HIRING OR ENGAGING DANCE PROFESSIONALS/JUDGES
YPAD understands that navigating the process of hiring dance professionals (including instructors, other staff, independent contractors, choreographers competition judges and master class teachers) can be complicated. But we also know that our first priority needs to be keeping our kids safe. We’ve developed the following standards, recommendations and suggestions with this in mind.
If you have booked a celebrity choreographer to guest instruct at your studio or judge your event and you know they have sexualized content in their music, choreography and/or attire, we highly encourage using this as a teaching moment and for you to exert your hiring power. As part of their booking, request or require they teach choreography that is free of sexual movement, use music that is not explicit or otherwise non-child-friendly, wear appropriate attire and present an overall experience for your dancers and families that reflect the values and standards of your studio. Have this discussion before you have solidified their booking. All professional educators should be able to adjust these aspects accordingly and provide a healthy and fun class for your youth! We must remember celebrity teachers may have a stronger influence over dancers than do you, daily faculty, family or friends. If you feel afraid or awkward addressing this with them due to their celebrity status, please reach out to a YPAD Ambassador to help support and guide you through this very crucial moment for change. Remember: you hire them. They work for you. We must hold all dance educators, even the famous ones, to the same standard of integrity. If they can’t comply, we can decide not to hire them. In our experience, many celebrity choreographers have had no issue complying with this request, and even learn through the process!
Studios and Convention and Competition Owners/Managers should strive to:
- Conduct national background and reference checks on all dance professionals and staff who will be working with or around children in any capacity. We strongly recommend that you also review your dance professionals’ online videos of their choreography or past performances to make sure their work is compatible with your studio’s expectations and values.
- Commit to running sexual offender registry checks on all dance professionals and staff who will be working with or around children. At a minimum this would include cross-checking all current and previous names against State and Federal sex offender database records (example: nsopw.gov). We recommend you also use our resources or go the next step and use fingerprinting or Live Scan checks. Always check your State and local laws for any background check requirements, as well.
- Screen the social media accounts of all dance professionals and staff who will be working with or around children to see if their accounts meet the standards, suggestions and recommendations for social media use (described above).
- Remain aware of and comply with all applicable laws and regulations surrounding dance instruction, especially laws and regulations children in your local jurisdiction governing individuals who are forbidden from or restricted when working with children.
EXPECTATIONS OF DANCE PROFESSIONALS
As the studio owner, conference or competition owner or manager, you have the power to set the rules for dance professionals’ behavior
when they are working with or around children. It is important that you communicate your expectations clearly and that you provide oversight to make sure these expectations are being met. The following are standards, recommendations and suggestions for the types of expectations you may wish to set.
The dance professionals (including instructors, other staff, independent contractors, choreographers, competition judges and master class teachers) that you hire or engage should agree, as a condition of their employment, that they will:
- Conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times and refrain from using profanity, telling inappropriate stories or jokes (including sexually suggestive comments or jokes involving any sexual innuendo or content), drinking or taking drugs (or talking about drinking or taking drugs).
- Work in an open environment. Viewing windows, closed circuit TV cameras or an open door to the dance room can create this. Be aware of potentially inappropriate one-on-one contact (including but not limited to being alone in a car with a child, taking a child to a locker room or restroom alone, socializing with the student outside of the studio or studio-sponsored activities).
- Wear appropriate dance attire for the type of dance being taught (no sexual or over-revealing clothing, no clothing depicting non-child-friendly messages or images).
- Commit to body positive language (one that is mindful of tone and content and aims to not trigger body shame). This includes avoiding negative comments about other adults or an instructor’s own body.
- Commit to upholding and enforcing the studio’s or convention’s/ conference’s) music, movement and attire recommendations for students and themselves.
- Agree to report any safety issues or potential signs of abuse or exploitation immediately. For more information on reporting possible abuse, visit the Sex Abuse Reporting section on www.ypad4change.org
- Never allow or engage in sexually provocative games, or in any form of inappropriate touching.
- Never use or post photos or videos of youth dancers dancing to inappropriate music or using inappropriate dance movements for entertainment purposes, marketing purposes, financial gain or personal brand building.
- Never engage in verbal abuse, including abusive yelling, insulting, threatening, mocking, demeaning behavior or making abusive statements about a person’s race, gender, religion, nationality/ethnicity, sex, etc.. This includes verbal abuse or bullying behavior aimed not only at children, but also at other staff members, instructors, judges or anyone else in the workplace.
- Have another adult on the premises when giving private lessons.
- Discuss with faculty your protocol on communicating with students through text messages, email, etc. There are times it may be needed, but others when it is not appropriate.
- When communicating with a young dancer directly through text, email, FB inbox, etc., copy a parent or caretaker to ensure transparency. There are also several group applications for smart phones that can be used.