When I agreed to be a chaperone for the 2019 Presbyterian Youth Triennium, I was not fully aware of the scope of the training that would be involved. “As required through approval by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), all adults who participate at the Triennium must complete the Protection Policy Training.”
I got an online link to participate in the training and take various quizzes. There are a handful of videos and several bullet pages to review before the six question test, which I aced, thank you very much.
It is, I imagine, developed as a function of the culture where people, including in faith communities, have failed youth and children. As the training document put it, “It is the call of the Church to be a life-giving entity of Christ’s healing and hope for community and individuals, not an entity that brings harm and hurt.”
As someone who doesn’t spend a great deal of time with young people save for my own child, it was brutally enlightening to see what regulations were necessarily put in place to protect children, youth (persons between the ages of 12–17), and vulnerable adults (persons “eighteen-years-old or older without the developmental or cognitive capacity to consent.”)
To that end “the sponsoring council or entity of the General Assembly shall ensure that the following measures be in place and actions are taken for each event or activity involving children and youth,” with exceptions only for true emergency situation. This goes on for 11 pages; these are only highlights.
- Two-adult rule: Two non-related adults must always be present in groups of children and youth.
- Ratios: The adult to child ratio for all child-related events/activities is 2:10. The adult to youth ratio for all youth-related events/activities is 2:17. There shall also be one adult of each gender when there are one or more minors of each gender in a group.
- View Windows and Open Doors: When minors and adult workers or volunteers are in a room, if
the door is closed, the door must have a view window installed. If no view window is installed in the door, the door must remain open at all times.
- Adult workers/caregivers should respect the privacy of the children to whom they provide care. Responsible use of digital devices and cell phones is required in all situations.
- Age appropriate training to children and youth should be provided regarding behavior that
should be reported to caregiver or leader of the event…
- All volunteers and employees at any General Assembly entity sponsored events must also abide by a code of conduct… Some of these prohibited behaviors include but are not restricted to:
a. Display of sexual affection toward a child.
b. Use of profanity or off-color jokes.
c. Discussion of sexual encounters with or around children or in any way involving children in personal problems or issues.
d. Dating or becoming “romantically” involved with children (under the age of eighteen).
e. Using or being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs in the presence of children.
f. Possessing sexually oriented materials—including printed or online pornography—on church
property or property being utilized for a church event.
g. Having secrets with youth/children.
h. Staring at or commenting on children’s bodies.
i. Engaging in inappropriate or unapproved electronic communication with children.
j. Working one-on-one with children in a private setting.
k. Abusing youth/children in any way, including (but not limited to) the following:
• Physical abuse: hit, spank, shake, slap, unnecessarily restraint.
• Verbal abuse: degrade, threaten, or curse.
• Sexual abuse: inappropriately touch, expose oneself, or engage in sexually oriented
• Mental abuse: shame, humiliate, act cruelly.
• Neglect: withhold food, water, shelter.
• Permit children or youth to engage in the following: hazing, bullying, derogatory name-calling, ridicule, humiliation, or sexual activity.
“The staff of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Churches desire to serve God among young people in all endeavors, but especially at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium with excellence, vigilance, and faithfulness. We appreciate all you do to make this happen.”
I should note that my congregation has a similar, though less detailed, policy in dealing with minors. I’m torn between feeling sad that such policies are necessary and being pleased that the powers that be are wise and sensitive enough to enact them.