Reflections by Randy Hodge
|Posted on August 28, 2018 at 6:55 PM|
St. Patrick Parish and School has been very forward looking in keeping all our children safe. For almost two decades, our parish has had programs and safeguards in place to ensure the safety of the children in our care. These programs are run by a safe environment coordinator.
Any staff member who is hired at St. Patrick School must do the following:
• They must attend a Protecting God’s Children (Virtus) session. If they are an educator, they are emailed a monthly lesson that must be read to keep their certification up to date following their training session.
• All school staff must be fingerprinted under the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center or the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and have a criminal background check completed.
• Any time students are transported off campus, there must at be at least two adults present with students at all times.
• Staff members (including coaching staff) are not permitted to have overnight gatherings at their homes.
Anyone who volunteers and will be around children, including chaperones for field trips, must do the following:
• They must attend a Protecting God’s Children (Virtus) session.
• They must have a criminal background check completed. The background check is done every five years.
All employees and volunteers are provided with a document they must sign titled Standards of Ministerial Behavior in Dealing with Children and Young People. This form lays out the guidelines for providing a structure which seeks to protect children and youth from neglect and sexual abuse.
We also have an age-appropriate program for our students called “Teaching Touching Safety.” Students participate in two lessons each year that teach them how to recognize safe and appropriate touching. As a part of these lessons, they are taught how to report any activity they deem inappropriate. These lessons empower our children to look out for each other.
All staff members at St. Patrick School are mandated reporters meaning if they suspect or are aware of any inappropriate and/or any illegal activity taking place, they must report it immediately to either the correct authorities or to their superior. If it is reported to their superior, the superior must report it immediately to either Child Protective Services and/or law enforcement depending on the suspected abuse.
Beginning even with our youngest students, our preschoolers, we always have two staff members present. One of the requirements of our preschool students is that they are potty trained as staff are not permitted to assist them in using the restroom and may only do so in emergency situations.
We have been using our Parish Hall as temporary staff restrooms during the school day. Plans are being made to install staff-only restrooms in several locations (for those willing to donate money to this major undertaking, please contact Mr. Hodge at the school or parish business manager Mike Johnson).
Most of our records and procedures are subject to audits by state law enforcement. The Michigan State Police have audited our fingerprinting records and bus driver records within the past five years and may do so at any time. LARA requires that our preschool and before- and after-school programs be inspected during license renewal every two years. Our Protecting God’s Children program is also audited by the Diocese of Grand Rapids, which has happened recently. These audits ensure that the school and parish are safe places for children and that best practices are being followed.
We will continue to look out for the health, safety and well-being of all our students here at St. Patrick Parish and School. However, it is important to remember that this is a community effort. It is up to all of us to keep all children safe in our community.