HOW TO EMPHASIZE SAFETY FOR KIDS AND PARENTS
Most likely you are benefiting from the generosity of volunteers. You might have fifty volunteers, you might have a thousand. In any case, the safety of students is crucial and of course complicated when you are dealing with so many volunteers. How do you ensure that no kids are ever put at risk?
The solutions are relatively simple.
In many states and countries, volunteers must undergo a police or FBI background check before they can work in schools or with school-aged children. Obviously this is a powerful way to ensure that your volunteers are screened. In some cases, these checks cost money, but a strong argument can be made that it’s well worth the cost.
No contact outside the program
First of all, your volunteers must be prohibited from contacting students in any way outside your program. This is tough sometimes, given a tutor might forge a bond with a student. But it’s simply too fraught and too complicated to endorse or allow any contact outside the context of your program. If your program is responsible for connecting a student and an adult, and they are in contact outside your program, this is far too much risk for you to assume. You must draw a red line. Once the volunteers, students, teachers and parents know that all extracurricular contact — in person, by phone or digitally — is prohibited, the work becomes far simpler. Draw a hard line and everyone will know that the boundary exists. Parents especially will be thankful.
A safe physical space
In your tutoring spaces, an open floor plan is recommended. We have always built our spaces this way, and it has created a clear sense of visible safety for all. If everyone can see everyone, everyone feels safe. It’s so simple and so uncomplicated.
Parents always welcome
It’s highly recommended that you make parents welcome in your spaces. In so many of our tutoring spaces, there are couches and chairs in the room dedicated for parents. This way the moms and dads know that they are welcome to stay and watch their kids get academic help. You will be surprised at how many parents will stay! It creates a wonderful familial atmosphere, and it really underlines to the parents that you, your volunteers, the students, and their parents are equally welcome and at home in one big open room. It’s beautiful and simple and it works.
Safety in schools
When you work within schools, the safety protocols in that school will prevail. Most schools have very established and organized systems to absorb volunteers. It’s absolutely crucial that your volunteers show humility and respect for these rules.