Protecting minors in the workplace

The university is committed to promoting the safety and wellbeing of minors who visit our campuses or participate in university-related programs. For details, please see our Protecting Minors policy. Other relevant policies include Mandated Reporters, Criminal Background Screening, and Reporting Wrongdoing.

Our videos below offer important information on protecting minors. A study guide is available for HR directors and deans.


Children at USC

Children at USC: Boundaries

Children at USC: Mandated Reporters

Guidelines for those working with or around children

Child abuse is a difficult and emotionally-charged subject. These guidelines are intended to provide information about your conduct in order to prevent abuse or unfounded allegations of abuse; define abuse and describe signs to look for; and explain how to respond to abuse or suspicions of abuse.

Code of conduct for working with minors

You have a duty to the children with whom you work, to the university and to yourself to prevent any abuse or improper behavior. You also have a duty to prevent unfounded accusations of abuse, by adhering to a proper code of conduct when working with minors.

  • Never use any form of physical or emotional punishment to discipline children participating in the program
  • Never engage in rough or sexually provocative games, including horseplay
  • Do not allow children to sit on your lap
  • Do not allow any inappropriate touching, including between children
  • Be aware of the impact of your words and language on young children
  • Do not swear, or use or respond to sexual innuendo; never make a sexually suggestive comment, even in fun
  • Do not allow children to use inappropriate language unchallenged
  • Be aware of situations in which actions can be misconstrued or manipulated by others (for example, being alone with the last child to leave a class); conduct all dealings with children in a public environment as much as possible, in order that all behavior can be readily observed
  • Do not spend time alone with a child away from others; try to avoid being alone with a child, particularly in a restroom, changing area, or shower area (follow the “rule of three” and always make sure there is another person with you). Should you need to be alone with a minor in a changing or shower area, by no means should you be unclothed with a minor, and showering or bathing with minors, even when you are not alone with one, is never acceptable.
  • Children should use a “buddy system” or otherwise be encouraged to stay together when going to the bathroom, on field trips, or when leaving the classroom area
  • Do not give any child a ride in a car or van unless you have express permission from the parents
  • Do not appear to favor one child more than another; do not give gifts to any one child in a program; do not accept expensive gifts from any child in the program
  • Be professional and maintain the highest standards of personal behavior at all times; do not drink alcohol or smoke when working with minors
  • Do not tell children “this is just between the two of us” or use similar language that encourages children to keep secrets from their parent/guardians

What is child abuse?

“Child abuse” is a term used to describe ways in which children are harmed, often by adults they know and trust.

The effects of child abuse can be devastating, especially if children are left unprotected or do not receive help to cope with the abuse. The most serious effect is that children can (and do) die as a result of abuse. Children suffering from abuse may also develop behavioral difficulties, problems at school, delays in development, and emotional problems like depression and withdrawal.

Different forms of child abuse include physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse.

Physical Abuse

Intentionally hurting or inflicting physical injury on a child—this includes behaviors such as hitting a child, giving a child alcohol, inappropriate drugs or poison; attempting to suffocate or drown a child; and in sports, allowing the nature and intensity of training to exceed the capacity of the child’s immature and growing body.

In its more common forms, physical abuse may be detected by signs such as:

  • Bruising which is recurrent and on parts of the body where accidental injury would be unlikely to occur
  • Injuries—marks, burns, scalds

These marks may be difficult for the child to explain, and may have not been treated. They may also be covered by clothing and only noticed if the child removes clothing during exercise. Be aware of reluctance of a child to remove clothing in warm weather.

  • Failing to meet a child’s basic physical needs (e.g., food, shelter, clothing)
  • Leaving children alone and unsupervised
  • Failing or refusing to give children love, affection or attention

Neglect may be a long term problem, so in addition to awareness of a lack of care, it is important to notice physical and behavioral signs, such as failure to attain age-appropriate development.

Sexual Abuse
  • Using children to meet adult sexual desires (sexual intercourse, masturbation, oral sex, fondling)
  • Showing children pornographic books, photographs or videos; or photographing or videotaping them for pornographic purposes

Children often feel responsible and ashamed, and may find it difficult to reveal what has happened. Indicators may be physical (pain, discomfort) or behavioral—the child can seem inappropriately sexually aware for his/her age, or exhibit fear of a particular adult.

Also, be aware that in sports situations which involve physical contact (e.g., supporting or guiding child’s body) there is the potential for situations where sexual abuse may go unnoticed.

Emotional Abuse
  • Shouting, taunting, or making cutting remarks directed at child
  • Persistent lack of love or affection
  • Constant and intense overprotection which prevents child from functioning normally

What if a child tells me he or she is being abused?

  • Stay calm; ensure that the child is safe and feels safe.
  • Assure the child that you are taking what s/he says seriously.
  • Be honest; explain you will have to tell someone else to help stop the abuse. Avoid making promises you cannot keep.
  • Make a note of what the child has said as soon as possible.
  • Do not confront the alleged abuser.
  • Do not investigate on your own.

Reporting requirements

All USC employees, students, contractors and volunteers have a personal responsibility to report any instances of known or suspected abuse, molestation or neglect relating to children. Two reports must be made:

First report

USC’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) must be immediately notified. From all locations, call (213) 740-4321 (emergencies; immediate threat of danger) or (213) 740-6000.

Second report

The second report must be placed to the Department of Children and Family Services Child Protection Hotline at (800) 540-4000, or to the LAPD (or your local law enforcement agency if outside the city of Los Angeles). The LAPD can be reached at (877) ASK-LAPD (275-5273).

Failure by any member of the university community to make these reports as soon as possible will result in discipline up to and including termination and/or dismissal.

Those members of the university community covered by California’s Mandated Reporter laws should also review the university’s Mandated Reporters policy, which also covers obligations related to other issues (such as elder abuse and domestic violence).