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Guiding Principles for Policy Development

  • Use language in policies that is assets-based and prevention-framed rather than deficits-focused and punitive.
  • As much as possible, involve youth in policy development.
  • Watch out for double standards. Are your policies the same for youth of different genders? Take out unnecessary gendered language and pronouns and try using they and them instead of he, she, him, and her. This is more inclusive of transgender and other gender non-conforming youth and is less likely to reinforce gender-based stereotypes.
  • Be comprehensive. Include what actions should be taken next and whether or not there will be consequences for not following the policy. Be sure to clarify who will carry out the implications of each policy, and attempt to distribute power of oversight and enforcement across different staff and youth.
  • Be clear. Clearly define all terms in policies and procedures, such as “harassment” and “violence”, and within each policy, refer directly to other policies that are mentioned or relevant.
  • Consider how each policy might affect the safety of youth who are experiencing sexual violence or relationship abuse, or youth who are dealing with issues related to mental health, sexual health, or substance use.
  • Young people are part of many different kinds of families, using terms like “guardian” or “caretaker” can be more inclusive than “parent.”
  • Consider each policy’s legal implications. It is best to consult local laws first and work your way up to the national level.