Updates on Background Checks and Protection of Minor Policy

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Monday, December 14, 2015

As a result of a July 1, 2015 amendment to Pennsylvania law (Act 153 enacted in October 2014), the University temporarily suspended implementation of some components of the background check requirements of the University’s Protection of Minors Policy (the “Policy”) - principally the requirement for background checks of current faculty and staff who do not have Direct Contact with Minors as that term is defined in the amended Pennsylvania law.  Here are a few important updates and clarifications regarding the implementation and administration of the Policy, which is available on the University’s Policy Statements web page: https://www.lehigh.edu/~policy/

 

Mandated Reporters

Pennsylvania Act 153 broadened the group of faculty and staff who have a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse.  (The July 1, 2015 amendments did not change this.)  By law, all faculty and staff, other than administrative or other support personnel who do not have direct contact with children are considered “School Employees” for purposes of the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (CPSL), and as such are required to report suspected child abuse.  In the University’s endeavor to safeguard minors present on the University’s campus and participating in University programs, our new University Policy goes further, stating:

“Every member of the Lehigh University community – including all faculty, staff, students and Volunteers - has the duty and obligation to immediately report suspected instances of the abuse of Minors.” 

Additional details, including where and what to report are available in Section 5 of the Policy.

 

Required Training

In order to ensure that all current and new University employees (staff and faculty), who are “School Employees”, understand their role as “mandated reporters” with respect to suspected child abuse under the Policy, all employees are required to complete the United Educators (UE) online training course entitled “Sexual Misconduct: How Teachers and Other Educators Can Protect Our Children.”  To be clear, this training is different from the University’s online training course regarding harassment and discrimination for staff entitled “Workplace Harassment – Fundamentals.”

Current employees must complete the training by December 31, 2015.  New employees must complete the training when they begin University employment.   Some current employees may have completed the training previously on UE’s EduRisk website.  If you have taken the training in 2015, you are not required to retake it now.  An email with instructions on how to access and complete the training was sent out to all faculty and staff.  Those individuals who have completed the training in 2015 will also be notified that they do not need to retake the training this year.

 

Background Checks

As we advised you previously, in this interim period as the University and the Board of Trustees consider whether to amend the Policy, the University will continue with implementation of the background checks for new faculty and staff hires, including adjunct faculty and Professors of Practice as their appointments are renewed, and current faculty and staff who have Direct Contact with Minors.  The Board of Trustees, University administrators, and a group of faculty members remain engaged in on-going discussions about whether to amend the Policy (and if so, how) and we will update you as that conversation progresses.     

If you have or plan to have Direct Contact with Minors – not including prospective students visiting campus or matriculated college and university students between 16 and 18 years of age – in the course of your University employment responsibilities, and you have not completed the background check process, please contact these offices to arrange for your completion of the required background checks:

  • If you are a staff member, please contact Human Resources at inhro@lehigh.edu or 610-758-3900
  • If you are a faculty member hired before January 1, 2015, please contact the Office of the General Counsel at inogc@lehigh.edu or 610-758-3572
  • If you are a faculty member hired after January 1, 2015, please contact the Office of the Provost at inact153@lehigh.edu or 610-758-3605

 

What Constitutes Direct Contact With Minors

“Direct Contact” is defined by the Policy as: “Contact between an Adult and one or more Minors that:

  • Involves the instruction, care, supervision, guidance, or control of a Minor and* routine interaction with Minors;
  • Involves an overnight stay (with the exception of Lehigh University students hosting high school students, such as prospective student-athletes and those participating in pre-enrollment visits); or
  • Occurs in Lehigh Facilities on five or more occasions in any three-month period.

 

*We note here that the July 1, 2015 amendments to Act 153 changed the word “or” to “and.”  The Policy will be amended to reflect this change.

If you have any questions about whether a class, activity or program you are planning or participating in will involve Direct Contact with Minors, please consult the Office of the General Counsel at inogc@lehigh.edu or 610-758-3572.

 

New On-Campus Fingerprinting Location

The University has now acquired equipment for the electronic fingerprinting needed for the FBI background check required for faculty and staff who are required to have their fingerprints processed.  This service may also be used by University community members who may need to have their fingerprints processed for volunteer positions with community organizations.  These fingerprinting services are available at the Mail Center at 4 Farrington Square, across from the Lehigh University Bookstore.  Appointments are encouraged.  More information, including a scheduler that can be used to make an appointment, is available at https://financeadmin.lehigh.edu/content/cogent-fingerprinting

 

Program Registration

As the Policy indicates, “all Programs involving Minors must be registered by the Program Director or his/her designee on an annual basis through the University’s online registration system.  Such registration should be completed at least sixty (60) days prior to the start of the Program or, if such advance registration is not possible in such a timeframe, as soon as information is available to submit through the online registration system.”  This requirement is designed to ensure that Program Directors are given the resources necessary to successfully plan for and administer programs involving minors.  The University is working to develop an easy-to-use online registration system.  Prior to the development of such a system, Program Directors should register Programs by sending an email with the details of their program to the Office of the General Counsel at:  inogc@lehigh.edu.