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University Standards for Interacting with Youth

The following table lists expectations set by the University of Washington for interactions between youth and authorized youth program and youth-involved research personnel, i.e., individuals with supervisory, caregiving, chaperone or custodial responsibilities for youth, or with unsupervised access to youth. These standards promote the well-being of youth who participate in University youth programs and youth-involved research, and serve as an important safeguard against harm.

These standards represent minimum requirements for program personnel to interact safely with youth. Individual programs, units or departments may impose more stringent standards that build upon the requirements below. Programs, units or departments may not disregard or alter these standards in any way that lessens the expectations set forth below.

The Youth Program Registration System requires all authorized personnel to digitally sign an acknowledgement of having reviewed and agreed to the Standards for Interacting with Youth, which are included in these conduct codes:

UW Youth Program Conduct Code:

UW Youth Program Addendum for Virtual Interactions:

UW-Led Youth-Involved Research Conduct Code:

UW-Led Youth-Involved Research Addendum for Virtual Interactions:

General contact: in-person, online, verbal, physical


  • Observe the “Rule of Three” – have at least one other adult present during all interactions with youth.
  • Limit physical contact to purposes that are consistent with the program’s mission and/or for a clear educational, developmental, or health related purpose, in the presence of another staff member, and with the consent of the youth.
  • Use program-sponsored e-mail, phone and social media accounts for communication when there is an essential educational or programmatic reason to do so.
  • Disclose any pre-existing relationships with youth in the youth program immediately to the program lead. Abide by these standards while affiliated with the youth program, despite any pre-existing personal relationships.

Discouraged or prohibited

Note: Discouraged behaviors are indicated by use of the word “avoid.”  All other behaviors are prohibited.

  • Avoid being alone with a single youth where you cannot be observed by program staff or other adults.
  • Do not act in a manner that can be perceived as physical or verbal abuse.
  • Do not discipline youth by use of physical punishment or by failing to provide the necessities of care.
  • Do not engage in purposeful communication or contact including in-person meetings, phone or other electronic communication including social networking, with youth outside of sanctioned program activities.
  • Avoid texting and other forms of electronic one-on-one communication between a single staff person and a youth.

Equitable Treatment


  • Treat all youth equitably, i.e. fairly and consistently, regardless of their actions or behavior, sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, culture, place of birth, age, class, ability, health, citizenship, language, or other identities.
  • Do not discriminate against a youth based on their sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, culture, place of birth, age, class, ability, health, citizenship, language, or other identities.
  • Do not give personal gifts to youth or their parents, e.g., any item intended to give a youth and/or parent special attention that is not given to others.

Sexual Misconduct


  • Understand and respect the physical and personal boundaries set by youth.
  • Do not engage in sexual contact of any kind. (including any verbal or physical contact that can be perceived as sexual in nature.)
  • Do not date or become romantically involved with youth.
  • Do not discuss your own or a youth’s sex life or sexual activities.
  • Do not share sexually explicit material with youth.



  • The safety of youth must be your primary concern above all others.
  • Report any concerns for suspected abuse or neglect of a youth to authorities per University policy requirements.
  • Notify University representatives per policy requirements of any violations of these standards for interacting with youth.
  • Follow all University transportation procedures for transporting youth.


  • Do not possess, sell, use, or be under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco or illegal drugs while engaged in program activities or on site.
  • Do not bring or carry a weapon into the program.
  • Do not transport youth in a personal vehicle.

Agreement to abide by Standards

University youth program personnel must acknowledge in writing (electronically or on paper) that they agree to abide by these standards at all times during the course of fulfilling their duties with the youth program. Departments should keep records of such acknowledgments per University records retention requirements.

Addressing violations of the Standards

Youth Programs must address behaviors of personnel that are in violation of the Standards for Interacting with Youth. Violations that constitute a “behavior of concern” require notification to SafeCampus. Behaviors of concern are defined as behaviors that are in clear violation of the Standards and pose a risk of creating an unsafe environment for youth. Use this Behaviors of Concern Continuum for reporting guide [PDF] to see examples of behaviors that warrant supervisory intervention, notification to SafeCampus, or a report to Child Protective Services or the police. For help using the Continuum, view our mini-module on the topic.

For more information on safe vs. unsafe interactions with youth, view the Promoting Safe Interactions with Youth online training. All University authorized personnel are required to view this training prior to interacting with youth.

For more information view the Standards for Interacting with Youth FAQs.