NCSY and the Orthodox Union strive to create an environment in which NCSYers, NCSY volunteers (lay leaders and advisors), and NCSY professionals can grow and learn in a safe, appropriate, and halakhic (Jewish law) environment. Everyone actively involved with NCSY anywhere in the world is expected to contribute positively to this atmosphere and this manual has been developed as a tool to help foster its implementation at the International, Regional, and local level.
To achieve these goals, all NCSY professionals, volunteers, and NCSYers are expected to adhere to Standards set forth in this manual. These Standards apply to all NCSY operations and programs, as well as to contacts between professional staff members, volunteer advisors, and NCSYers, that take place outside the context of NCSY. Additionally, to maintain the highest levels of safety, all professional staff and volunteer advisors that interact with teens and volunteer advisors must undergo background checks administered by the Orthodox Union, and conducted by an independent third party agency.
In addition to posting the most current version of this manual on the NCSY website at www.NCSY.org/standards, previous versions have been sent to synagogue rabbis, presidents, and lay boards involved with local NCSY activity. It is essential that everyone involved with NCSY understand the policies set forth in this manual and how to respond if they feel the policies are not being implemented as required.
NCSY’s commitment to the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of all NCSY professionals, volunteers, and NCSYers is non-negotiable. In both word and deed, all persons involved with NCSY are expected to comport themselves according to halakhic standards regarding modesty and matters of a personal or sexual nature. Moreover, involvement with NCSY demands a commitment to refrain from any action or word that is injurious or demeaning toward a person of the same or opposite gender.
While it is acknowledged that minor incidents will occur from time to time when well-intentioned NCSY professional staff, volunteer advisors, or NCSYers, do or say the wrong thing, a prompt apology followed by a promise to be more careful in the future usually will be sufficient to satisfy all involved. In general, the corrections needed to rectify such mistakes are of the scale equivalent to those of other normal and healthy relationships. When simple apologies are insufficient, other forms of recourse are available. These include contacting the Regional Director in whose Region the particular situation occurred, contacting a member of the NCSY International Office, and/or reporting a concern to the NCSY Ombudsman Telephone Hotline at 212-613-8361 or email@example.com . In these instances, none of the above-mentioned reporting normally constitutes impermissible “lashon hara” (derogatory speech) or any violation of any other Jewish laws pertaining to proper speech.
Halakha (Jewish Law) is expected to be observed by everyone attending NCSY events. This includes a willingness to observe Shabbat at all times during an NCSY Shabbaton, whether during group programs or during “free time.” As an educational outreach institution, NCSY is mindful that teens who are first becoming familiar with halakhic practice will unknowingly make mistakes. NCSY affords beginning learners the room to make mistakes as they grow in their individual observance, however with regard to NCSY professionals and volunteer advisors, living in accordance with halakha is a prerequisite to their employment and volunteer involvement.
Similarly, all halakhot of physical contact (“negiah”) must be observed at all times during NCSY events. In particular, physical contact between members of the opposite gender is prohibited except to protect or safeguard someone in immediate physical danger, or to protect or safeguard synagogue or private property from immediate danger.
NCSY also upholds the halakhic standard of “yichud” (seclusion) at all times. As such, NCSY expects professional staff, volunteers, and NCSYers to avoid all activities and situations that leave two members of the opposite gender alone, even when the technical violation of Hilkhot Yichud is not involved. Furthermore, every effort will be made that a professional staff member or volunteer advisor will never be alone with an NCSYer of the same gender.
While respect for one another can be communicated by gesture and tone of voice, language is the most powerful tool for conveying it. Consequently, “nekiyut halashon,” cleanliness of language, serves as the standard that should guide all NCSY professionals, volunteers, and NCSYers. Words should be chosen with regard to their impact upon the listener, and should confirm his or her sense of self-worth.
Whenever a question about a Halakhik matter arises at a synagogue-sponsored event, the rabbi of the synagogue should be consulted. Halakhik questions regarding a Regionally-sponsored event or events that are not synagogue-based are to be directed to the Regional Director or to the NCSY professional running the event, who will consult with a proper regional or national posek (Rabbinic expert who is a decider of Jewish law).
Professional staff and volunteer advisors must be observant of Torah Law and follow the commandments and mitzvoth of the Torah while interacting with NCSY as well as in their personal lives. Because professional staff and volunteer advisors are expected to be role models to NCSYers, they are expected to be careful about daily prayer attendance, keeping kosher, proper levels of modesty, and being appropriately modest in all interactions with members of the opposite gender.
NCSY and the Orthodox Union take serious measures to ensure the hiring and participation of its professionals and volunteers is handled carefully. All professional and volunteer hires that interact with teens are only hired after various background checks have taken place and interviewing is conducted. Additionally, for professional staff, it is strongly recommended that reference calls and referrals be conducted.
