The Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for participants in our student-focused range of programs and events.

Ensuring the safety of youth participants at events and work sessions is the most important responsibility of REC Foundation staff, volunteers, coaches, and mentors. This policy provides information, guidelines, and procedures to create safe environments for participants in our range of programs.

Adults working or volunteering in REC Foundation programs must be aware of and act in accordance with this policy and with any policy set by the organization or school that hosts their teams or events.

The standards of the REC Foundation Youth Protection Policy apply to all teams and events in the United States and Canada, and to those outside of the US and Canada to the extent made possible by local laws and regulations.

In this policy, “youth” is defined as any person under the age of 18. For the purposes of this policy, the terms child, youth, student, and team member may be used interchangeably. “Adult” is defined as any person age 18 or older.

REC Foundation Code of Conduct

The REC Foundation considers the positive, respectful, and ethical conduct of all event participants and attendees an important and essential component of all REC Foundation-sanctioned events. We expect all participants to follow the behavior and ethical standards outlined in our Code of Conduct at all REC Foundation-sanctioned events.

  • Act with integrity, honesty, and reliability
  • Behave in a respectful and professional manner with all event participants and attendees
  • Exhibit maturity and professionalism when dealing with difficult and stressful situations
  • Respect individual differences
  • Respect the facility and equipment provided at an event
  • Follow all rules as listed in the current game manual(s)
  • Operate as student-centered teams according to the Student Centered Policy
  • Prioritize safety in their actions and design
  • Demonstrate good sportsmanship, which includes supporting your alliance partners

These expectations apply to, but not limited to: Team Members, Coaches, Parents, Event Partners, Volunteers, and any other adult associated with a team. This Code may also apply to behavior outside of REC Foundation-sanctioned events where inappropriate actions are related to an event or participating individuals.

The full REC Foundation Code of Conduct is available in the REC Library.

Background Checks

The REC Foundation’s top priority is the safety of its community. In the best interest of our students, and for the safety of everyone participating in REC Foundation events, we require Coaches, Event Partners, and VEX World Championship Key Volunteers to undergo criminal background screenings that comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Background checks must be completed every two years, and information is collected through a secure third-party platform, Sterling Volunteers. For more information on the REC Foundation background check process, visit these articles in the REC Library: Background Check FAQ and Background Check Process.

Best Practices in Youth Protection

Participants in youth programs are particularly vulnerable because they may not yet have acquired the knowledge and life experience needed to make decisions regarding risk. Moreover, because young people are experiencing a period of rapid physical, social, and emotional growth they are more likely to suffer long‐ term consequences from a damaging event.

It is critical that adult participants in REC Foundation programs understand and comply with the guidelines in this policy, as well as those set by the school organization that hosts the team or event.

Understand the Code of Conduct

All team members, coaches, mentors, and other individuals who interact with student team members should understand and be able to discuss the Code of Conduct in age-appropriate terms.

Maintain Professional Boundaries

Adult volunteers, coaches, and mentors are an important part of REC Foundation programs and events, and we anticipate that children and adults in our programs will build positive, supportive relationships within our larger community. 

All participants in REC Foundation programs must be aware of the risk of unhealthy or harmful relationships between students and adults. Predators have been known to use positions in youth-service organizations to establish contact with potential victims, and the close contact of a mentoring role can provide opportunities for predators to slowly overcome natural boundaries through grooming behaviors like paying special attention, isolation, and individual gift-giving that isn’t provided equally to all participants.

Adults must remember that a power imbalance exists between adults in leadership roles and the students they lead, and that it is always the adult’s responsibility to establish and maintain appropriate physical and emotional boundaries.

Avoid Physical Isolation

Adults should avoid being alone with students where they cannot be observed by other adults. When possible, groups of students and adults (for example, sub-teams and coaches) should meet at the same time and location as other groups.

Limit Physical Contact

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 adult, and with the consent of the youth. Understand and respect the physical and personal boundaries set by youth.

Avoid Private Communication

Adults should not engage in personal exchanges with students outside the context of team activities, educational matters, or career concerns. All communications, including phone calls, emails, and texts should include a student’s parent or guardian or be conducted on a technology or platform that is accessible by a larger community.

Treat Youth Equitably

Treat all youth equitably, 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.

Prioritize Safety

Do not allow violent, hostile, or potentially harmful behavior. Physical or verbal bullying, hazing, confrontational behavior, or corporal punishment must not be tolerated. Anyone who believes a safety risk exists must take action to remove students from the situation or eliminate the source of the risk (other than child abuse, which should be reported but not directly acted upon) if doing so is safe and may prevent injury. If the risk was caused by direct action or inaction, it should be reported to team/event leads or law enforcement as appropriate. If anyone involved in a team’s or event’s activities behaves in a manner that might be harmful to another individual, that person should be separated from the group, and their parent or guardian, a child protection agency, or the police should be called as appropriate.

Do not allow the use of controlled substances. Alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes, vaping, or other controlled substances must not be used during team activities or made available to team members. 

Keep team members safe while working with tools, robots, machinery, and materials.

