At the end of the spring semester, the UH System implemented a policy regarding campus programs for minors in compliance with a 2011 state law.
“Once the law passed, we looked at it and wanted to make sure we were interpreting it correctly,” said Associate Dean of Students and Coordinator of Campus Programs for Minors Kamran Riaz. “Our attorney’s office said this is what it means and this is what we need to do.”
The policy outlines the specific procedure a group or individual must follow in order to host an on-campus program that involves students under the age of 18.
“This is the first summer that we are working with this new policy,” Riaz said. “It’s been implemented everywhere.”
The law was passed June 17, 2011 under Senate Bill 1414. It requires any individual who plans to be a part of one of these programs to certify completion of a sexual abuse and child molestation prevention training course approved by the Texas Department of State Health Services. This course must be taken prior to participation in an event that involves interaction with minors, and the certification lasts for two years.
“The training is actually offered by our human resources department online,” Riaz said. “They can also go outside and do a state-approved training at a place like YMCA. (…) As long as they can provide us proof that they have completed the training, then they are OK.”
The law requires training for any program that lasts only for four days or more. The UH System decided to tighten that requirement and apply the policy to programs that last for two days or more.
“What our campus is doing is going above and beyond what the law is requiring us to do,” Riaz said. “Student Affairs and a few others went above and beyond and said, ‘All of our staff need to do it.’”
There are two separate guidelines for both university-run programs and programs run by third parties. Both have a system for reporting incidents.
“The very first thing they need to do is inform university police. Then, in addition to that, our office steps in,” Riaz said. “Any report that is going to be submitted is going to be investigated. If any false reports are submitted, we will take appropriate action.”
Faculty members who will be in contact with minors during any campus activity are required to submit to a background check.
“To become an employee, you do a background check if you are joining in a security-sensitive position, where you have access to student records and money, but not all employees do,” Riaz said.
Riaz hopes that this policy will eliminate the risk of an incident like this ever happening.
“Even if there is one incident, that’s one too many,” Riaz said. “The goal is to educate not just the campus community but the outside community as well so nothing like this ever happens.”
The full text of the policy can be found online at www.uh.edu/dos. The bill’s text can be found at www.legiscan.com/gaits/text/296728.