PROFESSIONAL STAFF AND VOLUNTEER ADVISOR TRAINING
In partnership with local and regional administration, the NCSY International Office is responsible to ensure that all professional staff and volunteer advisors have been trained and commit to follow all the provisions of this manual. Additionally, all staff and volunteers must participate in mandatory training which may include in-person training, online training, tests, and refresher courses.
Situations may arise in which an NCSY staff person or volunteer advisor is presented with a concern that relates to the mental health, physical health, or emotional well-being of an NCSYer. In such scenarios, the appropriate procedure is for the staff person or volunteer to seek guidance and direction from a member of the NCSY regional administration, who will determine whether additional guidance is needed from a licensed medical or mental health professional.
PARTICIPATION IN EVENTS
Past actions being a strong indicator of future behavior, NCSY reserves the right to limit the participation of any teens in any NCSY activity if there is sufficient reason to believe a particular teen lacks the ability or willingness to follow directions and instructions required for NCSY event participation. Included in these considerations would be a history of sexual misconduct, criminal behavior, violence, bullying, behavior or speech that threatens the safety of program participants, and/or behavior that undermines the wholesome environment NCSY is endeavoring to create.
PERSONS WITH DISABILITY
NCSY is committed to attempt to accommodate those participants with special needs, including those who can only attend selected parts of an event or program due to disabilities.
The following behavior is incompatible with NCSY’s goals and standards and therefore always prohibited, whether it occurs in person, on the phone, online, or via any other medium:
- sexual contact and non-sexual physical contact that is aggressive and/or excessive (e.g., slapping, punching, pinching, kicking),
- malicious mocking, ridiculing, berating, or any other hurtful speech,
- uncalled for and inappropriate communication via cyberspace, on-line communications, texting, video chat, etc,
- unwanted sexual attention in the form of remarks, jokes or innuendo about a person’s body or clothing, or sexual activity,
- denigration, public or private, of parents or their central role in the lives of their children,
- denigration, public or private, of religious institutions or their leaders, including local synagogues and their rabbis, as well as yeshivot and their administration and faculty,
- psychological or emotional manipulation or control of NCSYers. Among the identifying hallmarks of this are attempts to restrict, rather than to widen, the range of resource persons with whom NCSYers develop relationships, and attempts to eliminate parents as critical influences in an NCSYer’s life. The psychological and emotional health of each NCSYer must always be safeguarded with as much zeal as their physical well-being.
- Bullying (as defined below)
- Harassment (as defined below)
Beyond making mutual respect the cornerstone of personal relationships, and beyond following directions and instructions, there are specific behavioral standards that apply specifically to NCSYers:
- NCSYer abuse of NCSY professional staff and volunteer advisors will not be tolerated.
- Any behavior that threatens the safety of NCSYers will not be tolerated.
- Violence, depending on the seriousness of the act, may also result in referral to law enforcement authorities.
- Foul, obscene or profane language of any sort (verbal, written or electronic) is unacceptable.
- Smoking at an NCSY event may be grounds for immediate dismissal from the event at the earliest practical time.
- Possession and/or use of alcoholic beverages at an NCSY event is grounds for immediate dismissal from the event at the earliest practical time, and may be subject to further disciplinary action at the discretion of the Regional Director in consultation with the National Youth Commission.
- Possession and/or use of illegal drugs and controlled substances at an NCSY event is grounds for immediate dismissal from the event at the earliest practical time, and may be subject to further disciplinary action at the discretion of the Regional Director in consultation with the National Youth Commission.
- Bringing illegal weapons (such as guns, switchblades, sharpened box cutters, and sharpened screwdrivers) to an event will result in confiscation of the weapons, expulsion from the event at the earliest practical time, and may also be referred to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. Other items that are intrinsically dangerous will be confiscated for the event, and those who brought them may be subject to further disciplinary action. (Swiss Army knives, or small pocket knives, which are as much tools as knives, are generally permitted. In specific situations, however, the NCSY professional in charge of the event may confiscate them at his or her discretion for the period of the event.)
NCSY professionals shall be sensitive as to which breaches of standards indicate the need to refer the problem to outside professional resources for further resolution.
Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power. Behaviors used to assert such domination can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion, and such acts may be directed repeatedly towards particular targets. Justifications and rationalizations for such behavior sometimes include differences of class, race, religion, gender, sexuality, appearance, behavior, body language, personality, reputation, lineage, strength, size, or ability.
Bullying can include forms of physical, verbal, demonstrative, or electronic harassment that one should reasonably expect would demean, threaten, or physically or emotionally hurt its victims or others associated with NCSY. It can:
- Be of a sexual nature or otherwise
- Take place in person, over the phone, in cyberspace, text message, or through on-line communication, or any other means that communicates such harassment.
