Conduct codes for employees, volunteers and program participants

Every workplace or program has expectations for behavior originating from laws, policies or other relevant guidelines. A conduct code outlines these specific expectations.

In a youth-serving environment, a conduct code is used to educate employees and volunteers about accepted and encouraged behaviors that support positive youth engagement, as well as prohibited behaviors with the potential to harm youth. Individuals have different experiences and beliefs about what is appropriate behavior- setting universal behavioral expectations creates common understanding. If an employee or volunteer violates the conduct policy, a clear process for corrective action is outlined in the conduct code, including removing them from the position or program as necessary.

A well-crafted conduct code includes the following:

  • specifically outlined acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, leaving little room for interpretation;
  • clearly articulated consequences for failing to follow outlined expectations, or committing a code violation;
  • acknowledgement by the relevant parties, usually by a signature, that they understand and will abide by the conduct code.

The UW Youth Program Conduct Code should be used by UW youth programs with their employees and volunteers. Youth programs are required to have authorized personnel sign an acknowledgement of having reviewed and agreed to the Standards for Interacting with Youth, which are included in this conduct code. While it is permissible to edit certain sections of the conduct code, you may not edit section 1, University Standards for Interacting With Youth.  

UW Youth Program Conduct Code:

Addendum for Virtual Interactions (updated 4/28/20):

Conduct codes for youth participants

Conduct codes for youth participants provide:

  • participants with a road map to success, including clear examples of what is expected and what is not allowed;
  • parents/guardians with information on their important role in supporting their child’s success, and reminders about important program policies;
  • staff with a tool to refer back to when addressing issues, ensuring problems are handled objectively and consistently by outlining predetermined consequences of failing to follow agreed upon expectations. Remember, these tools are only as good as they are put into use; it is important to follow through when a participant or parent/guardian does not comply with agreed-upon expectations. 

A well-written conduct code should include:  

  • a brief description of the purpose of the program;
  • sections pertaining to participants, parents and guardians, and staff with required signatures from all three groups;
  • clear examples of behaviors you expect to see from participants, and specific prohibited behaviors, including those that may lead to dismissal from a program;
  • for parents and guardians, important program policies that need extra emphasis and statements about how to support their child’s success; 
  • a process for addressing violations of the code.

Incorporating a conduct code into your program 

  1. Customize your code so it aligns in tone and substance with your program purpose, expectations and core values.
  2. Incorporate conduct codes into your intake or orientation process. 
    • Have parents send signed conduct codes with other paperwork prior to program start. Embedding signatures or initialing throughout the conduct code may increase the likelihood the content will be read. 
  3. Train staff on the code. 
    • Share corrective action responses or templates and discuss how to use them. 
    • Clarify staff roles in taking action on behavior problems. For example, some staff may be empowered to de-escalate situations or provide verbal warnings. Other actions, such as sending a youth home, contacting a parent/guardian or deciding to dismiss a youth altogether, may be only made by program leads.
    • Use scenarios to practice following through with stepwise corrective actions.
    • Describe internal documentation protocols for any incidents and/or actions taken by staff.
  4. Seek ways to reinforce the key points of the codes throughout the program. For example:
    • With younger youth, use the themes listen, communicate, participate and respect to create catchy mnemonics, songs or games to remind youth of what is meant by these. Do mini-lessons about these themes throughout the program to continually keep them on everyone’s radar. 
    • With older youth, begin your program by creating group agreements that allow youth to contribute their own expectations and values to a shared set of agreements. This can be used as a companion to the code of conduct.

Sample Conduct Codes

Elementary-aged youth

Teen-aged youth