or electronic communication, electronic mail or Internet service, including webcam communications, directly or through another, to intentionally command, hire, persuade, induce or cause a minor to engage in sexual activity or simulated sexual activity that is patently offensive, where such sexual activity or simulated sexual activity is observed by that person or by another.
Emotional Abuse/Psychological Harm/Neglect
A repeated pattern of caregiver behavior or extreme incident(s) that convey to children that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value in meeting another's needs and may include both abusive acts against a child and failure to act, or neglectful behavior when age-appropriate action is required for a child's health development..
Emotional abuse includes:
- Persistent lack of love or affection.
- Shouting, taunting, or making negative remarks directed at the Minor.