- Be one-on-one or group based
Bullying will not be tolerated in NCSY and if verified will result in immediate expulsion of parties involved. Additionally, if participants are found to be engaging in bullying outside of NCSY events they too will be asked not to participate in NCSY events until their actions are rectified.
ABUSE OR HARASSMENT
Abuse, abandonment, cruelty, and neglect include, but is not limited to, unwelcome physical and emotional harassment, and physical injury.
The United States Office of Civil Rights, under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, defines sexual harassment as unwelcome activity in two categories, which are described further below: “Quid Pro Quo Harassment” and “Hostile Environment Harassment.”
SEXUAL ABUSE or HARASSEMENT
includes, but is not limited to:
- any demeaning or exploitative behavior of a sexual nature, including threats of such behavior,
- displaying demeaning, suggestive, or pornographic material,
- unwelcome or unwanted physical contact, such as inappropriate touching, patting, pinching, punching, and physical assault,
- Any type of sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other verbal, physical, demonstrative, or electronic conduct or communication of a sexual nature,
- indirect or explicit invitations to engage in unwelcome sexual activities which may or may not include a promise of reward for complying or a threat of reprisal for not complying.
Sexual abuse or harassment shows no preference for age, race, appearance, or occupation. It usually happens to females, but males may be victims, too. The abuser/harasser and victim may be of opposite or the same gender. It may involve the abuse of …
- an NCSYer by another NCSYer, NCSY professional or volunteer,
- an NCSY volunteer by another volunteer, NCSY professionals or NCSYer,
- an NCSY professional by another professional, volunteer or NCSYer
Harassment is defined as unwelcome physical, verbal, visual, or behavioral mannerisms or conduct that denigrates, shows hostility or aversion towards an individual because of his or her gender or other legally protected characteristics, where …
- submission to or rejection of such conduct is made (explicitly or implied) a term or condition of employment, maintaining their volunteer position (chapter board, regional board, etc.), participation in NCSY activities or the granting of preferential treatment (awards, recommendations, scholarships, etc.) This is known as “Quid Pro Quo Harassment”;
- submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for evaluation in making personnel or leadership decisions affecting an individual. This is also known as “Quid Pro Quo Harassment”;
- such verbal or physical conduct has the effect of interfering with an individual’s work, participation in NCSY activities, or living conditions, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. This is commonly known as “Hostile Environment Harassment”.
GENDER BASED HARASSMENT
Sexual harassment may occur between members of the same or opposite gender, and harassment based on a person’s gender is not limited to instances involving sexual behavior. That is, harassment on the basis of gender may occur without sexual advances or sexual overtones when conduct is directed at individuals or groups because of their gender. This is often referred to as sex or gender harassment and violates the law and NCSY policy.
A person does not have to be the direct and immediate target of sexual harassment to complain about it. Harassing behavior toward others may be so offensive, demeaning or disruptive as to constitute a hostile environment, though not specifically directed at the observer or individual lodging the complaint.
Regardless of intent, it is never acceptable to interact with an NCSY professional, volunteer, or NCSYer in a manner that is undesirable, offensive, or of a sexual nature. NCSY professional staff and volunteer advisors must be particularly mindful that adolescent NCSYers may lack the verbal or psychological tools to identify or defend against inappropriate advances. Additionally, NCSY is concerned about all forms of harassment by persons in positions of authority, since in these cases victims often feel less able to defend against conduct that is inappropriate, unwelcome, and illegal. No matter the age of the target of the harassment, whether adult or an adolescent, it’s important to note that acquiescence or the failure to complain does not always mean that the conduct was welcomed by the recipient or acceptable to NCSY.
Hazing includes any activity expected of someone joining a group (club, summer program, Shabbaton, etc) or expected of someone to maintain any status in a group, that: (1) humiliates, (2) degrades, or (3) risks emotional and/or physical harm or embarrassment to the individual or the NCSY community, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate and regardless of its intended results or effect.
Hazing is not a harmless prank aimed at developing bonds of brotherhood or sisterhood. Such behavior will not be tolerated and may result in immediate expulsion of all parties involved.
Much caution must be taken by professional staff and volunteer advisors in asking, offering, and accepting free favors from teens like babysitting, mowing one’s lawn, or shoveling one’s walk, etc. The volunteer advisor or professional staff member must understand the nature of this relationship and must be careful not to accept these as favors, especially on a regular basis. If the situation arises that it “only makes sense” that the NCSYer perform this task (babysitting because he/she is part of the family that lives next door), it must be clear (i.e. through paying for the service) that it is separate from NCSY needs and is the NCSYer’s prerogative to decline to provide the service. Otherwise, this can result in the appearance of favoritism or a power-imbalanced relationship
POWER-IMBALANCED ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
The difference in power and the respect and trust that is often present between an NCSY professional and an NCSY volunteer, a supervisor and a subordinate, or senior and junior colleague in the same department or unit makes these romantic relationships especially vulnerable to exploitation. Those who abuse their power in such circumstances by, for example, granting preferential treatment to a member who has submitted to sexual favors may be found to have violated the intent of this NCSY policy. “Voluntary” participation in a romantic relationship does not alone demonstrate that a romantic partner’s conduct was welcome. Moreover, even if the romantic relationship was welcomed by the romantic partner, it is nevertheless unacceptable according to NCSY policy.