Ensure safety when traveling to and from events. Oversight of team members’ transportation to and from events is the responsibility of the team’s coaches/mentors. Students should only be allowed to leave an event with the approval of their parent or guardian, and under appropriate supervision.

Be prepared for emergencies. Procedures for emergencies related to weather, fire, lost students or adults, and site security should be established, including a well-stocked first-aid kit, a list of special medical needs (e.g., inhalers, food allergies), and contact information for each student’s parent or guardian. The US government provides a range of sample plans at https://www.ready.gov/.

Ensure all students have a completed REC Foundation Participant Release Form on file for the current season.

Communication and Reporting Requirements

When event volunteers, coaches, mentors, or other adults believe that a child may be at risk for or a victim of child abuse, they must immediately report their concerns to event personnel, and, where appropriate or required by law, to local law enforcement. The reporter should make no attempt to personally intervene or investigate, regardless of their relationship with the suspected offender. There are many types of child abuse, but the following are some of the most common (from the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families):

  • Physical abuse is non-accidental injury, which is intentionally inflicted upon a child.
  • Sexual abuse perpetrated by an adult is any contact or activity of a sexual nature that occurs between a child and an adult. This includes any activity, which is meant to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of the adult or child.
  • Sexual abuse perpetrated by another child is any contact or activity of a sexual nature that occurs between a child and another child when there is no consent, when consent is not possible, or when one child has power over the other child. This includes any activity that is meant to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of any children attending the event.
  • Emotional abuse is mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development or psychological functioning.
  • Neglect is the failure to provide for the basic needs of a child or the failure to protect a child from harm.
  • Economic exploitation is the deliberate misplacement, exploitation, or wrongful temporary or permanent use of belongings or money of a child.
  • Bullying is seeking to harm, intimidate, or coerce someone who is perceived as vulnerable.

Such inappropriate behaviors, possible policy violations, or abuse should be reported in one of the following ways:

  1. A telephone call or meeting with the event leads.
  2. A telephone call or meeting with REC Foundation staff.
  3. A written letter, signed or unsigned, to the event leads or REC Foundation staff. 
  4. A report to the REC Foundation through this Google form.

All reports of inappropriate behavior, policy violations, or abuse will be taken seriously. Where appropriate or required by law, the event leads or REC Foundation staff will notify local law enforcement. Event leads and volunteers will cooperate with any investigation by local law enforcement to the fullest extent.

Potential violations of the REC Foundation Youth Protection Policy are confidential, including the identities of the parties involved and the individual who made the report. Information will only be disclosed on a need-to-know basis or as required by law.

Individuals who are found in violation of the REC Foundation Youth Protection Policy may be banned from future participation in REC Foundation programs and events.

How Parents & Guardians Can Help

We encourage parents and guardians to review the REC Foundation Youth Protection Policy, Code of Conduct, and Student-Centered Policy and discuss them with your child in age-appropriate terms. Emphasize to your child that it is their responsibility to tell you about anything someone does that doesn’t seem right. Discuss some ways that your child can deal with situations like inappropriate behavior or overstepping of boundaries.

Talking with your child about how they can and should respond to uncomfortable situations will empower them to stand up for themselves in potentially risky situations.

  • Adults or other authority figures should never ask a child to keep activities or actions a secret, or offer a child gifts or favors that aren’t also provided to all other children within the team or group. If it happens, your child should tell you or another trusted adult.
  • Encourage your child to trust their instincts and feelings, and remind them that they are allowed to respond to situations and interactions with a simple “no” or “no, thank you.”
  • Remind your child that they have a right to privacy, and that others should respect that right.

Responding to Reports of Child Abuse

If your child tells you that they have experienced or observed potential child abuse (e.g., physical, emotional, sexual, etc.), these guidelines can help you respond appropriately.

Things to Do

  • Assume your child is telling the truth
  • Respect your child’s privacy, and the privacy of others who might be involved
  • Remove your child from the situation so you can talk without distractions
  • Reassure your child that they are not to blame
  • Reassure your child that they did the right thing by telling you
  • Consult your child’s physician or other child abuse authority about needed medical care or counseling, if appropriate
  • Share the report with the appropriate child protection agency or law enforcement agency if appropriate, and follow their directions

Things to Avoid

  • Don’t panic, and don’t react with alarm or anger
  • Don’t tell your child they misunderstood or that what they reported didn’t happen
  • Don’t tell your child that they are responsible for what happened or that they should have been more careful
  • Don’t attempt to investigate or confirm the report, regardless of your relationship with the potential offender

Additional Resources

United States

National Children’s Advocacy Center
210 Pratt Avenue
Huntsville, AL 35801
Phone (258) 533-5437
Fax (258) 534-6883

National Sexual Violence Resource Center
123 North Enola Drive
Enola, PA 17025
Phone (877) 739-3895 or (717) 909-0710
Fax (717) 909-0714

Prevent Child Abuse America
200 South Michigan Avenue, 17th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604-2404
Phone (312) 663-3520
Fax (312) 939-8962

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
699 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3175
Phone (800) 843-5678
Fax (703) 274-2200

Canada

Provincial and territorial child protection legislation and policy