Home / The Elements of Prevention / Policies and Procedures

Home / The Elements of Prevention / Policies and Procedures

Policies and Procedures

Schools come in all shapes and sizes, but whether large or small, public or private, preschool only or Pre-K to Grade 12, all of them have at least one thing in common: the desire to keep their children and youth safe from harm. A school’s policies, procedures, and guidelines for child safety and abuse prevention serve as the backbone of its efforts to protect children and youth, by providing an overarching framework that should present, first and foremost, its commitment to the safety and well-being of the children and youth entrusted to its care.

A well-written and unambiguous set of policies provides the means for any school and its board 27 to clearly express, in a public way, a commitment to its parents, to its community, and to the children and youth it serves by:

  • Outlining the steps it takes to protect children and youth from sexual and other forms of abuse and neglect while on school grounds or off-campus under school supervision;
  • Describing the type of environment it strives to build and maintain; and
  • Outlining the safeguards it employs to ensure that all staff, employees and volunteers are properly vetted and trained to recognize and respond to inappropriate and/or harmful behaviors.

A clear set of policies and procedures also takes the guesswork out of what should happen when incidents of abuse and neglect are observed, suspected, or alleged – and reduces the chance of error and unnecessary delay in providing an effective response. Thus, effective policies focus on the creation and maintenance of safe, preventive environments for children and youth, as well as on the responsible management of incidents or alleged incidents of abuse.

Development and implementation of a policy is best done as a collaborative effort. School leadership must, of course, take the lead and maintain a visible role throughout the process to reinforce its importance and to demonstrate a commitment to its goals and success. A policy will be more effective if the people it affects – faculty, staff, employees, volunteers, and students – are aware of it, feel some sense of ownership towards it, and have the opportunity to express their views on how it will, should, or will not work. Such a group may also be sensitive to any potential biases embedded in the policies and point to possible unintended consequences. Thus, whether creating a set of child safety policies and procedures for the first time, or reviewing and updating those that already exist, input from a representative and diverse set of stakeholders is important to consider.

In this way, the document becomes a collaborative product that explains the implementation of, and rationale for key safety policies, practices, and protocols that foster child safety, and describes the school’s efforts to identify and mitigate environmental, situational, and organizational conditions that allow child maltreatment (particularly child sexual abuse) to occur or continue.

Effective prevention is predicated on:

  • Creating a positive, open, and inclusive organizational culture in which the safety of children is paramount;
  • Ensuring that conversations about child safety and abuse prevention are ongoing and normative rather than by exception after a child has already been harmed; and
  • A culture that is led by senior management and wholeheartedly endorsed and owned by staff at all levels.

Whether you are creating a set of abuse prevention policies and procedures for the first time or need to evaluate an existing one, the Safe Kids Thrive website provides guidance on the building blocks 28 of an effective set of policies and procedures; a list of guiding principles 29 for their creation; steps to create, implement and periodically assess them; a short assessment tool 30 that can help inventory the necessary elements of a school’s existing policies; a comprehensive checklist 31 that outlines the general standards for effective policies (see items a – n); a set of sample policy documents 32 ; guidance on leadership, organizational culture, and sustainability 33 ; and other resources as part of its material on the Elements of Prevention. 34

27 NOTE: School policies in Massachusetts must be approved by the relevant school boards prior to implementation

28 https://safekidsthrive.org/prevention-topics/policies-procedures/

29 https://safekidsthrive.org/prevention-topics/policies-procedures/whats-in-a-child-protection-policy/

30 https://safekidsthrive.org/prevention-topics/policies-procedures/sample-self-audit-form-for-ysos/

31 https://safekidsthrive.org/prevention-topics/policies-procedures/child-sexual-abuse-prevention-evaluation-tool-for-organizations/

32 https://safekidsthrive.org/prevention-topics/policies-procedures/sample-policies-and-procedures

33 https://safekidsthrive.org/prevention-topics/sustainability/

34 https://safekidsthrive.org/elements-of-prevention/


Page 6 of 59


Sign Up to Access Your Learning Center

Customized child sexual abuse prevention guidelines to meet the unique needs of any organization that serves children.

  • Evidence-informed guidance
  • Actionable prevention steps
  • Keeps track of your progress
  • Tailored learning tracks