Moreover, a romantic relationship between an NCSY professional and an NCSYer, or between an NCSY volunteer and an NCSYer, is forbidden under any circumstances.
Attempts by NCSY professionals or volunteers to establish a dating relationship with an NCSYer are strictly prohibited, with no exceptions, as they are contrary to a healthy mentor-NCSYer or supervisory relationship. A dating relationship is not only incompatible with mentoring and supervising, but can also give the impression of coercion. In addition, a dating relationship between an NCSY professional and an NCSYer falls into the category of a “power-imbalanced romantic” relationship. Violations of this prohibition are grounds for immediate dismissal.
Indeed, the potential for the abuse in this “power-imbalanced relationship” is so profound that even NCSY alumni may not be dated by NCSY professionals or volunteers until at least one year has passed since their graduation from high school or its equivalent.
It is understood that dating between NCSY professionals and volunteers might also potentially fall under the category of “power-imbalanced” relationships. However, understanding the potential positive dimension of such interactions, rather than prohibiting outright all such relationships, it is the responsibility of the NCSY staff member or volunteer advisor’s supervisor (i.e. Regional Director and/or International Director) to the best of his or her ability to monitor all such relationships to assure that they not fail this critical test.
PERMITTED PHYSICAL CONTACT
Any combination of two NCSY professional staff members, volunteer advisors, or NCSYers of the same gender, are welcome to engage in normal physical contact such as hugging or touching as an act of encouragement or consolation. This is permitted as long as the contact is both welcome and appropriate and not of a sexual nature.
Similarly, normal contact, such as that which would take place in a basketball or football game, or arm-wrestling is permitted as long as the activity is appropriate, welcome, and is not of a sexual nature.
As stated above in the section addressing Halakha, other physical contact between any combination of two NCSY professional staff members, volunteer advisors, or NCSYers of the opposite gender is strictly prohibited except to protect or safeguard someone in immediate physical danger, or to protect or safeguard synagogue or private property from immediate danger.
All NCSY professionals and volunteer advisors present at an event are expected to help the program organizers run the programs. This includes, but is not limited to: door duty assignments, helping the leaders quiet the room, ushering NCSYers to the next part of a program in a firm yet respectful manner, and following any other directions or specific requests made by those running the program. Should an NCSYer remain uncooperative, the NCSY professional or volunteer advisor involved should inform the Regional Director or person running the event for disciplinary procedures.
Physical force used to discipline a recalcitrant NCSYer is not permitted as a means of routine discipline. Physical force may be used in emergency situations, such as to safeguard an NCSYer in immediate physical danger, to protect or safeguard synagogue or any property from immediate danger, or similar urgent situations.
MANIPULATION AND CONTROL
NCSY is committed to fostering healthy teen development, development of Torah middot, respect for all parents, respect for Torah institutions, and respect for all people. While teenagers often begin to rely more on peers as they attempt to establish their independence, NCSY should encourage the long-term primary role of family in the NCSYer’s life.
NCSY regards the following as important to healthy adolescent development:
- Recognizing that the chief goal in parent-child relations is the transformation of the relationship from one in which parents decide for children to one in which children learn to make sound and informed decisions with their parents as their most valued advisors,
- Helping the NCSYer to develop self-confidence rooted in self-competence as he or she expands the range of skills that he or she can successfully employ, and the range of people and resources upon which he or she can draw.
In keeping with these goals, all NCSY professionals and volunteers should always speak respectfully when addressing or speaking about NCSYers, their parents, their schools, rabbis, synagogues, etc . In addition, they should be sensitive to issues that may arise and foster respect for a persons right to a varying point of view. NCSY professionals and volunteers should listen and help NCSYers clarify their thoughts, concerns and feelings and attempt to inspire greater Torah observance. However, they should avoid coercing NCSYers by …
- applying negative pressure and fear to achieve a desired result. For example making an NCSYer feel that he or she will not be accepted if an undesired conclusion is reached,
- exerting emotional encouragement so strongly that the individual perceives emotional pressure,
- making the NCSYers relationship with the NCSY professional conditional upon their decision.
