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Society Seneschal Ruling Ensures Youth Activities Continue at Pennsic

By: Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton, Features Reporter

As youth activities continue to grow within the Society, modern laws designed to protect children, which can vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, often impact our members. Quick action by East Kingdom and Æthelmearc officers, the Pennsic Staff, and the Society Seneschal to interpret the Pennsylvania Child Protection Law has ensured that youth activities, particularly youth combat, will proceed largely unaffected at this Pennsic.
In brief, as of July1st, the law requires all adult volunteers working directly with youth in Pennsylvania to acquire FBI clearances. Initial concerns were that this effectively shut down any Pennsic activity involving youth, but particularly youth combat, including policies allowing older youth who are authorized in adult armoured combat to take part in Pennsic tourneys and battles. Upon examination of the law, Master Antonio, Society Seneschal, released an official ruling on July 1.
Per the Society Seneschal's ruling: "In determining if a volunteer is responsible for the welfare of a child, only a volunteer acting in lieu of or on behalf of a parent, will need clearances. It is important to note that in SCA combat and youth activities, the parent of the child is effectively required to be present and that the marshal merely officiates over the safety of the heavy and rapier field. The rules set forth in the Seneschal’s Handbook regarding Youth Activities, including Youth Combat, the SCA, its officers and agents do not maintain care and custody of a minor child; unlike Boy Scout Leaders and coaches, SCA volunteers do not have care and custody of minor children."
Also, "However, if the SCA volunteer has direct contact with children because they provide routine interaction with children as an integral aspect of their volunteer position, e.g. Youth Officer or Youth Marshal, the individual must receive an FBI background check in excess of the standard SCA background check."
The Society Seneschal's ruling clarified that those whose contact with youth is primarily incidental, such as security staff, A&S instructors, archery marshals, or group officers such as seneschals and exchequers, do not need to have the background checks (whether at Pennsic or elsewhere). Note that this ruling applies specifically to the Pennsylvania law only.
As many may know, the SCA has required background checks for officers working directly with youth for some time. The PA law specifically requires FBI background checks for residents of Pennsylvania, although it makes exemptions for those working in volunteer-only positions who have been residents of the state for at least 10 years. For those youth combat marshals or youth officers who reside outside Pennsylvania, they may serve as volunteers for no more than 30 days so long as they provide clearances from their state or country of residence.
A few additional requirements have been added for those minor combatants taking part in standard adult/youth combat, including wearing yellow diamond tape on their helms and carrying contact information for an adult on site (who must be carrying that cellphone) at all times.
In a public statement, Sir Gregoire de Lyon, Marshal in Charge for Pennsic, stated, "I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Pennsic Staff and Dame Caitriona (Kat Dyer) for their efforts to locate, read, and interpret the PA law in advance of the Society having a chance to review it and make an official policy announcement. The early interpretation made by our Seneschal and Pennsic Staff was correct and has gotten us to a place of being prepared for a happy War."
So long as all Pennsic attendees continue to follow our written rules (as stated in your Pennsic book) regarding youth, we should continue to ensure that the young people of our Society have a safe and happy War.