Religious Education Safety Policy
Religious Education (RE) leaders will have been affiliated with the church for at least six months prior to being allowed to volunteer. All volunteers must complete an application that lists two references, one of whom comes from within the congregation. All volunteers will be background checked at the church’s expense prior to beginning work with children/youth at First Unitarian and periodically thereafter. Volunteers may submit background checks performed for other agencies that are less than 12 months old. Volunteers must sign the church’s Code of Ethics for RE Volunteers prior to working with children and at the beginning of each program year thereafter.
If for any reason a person is deemed unsuitable for a leadership position in RE, the decision will be communicated to the applicant and the minister. All information shall remain otherwise confidential.
Leaders will staff religious education programs with the following minimum adult-to-children/youth ratios.
Infants through age 5: 2 adults to 12 children
Elementary school through grade 8: 2 adults to 16 children
Senior high school: 2 adults to 20 youth
No worker is to be alone with a child or youth either on- or off-site. Only under urgent circumstances should a child or youth be left with only one adult.
Children or youth under the age of 18 who are attending a First Unitarian-sponsored event must have an on-site parent or sponsor. It is up to the leaders of each event to verify to the best of their ability that each child/youth has an adult sponsor. Certain exceptions for social events will be made as long as the parents of minor children have provided permission.
Physical punishment is not allowed under any circumstances. Parents will be made aware of any behavioral issues that should arise.
Transporting Children and Youth
It is the responsibility of the parents or guardians to provide safe transportation to and from all church events. When the church is providing transportation for special events, all youth and children being transported will ride with adults complying with the following safety standards.
All drivers of vehicles containing minors other than their own children must be at least 25 years of age. A copy of each driver’s proof of insurance and a valid driver’s license will be held on file at the church. At no time will a vehicle contain one adult/one child unless that child is the driver’s own child.
There must be enough functioning seat belts for everyone, and everyone must wear a seat belt. When transporting young children, the driver must follow Ohio laws for the use of car seats and booster seats as well as the regulations as to where children should be seated in the vehicle. The need for seat belts supersedes the need for two adults to be in each vehicle; however, upon arrival at the destination, a minimum of two adults must accompany a group of children or youth when off-site.
Written permission of the parent/guardian of all minor passengers will be obtained prior to the event for which children/youth are being transported. This permission will include all relevant details pertaining to the event, such as date and location, name of driver(s) whenever possible, time of departure and return. If no form is available, a parent may write a note that includes this information.
Emergency contact information, including the name of physician and emergency medical consent to treat, must accompany all minors who are being transported by adults other than their parents. During travel, a copy of this form will be kept by the driver of the vehicle or the responsible adult traveling with a group using an alternate form of transportation (i.e., bus or train). Each adult driving will leave the names of all children/youth accompanying them and an emergency contact number (i.e., cell phone) with the director of religious education (DRE) or designee.
For travel outside of a 2-hour drive radius from the church, insurance information for each child/youth must also be obtained.
No driver may be sleep-deprived, consume alcohol, or use any form of drug that can affect physical or mental performance during carrying out his/her duty as a driver.
Contact Outside of Church, Including Electronic Communication
The church recognizes that contact outside of church between children/youth and church volunteers cannot be fully supervised, especially contact via phone or internet. Adult leaders will sign a statement indicating that in case of an accusation or suspicion of wrongdoing, they agree to turn over any and all information including, but not limited to, emails, text messages, social media contact, and written correspondence. Leaders should also agree to protect minors’ identifying information or contact information both online and in other interactions. Should some issue arise via contact between adults and children/youth, the DRE or minister should be contacted immediately.
Procedures for Investigation of Harassment Complaints
All complaints of harassment based on gender, race, religion, national origin, age, disability, or sexual preference will be investigated and resolved according to the following procedures.
1. How to file complaints: The initial complaint may be filed by contacting the senior minister, the DRE, or the president of the board of trustees. This notice should be made as soon as possible after the incident. Notification may be given orally initially, but it should be followed up in writing as soon as possible using an incident report.
2. Confidentiality: Each complaint will be treated fairly and promptly and with the maximum possible confidentiality. However, the investigation of a formal complaint will involve a small number of church members, and the alleged violator will be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations. In addition, should abuse or neglect be discovered, the appropriate authorities will be contacted. Copies of complaints will be housed in two places in the church office: one in the DRE office and another in the minister’s office, both in a locked file.
3. No retaliation: It is absolutely forbidden for any person to take any retaliatory action against anyone filing a complaint or against witnesses or respondents. If retaliation is occurring, this should be reported by the same means as the initial complaint. These complaints will also be investigated.
4. Separation of parties: If an uncomfortable situation exists between parties, efforts will e made to separate them during the investigation by rearranging volunteer schedules or by avoiding events where both are present.
a. Interviews: As soon as the appropriate people are notified of the complaint, the Executive Committee will be informed. They will coordinate and schedule interviews with the complainant, the respondent, and any witnesses who are identified. The interviews will be conducted in person or by phone. Every effort will be taken to maintain confidentiality. The interviews should be completed within one week of receipt of the initial complaint.
b. Based on these interviews, the interviewers will prepare and send reports to the executive committee and church staff where appropriate. The reports will include both findings and recommendations. These reports will become part of the investigation file.
6. Executive Committee action: The executive committee will meet to review the investigation file and determine what actions should be taken. A final report and decision setting forth the results of the investigation will be issued by the executive committee and sent to the complainant and respondent. The report should include instructions for an appeal process, should either party desire one. The final report should be issued within two weeks after receipt of the initial complaint.
7. Implementation of decision: Actions recommended by the final report will be implemented immediately. All actions taken will be documented.
8. Appeals process: If either party is dissatisfied with the executive committee’s final report, (s)he may appeal the decision as outlined in the executive committee’s final report.
9. Post-incident training and monitoring: After the final report is issued and the recommended actions are implemented, it remains the church’s goal to discourage similar situations from arising again. The church will make appropriate efforts to re-educate employees/volunteers/members on harassment, while maintaining confidentiality of the parties involved in the incident that has just been resolved. The church should also continue to monitor the situation to be sure that problems do not recur and that no retaliatory action of any kind takes place. It remains the responsibility of the complainant to notify the church leaders, through the proper channels, whenever problems of this sort occur.
10. Personnel records, in the case of employees: If the investigation was deemed inconclusive and/or no actions were taken as a result of the investigation, a reference to the investigation file will be entered in appropriate personnel files, but no details of the investigation will appear there. If actions were taken as a part of the investigation, the nature of the actions will be entered in the personnel file of the affected party and reference will be made to the investigation.
If you haven’t volunteered in RE before, please print and complete the RE Leader Application Form.
If you have already volunteered in the past 4 years (i.e., since Heather has been DRE), please print and sign the RE Code of Ethics Form.
Please take a look at the Incident Report Form.
Please also take a look at the Suspected Child Abuse Form.