- Adolescent life is often a time of turmoil, distress and conflict. Extreme reactions to people, places and things are quite common during this stage of development. NCSY professionals and volunteers must be especially careful not to allow an adolescent’s normal occasional tendency toward “hero worship” to be transformed into an unhealthy relationship with an NCSY professional or volunteer. NCSY professionals and volunteers must be sensitive to such situations as they develop, and will endeavor to see that NCSYers are referred to the appropriate resources for assistance in dealing with them.
- If it is brought to the attention of an NCSY professional or volunteer that his or her attempt to recommend a particular school or program is causing conflict with the parents of the NCSYer then the professional or volunteer should inform the Regional Director and/or International Director and leave it to him or her to speak with the NCSYer’s parents.
NCSY PARTICIPANT BEHAVIORAL STANDARDS
As stated above, NCSYers have a responsibility to conduct themselves properly at all NCSY events and in all NCSY interactions.
The most important elements in proper NCSYer behavior are to treat NCSY professionals, volunteers, and fellow NCSYers with the personal respect that lies at the heart of healthy personal relationships, and to follow the directions and instructions of NCSY professionals and volunteers.
If an NCSYer violates the rules, or in any emergency situation which occurs at such an event, the Regional Director or staff member in charge of the event shall take whatever action he or she deems necessary within the parameters of this policy, and as soon as possible afterwards shall report the entire matter to the Regional Director. In addition to notifying the Chair of the local Youth Commission preferably in writing (or other designated adult communal leader), the Regional Director will promptly relay the incident to the International Director and the Ombudsman Telephone Hotline. Depending on the severity of the misconduct, the parents will be contacted by either the Chair of the local Youth Commission, the Regional Director, the Chair of the National Youth Commission, the Chair of OU’s NCSY National Standards Committee, or the International Director.
RESPECT FOR PARENTS
NCSY’s mission is to help Jewish teens develop a closer connection with Judaism and the Jewish people. NCSY does not encourage teens to distance themselves from their families and communities. Nonetheless, tensions between teens and their families sometimes may develop as a result of, or be exacerbated by, NCSYers’ growing commitment to Judaism.
NCSY professionals and volunteers must work to maintain and ultimately enhance NCSYers’ relationships with and respect for their parents, and work to help teens learn how to develop a wide range of good relationships with peers, school personnel, and members of their community. When a conflict arises between NCSY and parents, a mediating authority agreeable to both should be consulted, such as a local community rabbi or lay leader, as outlined below. NCSY should encourage respect for diversity and multiple sources of guidance in those NCSYers for whom they serve as mentors.
NCSY professionals need to be especially sensitive to parents and families of NCSYers who are becoming more observant. When practical and practicable, NCSY professionals should partner with local rabbinic and lay leadership to communicate directly with families both to express understanding of the conflicts they may be experiencing, and when appropriate, to describe how the greater NCSY community is committed to strengthening the personal bonds between parents and children, even as differences in ritual behavior may increase. This communication could take the form of organized programs as well as one-on-one conversations.
In the interest of protecting NCSYers, parents are expected to disclose to the lead NCSY professional overseeing an NCSY sponsored event which requires registration or the knowledge of the parent that their teen is attending, any medical, physical, psychological, or emotional condition for which a teen is being treated. This includes alerting the NCSY professional staff concerning medications, allergies, and special dietary needs. In addition to sharing one’s personal emergency phone numbers in advance of an event, parents are also responsible to confirm with the lead NCSY professional staff overseeing an event that a best faith effort has been made to accommodate an NCSYer’s special needs.
Should a situation arise over the course of an event when the lead NCSY professional is concerned regarding a teen’s physical, psychological, or emotional well-being, or that it is revealed that medical or other relevant information was not disclosed on the waiver and/or medical form, standard procedure is to immediately send the teen home at the parents’ expense and without a refund. In addition, there are other occasions when a teen would be sent home at the parents’ expense and without a refund, which occur when the teen has violated NCSY policy.
In order to be qualified to attend a NCSY program, a teen who is currently taking any sort of medication should be able to administer it on his/her own and must bring only the appropriate amount needed during the program. All this information must be disclosed on medical forms that will only be seen by designated supervisory personnel and will be kept private.
Parents and local adult representatives are welcome to periodically attend local, Regional, or Internationally-sponsored NCSY events. They should contact the local director in advance of attending the event and confirm that attendance is appropriate.
TRANSPORTATION & HOUSING
Parents are responsible for providing transportation for NCSYers to and from local and Regional events. On those occasions when NCSY provides group transportation for NCSYers, parents are required to sign a transportation waiver, that indemnifies NCSY, the Orthodox Union, and NCSY professionals and volunteers. NCSY recommends that local chapters arrange for NCSY professionals to have cell-phones and for an emergency phone number to be available to the community on all trips.
There are times that the NCSY professional staff or volunteer advisor ends up driving the NCSYer to and/or from the event because other arrangements were not made by the NCSYer, parent, or legal guardian. In such instances, a parent or legal guardian of the NCSYer indemnifies NCSY, the Orthodox Union, and NCSY professionals or volunteers for all responsibility as it relates to their teen’s transportation, safety, and security.
