Recent events and societal trends have prompted more questions and concerns about safety policies and risk management procedures to protect staff, children, youth, friends and all members of our congregation. It is prudent for us to look at resources and establish guidelines around this broad and multifaceted subject called a Safe Congregation.
A variety of potential dangers are inherent in operating a congregation. These include physical site (including buildings and grounds), operation of the Religious Education (RE) program, transportation and supervision of children off-site, and instances of disruptive behavior involving members, friends, and/or staff of the congregation.
In the past few years, the issue of making our congregations safe places has become more prominent. Congregations are carefully and intentionally putting into place policies around all kinds of safety issues. Openness to a wide variety of individuals is one of the prime values held by our congregation and expressed in our denomination’s purposes and principles. However, when any person’s physical, sexual, emotional well-being, or freedom to safely express their beliefs or opinions is threatened, the source of this threat must be addressed firmly and promptly.
Our commitment, as Unitarian Universalists, to the inherent worth and dignity of every person and to justice and compassion, compel us to create a safe and nurturing environment that protects children and adults from harm and promotes their spiritual growth while part of our community. Additionally, we affirm our commitment to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, physical ability, gender, or sexual/affectional orientation. We pledge to conduct ourselves in a manner which conveys mutual respect and consideration.
If we are to be a caring community, we must ensure that everyone who comes here feels valued, safe, and secure. This congregation accepts responsibility to educate ourselves and our children about sexual misconduct, abuse, molestation, harassment, and exploitation. We pledge to do our best to protect and support those who come to us either at risk or in crisis.
We want everyone associated with the Society to treat this as a “living document” that may need to be amended to reflect changing needs. Requests for amendments should be made through the Board of Trustees.
Safe Congregation Policies and Program
This Society is a Safe Congregation where practices and procedures serve to ensure that all members, friends, adults, children and youth are treated with respect. Our policies and procedures cover a large range of issues related to all aspects of safety at the Society. These issues cover everything from building safety to the complex areas of sexual harassment, disruptive behavior, response to abuse allegations of children and the prevention of child sexual abuse and abusive relationships. Also included are safety on field trips, first aid policy and equipment, emergency evacuation of the buildings, automated external defibrillator (AED) maintenance and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)/AED training. The complete policy is available on the link below.
Emergency information is posted in the kitchens in the main building and Reeb House and in classrooms in the RE space. Instructions for evacuation in case of fire are printed below.
The Safe Congregation Response Team is responsible for implementation of our Safe Congregation policies. Guided by the Philosophy Statement (Policy – Roman Numeral I), their function, individually and collectively, is to offer confidential support, advice, and counsel with concern for the safety of all parties involved. It has the following responsibilities:
- Know about community resources for child abuse, treatment for sex offenders, and support groups for survivors.
- Know about state laws regarding reporting.
- Be a resource for people to share their concerns.
- Evaluate applications for religious education teachers and youth group leaders as requested by the Minister or Professional Religious Educator.
- Facilitate annual training for RE staff and teachers on issues, policies, and procedures relevant to sexual/physical abuse.
- Work with the RE Committee to assure that the sex abuse education sections of the Our Whole Lives curricula are offered at each age level.
- Receive allegations of possible abuse and develop a process for expedient handling of such allegations.
- Meet with convicted sex offenders to develop a Limited Access Agreement for participation in Society activities.
All activities of the Team will be conducted in a confidential fashion and may only be disclosed when necessary and appropriate as determined by the Team.
Safe Congregation Response Team
The Response Team is composed of the Director of Religious Education, the President of the Board of Trustees and three members of the Society appointed annually by the Board of Trustees. Current members of the Team include The Rev. Anthony P. Johnson (Interim Minister), Johanna Seale (DRE), Rob Willis (USR Board President), Carol Loscalzo, chair, and Wally Griffith. Concerns may be addressed to any member of the Safe Congregation Response Team. Please call the office for contact information.
Safe Congregation Policy 2016