Youth Conference Rules and Consequences – Policies & Procedures

Conference Rules and Consequences  Policies & Procedures

~adapted from the UUA’s PNWD Conference Affairs Committee protocols

The following policy outlines the procedures that will be used at a Youth Conference, when there is a need to address a serious problem that has arisen because participants have acted in ways that jeopardize the wellbeing and safety of the conference community.  Most often these are issues that are not directly related to the logistical and operational aspects of running the conference, but rather are of a behavioral or covenantal nature.

Participants who may have broken the CUC Youth Safety Rules, the Con’s site rules and/or in some other way transgressed the Conference community’s covenant will be addressed at a meeting of the Reconciliation Committee (RC).  At an RC meeting, it’s members  are asked to respond to the participants and the issue/problem they are involved in, with considered, situational consequences.

The RC is composed of a combination of youth and adults in leadership at the Con and their job is to collectively determine appropriate, incident-specific responses (which may include consequences) for what has happened. (see below for more detailed description of the suggested composition of the RC).

The RC acts in some ways like a ‘council of elders’ taking into account both the actions and feelings of the individuals involved and the needs and overall health of the Con community. The RC’s purpose is not to judge or cast punishment but rather to problem solve through facilitating a “clarifying conversation” with all who are involved with the problem or transgression.

The RC also has the authority to send participants home depending on the severity of the rule breaking, but more often this group will facilitate conversation and aims to broker:

  • understanding
  • accountability taking
  • forgiving and forgiveness,
  • and ultimately reconciliation and a return to ‘being in community’ for all involved

The hope of the RC meetings and process is to affirm the ideas that:

  • everyone makes mistakes
  • being held lovingly held accountable for one’s actions is in the best interest of both individuals and the Con community
  • giving forgiveness and making amends for poor choices/decisions is part of how we hold one another accountable.  

The Reconcilliation Committee’s ultimate goals are:

  • 1) maintaining the safety and wellbeing of the conference community
  • 2) ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the individuals involved
  • 3) facilitating a return to right relations between the individuals involved

In cases of violence and/or abuse there will be zero tolerance and all adults must act as mandatory reporters of such activities.  
***Due process of the RC must never replace or delay the need to call Police or other Emergency Services immediately to deal with serious injuries or abuse.
If such a need should ever arise, the identified Lead Adult (in the case of CanUUdle this would be the CanUUdle Coordinator) must ensure that individual participant safety is always met first, as the RC can address the needs of the Con community at large, concurrently or at a later point.

Handling Consequences

Consequences chosen by a RC are always intended to be appropriate to the situation and tailored to the specific individuals and incidents.  The hope is that both the individual(s) involved and the community as a whole will understand the relationship between the consequences and the offending behavior.  The consequences that are chosen can range widely; in some situations, the RC conversation itself along with apologies may be all the consequences that are needed, in other situations, the appropriate consequences may include removing participants from the community (i.e. sending someone home) and recommending that those participants are denied the privilege of attending future CUC Youth events.

For all issues brought before a RC, the committee must send an incident report to the CUC Youth and Young Adult Ministry Development staff with 48 hours of the RC meeting.

Suggested Composition of a Con Reconciliation Committee

Because every Youth Conference will have a slightly different leadership structure, prior to the beginning of any Con, the Con staff should review these guidelines and determine what is the right composition of an RC for their Con (based on the Con’s size and the experience of the youth in leadership available). Below is the suggested minimum number of members that should sit on an RC:

  • 2 designated Youth  leaders from the conference staff (these roles are often filled by 1 of the Co-Deans and another experienced Youth staff)
  • 2 designated Adult  leaders from the conference (this could be the identified Lead Adult of the Con, or a CUC staff person (At CanUUdle this would be the CanUUdle Coordinator or the Adult ‘Advisor’s Advisor’)
  • 1 conference chaplain or minister (to provide spiritual & emotional support the persons involved)
  • Additional individuals may sit on the CRAC if that seems necessary or appropriate

Individuals who might speak to the RC may include:

  • the person(s) who allegedly broke the conference rules/covenant
  • the adult advisor(s) of the alleged rule breakers (in the case of a youth)
  • the person(s) who reported the rule violation
  • any person(s)who was directly harmed as a result of this rule violation

Order of Procedure for a RC Meeting

A person reports an issue to a Con staff or youth advisor. The person(s) receiving the report of the issue must make sure the Co-Dean(s) are notified of the violation.  After consulting with the Lead Adult, if there is reason enough for a RC meeting (as there may be other ways to deal with the particular issue), the Co-Dean(s) must inform the appropriate persons (see above) that 1) an RC will be taking place and 2) the  specified time and place of the meeting.

It is very important to have the RC meeting as soon as possible after an issue  is reported to ensure that it  can be dealt with in a timely manner.

Suggested RC Decision Making Process

  1. The process should be conducted with as much love, compassion, fairness and expediency as possible.
  2. The group nominates someone to be the facilitator for the discussion.
  3. The group appoints someone to take notes for the report to be filed to CUC Youth and Young Adult Ministry Development staff after the process is completed.
  4. The facilitator outlines the process to the rest of the group.
  5. The facilitator reviews the ground rules for the process:
    • one person speaks at a time,
    • no name-calling,
    • use “I statements,”
    • listen while each person speaks (no side talk), etc.
  6. Try to meet in a circle for more effective communication.
  7. The person reporting the violation has five minutes to explain the infraction as s/he saw it. Persons harmed by the behaviour and or other witnesses, as necessary, may also be permitted to speak.
  8. The person(s) who allegedly broke the rules then has five minutes to explain his/her/their behavior.
  9. The person(s) who allegedly broke the rules, then has three minutes to ask clarifying type questions of the reporter as necessary.
  10. The person reporting the issue (whatever it is)  and other RC members then have a further five minutes to ask questions of the alleged violator(s).

At this stage, all questions should be focused on the issue, not on the consequences.

When the RC has heard all the relevant information, they, minus the participant(s) involved, the reporter(s) and any victims and/or witnesses, will discuss the facts and the issue and collectively decide on the appropriate consequences and or next steps.  
*If the issue is of a nature that there are direct ‘victims’, these individuals should be given the opportunity to approve the consequences that are chosen by the RC before they are given out.
Once the consequences are decided upon, the person(s) responsible for the issue  should be notified and after that point any announcements or apologies to the community at large should be made.

After the RC is concluded and the consequences have been given out, the Con Chaplain or a minister should be made available to speak with:
– participants involved in the issue to make sure they  understand(s) that the consequence was a response to the behavior exhibited  and not to them as individual(s).
-the “victims” to offer supportive listening and help them with any processing

If a consequence is that someone is asked to leave the conference, their sponsor and one of the Co-Deans will immediately make the arrangements for this to happen. If parents are asked to pick up the youth, the youth will be removed from further Con activities and must stay removed from the Con community in a separate area with his/her sponsor and another assigned adult until his/her parents or guardian arrive.
Lastly the RC must ensure that the incident form is filled out and given to the CUC Youth and Young Adult Ministry Development staff within 48hrs of the incident.