In such a case, the NCSY professional staff person or volunteer advisor will notify a member of the region’s administration. It is preferable that three people are in the car, but in the event that it is not feasible and if two people are alone in the car, possibly even being of the opposite gender, the professional staff person or volunteer advisor’s notification to the member of the region’s administration will suffice. NCSY, the Orthodox Union, and NCSY professionals and volunteers will not be held liable and will be indemnified for all responsibility as it relates to the teen’s transportation, safety, and security in this situation.
For long distance driving of trips greater than four hours, the driver must stop every two to three hours for a break of at least fifteen minutes. Any trip in a vehicle that normally takes over six hours should have at least two qualified drivers.
For trips that a 15 passenger van is necessary, a member of the region’s senior staff member must approve the driver. Driving in an unsafe manner can lead to immediate dismissal.
When using a hired bus company or professional drivers NCSY will follow the rules and regulations of the specific company.
The NCSY International Office empowers local and Regional Administrations to determine if NCSYers should be restricted from driving to local and Regionally-sponsored NCSY events. In the absence of such restrictions, it is the responsibility of parents, and not the responsibility of NCSY, to determine if their NCSYers may drive to an event, and for obtaining the consent of other parents of NCSYers who are passengers in a car driven by an NCSYer.
Male and female guests may not be hosted together in the same house at a home hospitality Shabbaton.
Every attempt will be made to provide teens with suitable accommodations to protect their privacy including their own area to sleep in or personal sleeping bag. At times, NCSYers at their own discretion may choose to share accommodations. In such cases, NCSY, the Orthodox Union are not held responsible for any interaction between the teens. Professional staff members and volunteers will never share a bed with an NCSYer.
NCSY will work closely with the host community leadership to ascertain proper housing locations, will verify locations, and will honor any objections to a particular site expressed by the local rabbi.
Efforts will be made to provide a professional staff member or volunteer advisor in each house.
If the host family has children of teenage years that are not part of NCSY and are of a different gender than the NCSYers staying at their home, it is preferable for the host’s children and NCSYers to be roomed on different floors.
Boundaries in Rooming
Whether the event is taking place at a hotel or private home, the volunteer advisor and/or professional staff person should never be alone with the NCSYer in the room, even if it means the NCSYer is refusing wakeup or to attend the program. In such circumstances either another professional staff person or volunteer advisor must be brought in or an NCSYer will be asked to stay behind until the last NCSYer is ready to leave.
In a room in which there are both NCSYers and professional staff members or volunteer advisors, the professional staff member and/or volunteer advisor will make every effort to dress and undress in an appropriately “tzniut” (modest) manner.
When NCSYers need to be woken up to attend the program, the volunteer advisor and/or professional staff member will communicate the need to wake up verbally and/or appropriately tap the NCSYer on the shoulder. They will not touch the NCSYer besides that, even if it means the NCSYer will not wake up.
The NCSY International Office empowers local and Regional Administrations to determine appropriate times for live communication to conclude, however it should be no later than 11pm in the teen’s time zone or 1am in the professional staff person or volunteer advisor’s time zone, whichever come first. The appropriateness of interaction past a certain hour between professional staff, volunteer advisors, and teens is taken seriously.
Regarding the usage of all social media outlets, professional staff and volunteer advisors must take caution when posting publicly or messaging through any online communication, whether public or private. It is a reflection of oneself and the organization. Areas to consider when posting, include but are not limited to personal opinions, private matters, negative comments, and inappropriate pictures. All social media communication and pages will be monitored periodically by senior regional management and it will be at their discretion to determine the appropriateness of the content. Most social media tools may be used but must be in line with greater NCSY Standards & Policies and social media guidelines.
Facebook and similar social networks are valuable methods for communication between professional staff, volunteer advisors, and teens. However, there are potential boundary concerns in this regard. Professional staff members and volunteer advisors should be vigilant not to cross boundaries of appropriate contact – including but not limited to, questionable subject matter, power-imbalance relationships – with NCSYers even through these digital means.
In addition, professional staff people and volunteer advisors should only “friend request” teens that they have already met at an NCSY event. In addition, professional staff people are encouraged to set up a Facebook page for their chapter or event and correspond with NCSYers through this page whenever practical.
One-on-one video chat communication, group chats, and any “live” forms of communication should never take place without all parties being appropriately dressed in a respectful and modest manner.
A professional staff person or volunteer may never communicate one-on-one with an NCSYer of the opposite gender by video in a private online space or in a private space where they are located (same as in-person standards).
or any other chat platform that erases the record of the communications is not allowed between professional staff members or volunteer advisors and teens.
