Youth Protection Policy

Youth Protection Policy

Approved by: Senior Staff

Approval Date: 3/10/2020

Responsible Office: Office of the General Counsel


Institutional Statement

Amherst College values a safe and secure environment for all of its programs, services, and activities, including those geared towards Minors.


This policy applies to: (1) any Program, activity, or service involving Minors that occurs on College property, including the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Folger Shakespeare Library; and (2) any College Sponsored Program, activity, or service involving Minors, wherever it occurs.

The requirements set forth in this policy do not apply to: (1) events, services, or activities open to the general public; or (2) Woodside Children’s Center as they are required to comply with separately-applicable state laws, regulations, and accreditation standards.

Policy Purpose

This policy creates specific standards to register all programs involving Minors, to properly screen and train all authorized program staff, and to outline specific requirements and protocols. This policy also formalizes expectations and reporting mechanisms that must be followed when abuse is suspected. 

General Definitions

For the purposes of this policy, the following definitions apply:

A.   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 should assume the individual will have High Contact.

B.   Authorized Adult

“Authorized Adult” means individuals, paid or unpaid, who interact with, supervise, chaperone, or otherwise oversee Minors in a College Sponsored Program. This could include, but is not limited to, faculty, staff, volunteers, students, interns, alumni, and other third-parties.

C. Child Abuse

“Child Abuse” means 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.

D.   College Sponsored Program

“College Sponsored Program” (also referred to as a “Program”) means 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.

E.   Minor

A “Minor” is any individual under the age of 18 who is a participant in a Program. For purposes of this policy, “Minor” does not include persons under the age of 18 who are enrolled as students at Amherst College. “Minor” does not include individuals who accept admission to Amherst College and submit a tuition deposit. 

F.   Program Manager

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


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 preceding steps have not occurred.

A. 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.

B.  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 have begun.

All Authorized Adults with any access to Minors are required to undergo the following every three years:

  1. A multi-state criminal background check (CORI) that includes county-level information; and
  2. A national sex offender registry check (SORI).
  3. Additionally, all former and current students will be screened by the College’s Title IX and Community Standards Offices.

Once a Program Manager registers the Program through the Five College Portal, the 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. Before acting on any information gathered through additional screening, Program Managers are encouraged to contact Human Resources and 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.

C. 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 Colleges Risk Management.

All training will be administered through the Five College Portal.

Appropriate Interactions with, and Supervision of, Minors

Program Managers should know the location of Minors in their Programs at all times.

Programs should follow the “rule of three,” which specifies that there should always be at least three people present—at least one of whom must be an Authorized Adult (i.e., one Authorized Adult and two or more children, or two Authorized Adults and one child).      

The only exceptions to the “rule of three” are as follows:

  1. There is a familial or legal guardian relationship between the adult and Minor.
  2. There are high school students, including prospective student-athletes, participating in pre-enrollment overnight visitation through Admissions or Athletics with an Amherst College student host who is an Authorized Adult.
  3. Admissions, recruiting, instructional, and research settings where one-on-one interaction must occur. In such settings, it is recommended that no window or door coverings restrict or eliminate visibility into the room and that doors used to enter and exit the space are unlocked and accessible.
  4. Emergency Exception: This policy’s prohibition of one-on-one contact may be temporarily suspended in emergency situations (e.g., one Authorized Adult accompanies a Minor to the emergency room, summons law enforcement, or searches for a missing Minor).

Prohibited Interactions

Authorized Adults must not engage in behaviors that could cause harm or be misconstrued as possibly causing harm. Authorized Adults must not:

  1. Engage in discrimination or harassment in violation of the College’s Nondiscrimination Statement and/or applicable law. The College does not tolerate any discrimination or harassment involving Minors participating in Programs, services or activities.
  2. Use cell phones, cameras, imaging, or digital devices in an inappropriate way. Use of a device capable of recording or transmitting visual images in shower houses, restrooms, or other areas where privacy is expected by participants is prohibited.
  3. Meet with Minors outside of established times for Program activities.
  4. Touch Minors in a manner that a reasonable person could interpret as inappropriate.
  5. Engage in abusive conduct of any kind toward, or in the presence of, 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, and restraining. 
  6. Engage in physical contact that is unwanted by the Minor.
  7. Shower, bathe, or undress with or in the presence of a Minor.
  8. Share a bed or sleeping bag with a Minor.
  9. Use, possess, or be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs in the presence of a Minor; or provide alcohol or illegal drugs to any Minor.
  10. Be alone in a vehicle with a Minor at any time, unless in the event of an emergency, as indicated above.
  11. Have direct electronic contact with Minors without another person included in the communication with the exception of current students participating in recruitment activities or an Authorized Adult conducting official college business. This includes but is not limited to telephone, social media, text, in-game chat and email.
  12. Seek out Program participants on social media or gaming platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, X-box, Twitter, etc.
  13. 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.
  14. Leave a Minor in the care of a person who is not an Authorized Adult.

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 reporting system or directly to the Amherst 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. This could include relieving an individual from all responsibilities with minors, pending conclusion of the College’s investigation. 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 the Policy, the College will undertake an investigation into the matter. The investigation will follow applicable procedures, if any, within the Student Code of Conduct, Faculty Handbook, and Staff Handbook. 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.