TEXTING OR INSTANT MESSAGING
is allowed (before 11pm), and is subject to the same standards of communication.
REPORTING ABUSE TO THE GOVERNMENT
Professional staff and volunteer advisors are encouraged to report abuse, suspected abuse, or other issues to the National Offices, the regional director, or the National Ombudsman as a first step, but are entitled to report directly to a governmental agency if appropriate.
REPORTING A GRIEVANCE
The Orthodox Union through its subcommittee National Youth Commission created the Ombudsman Telephone Hotline (OTH) to receive reports or complaints of harassment or abuse or any violation of the standards described in this document. Any NCSY professional, volunteer, or NCSYer, who believes he or she has been the victim of harassment or any third person (including but not limited to a parent or guardian of a minor) with knowledge or belief of conduct that may constitute harassment should report the alleged acts to the OTH as detailed below.
Any NCSY professional or volunteer who receives notice that an NCSYer has been the victim of harassment, abuse or any form of grievance, is required to immediately report the alleged acts to OTH as detailed below. NCSY will respect the confidentiality of the complainant and the individual(s) against whom the complaint is filed as much as possible, consistent with NCSY’s legal obligations and the necessity to investigate allegations of harassment and take disciplinary and other appropriate action.
Listed below is a step by step explanation of how to initiate an official grievance. Though it is the intent of this policy to take decisive action against those who break NCSY policy, it is important to note that NCSY requires the complete cooperation of the complainant in order to initiate and pursue a course of action. Additionally, NCSY is unable to take action in response to complaints that are reported anonymously. Depending on the nature of the grievance and the outcome of an investigation, disciplinary action may result in the issuance of a warning, a suspension, or immediate discharge to end the harassment and prevent its recurrence.
REPORTING ABUSE TO THE STATE
Note: Victims of abuse are encouraged to seek redress to whatever extent they desire through the relevant local, state and federal laws.
Each state has its own laws regarding the responsibility of reporting suspected abuse. A comprehensive breakdown of the various mandatory reporting laws for each state can be obtained at http://www.childwelfare.gov. Given the complexity of these laws, NCSY professionals and volunteer advisors are advised to consult with a professional knowledgeable regarding the mandatory requirement for that jurisdiction. For information concerning child abuse programs and laws in the United States, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends Childhelp USA at http://www.childhelpusa.org or 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). Childhelp’s hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline can tell you where to file a report and can help make the report. For resource material concerning child abuse in Canada, check out, http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/familyviolence/html/nfntsnegl_e.html or call (613) 957-2938.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE BEING ABUSED
Believe and trust yourself and your feelings.
Protect yourself by keeping a detailed written account of every incident.
Talk to someone you trust to hear and support you. You may feel comfortable going to your parents, your rabbi, or an NCSY professional or volunteer advisor.
Know that a policy and process is in place within NCSY for dealing with complaints and instances of abuse, harassment, and general misconduct.
Remember that it is not your fault. The abuser is responsible for his/her own behavior.
Your complaint will be taken seriously.
You will be treated with compassion and respect.
You will be provided with information about NCSY’s policy and procedures for registering a formal complaint.
HOW DO I INITIATE A COMPLAINT OF ABUSE OR HARASSMENT?
Call the NCSY Ombudsman Telephone Hotline (OTH) at 212-613-8361 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The OTH is staffed by the Chairman of the NCSY National Standards Committee or his designee. In the event an OTH representative is not available to answer the phone, the OTH voicemail will instruct you to leave your name and contact information so your call can be returned within 24 hours.
Note: Victims of abuse are encouraged to seek redress to whatever extent they desire through the relevant local, state and federal laws.
HOW WILL MY COMPLAINT BE HANDLED?
The Chairman of the NCSY National Standards Committee or his designee has been appointed to (1) receive complaints and accusations of abuse, harassment, or other violations of NCSY Conduct, Policy, and Standards of Behavior; (2) investigate the validity of the charges; and (3) report any and all relevant findings to the Chair of the National Youth Commission, and he NCSY International Director.
For complaints that address concerns of abuse or harassment the Chairman of the NCSY National Standards Committee or his designee will work with the NCSY International Director to guide a full-scale investigation.
For complaints that address concerns related to other forms of misconduct irrespective of whether or not they can be found in the Conduct, Policy, and Behavioral Standards manual, the Chairman of the NCSY National Standards Committee or his designee will oversee the investigation or else s/he will forward a summary of the Complaint to the OU Director of Human Resources who will be responsible for the investigation.
If an NCSYer, parent, volunteer advisor, or NCSY professional observes conduct (by any of the preceding) that appears to violate the NCSY Conduct, Policy and Behavioral Standards, s/he should immediately:
1. Tell the alleged offender that the conduct is unacceptable.
2. Report the incident immediately to an appropriately located NCSY Regional Director (see www.ncsy.org/ncsy/contact for a complete list) or a representative of the NCSY International Office (www.ncsy.org/ncsy/staff).
3. Report the incident immediately to the NCSY Ombudsman Telephone Hotline (OTH) at 212-613-8361 or email@example.com. The OTH representative and/or Ombudsman email respondent will field your complaint and guide you through the process of submitting a formal complaint which may be used to initiate a formal inquiry.
- At a Shabbaton, Regional, or program where phone or email is not available in order to contact the OTH or email, in addition to reporting it to the Regional Director or representative of the NCSY International Office, the NCSYer, professional, or volunteer may report it to a lay leader attending the program. This lay person as well as a member of the regional staff must report it to the International Office as soon as possible after Shabbat preferably in writing.
YOU NEED TO KNOW
In order to conduct investigations that are just, accurate, and in fairness to all parties, no action will be taken on complaints that are placed anonymously. Moreover, the complainant must be fully cooperative with NCSY throughout the investigation.Confidentiality will be consistent with legal obligations and the necessity to investigate allegations and punish substantiated misconduct.
NCSY will not retaliate in any form, against any employee, staff member (paid or unpaid), NCSYer, or parent for reporting, assisting, or cooperating with a person making a credible complaint. NCSY and the Orthodox Union reserve the right to take legal actions against individuals who are discovered as having made false or misleading accusations.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I SUBMIT MY COMPLAINT?
Upon receipt and review of the complaint alleging abuse, harassment, or other violations of NCSY Conduct, Policy, and Standards of Behavior the Chairman of the NCSY National Standards Committee or his designee will:
A) Inform the individual who submitted the complaint that sufficient information was present to initiate a full-scale inquiry.
B) Inform the individual who submitted the complaint that there was insufficient information present in the complaint to warrant a formal inquiry. If there is disagreement with this assessment, an opportunity will be given to challenge this decision by submitting a letter of appeal to OTH at firstname.lastname@example.org with additional information.
In addition to multiple conversations with the individual who submitted the complaint, full-scale inquiries include a comprehensive gathering of information from multiple sources. In addition to individuals named in the complaint, this research may include information gathered from conversations with rabbis, parents, community leaders, NCSY professionals, NCSY volunteer advisors, and NCSYers. When appropriate, the individual/s conducting the inquiry may also consult with mental health professionals, legal counsel, and as appropriate, law enforcement agencies for further action.
After the Chairman of the NCSY National Standards Committee or his designee has gathered sufficient information and is confident in his/her conclusions regarding the alleged misdeed, the relevant findings will be shared with the Chair of the NCSY National Youth Commission, the NCSY International/Associate Director, and the Rabbinic advisor. Based on this information, these senior NCSY professionals and lay leaders will choose a course of action commensurate with the findings. They will further determine who is the best person to share this information with the aggrieved individual and the alleged offender. If either party is unsatisfied with NCSY’s decision, or if no action is taken within three (3) weeks of filing the complaint, all parties are welcome to appeal to the Chairs of the NCSY National Standards Committee and NCSY Youth Commission by email to email@example.com.
The Chair of the NCSY National Standards Committee and the International & Associate International Directors have the authority to suspend the alleged offender from attending NCSY events during the interim period from the time the complaint is filed until deliberations are completed. If the Chair of the NCSY National Standards Committee chooses not to order a suspension, the aggrieved individual may appeal this decision to the Chair of the NCSY National Youth Commission with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The decision to suspend will be made in light of the severity of the complaint and potential harm to the aggrieved, the alleged offender, and others.
NCSY NATIONAL STANDARDS COMMITTEE
The NCSY National Standards Committee (NSC) is comprised of lay leader/s appointed by the Chair of the NCSY National Youth Commission. The purpose of the NSC is to ensure substantive lay involvement in the monitoring and compliance of the NCSY Conduct, Policy, and Behavioral Standards manual.
This manual and the standards, policies, and procedures, set forth in it will be reviewed bi-annually by the National Standards Committee and compliance will be audited on a regular basis as well.
The above procedures for handling complaints are intended to address serious issues to ensure that they are handled appropriately. If you (NCSYer, parent, professional staff or volunteer advisor) have a complaint you consider less serious in nature, you may choose to bypass these procedures. You may, either on your own or together with or through your parents, rabbi, volunteer advisor or Youth Commission Chair, simply contact your Regional office (see www.ncsy.org/ncsy/contact for a complete list of phone numbers) or the NCSY National Office at 212-613-8144. Minor complaints or concerns can even by conveyed by someone else while keeping your identity secret. In such cases, you will not benefit from any committee deliberations or outside oversight. However, should your initial attempts at direct resolution prove unsuccessful or unsatisfactory, you may then choose to file a formal complaint and benefit from committee review and oversight as contained in the procedures outlined above.