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Safety measure added to membership application and renewal process

Safety measure added to membership application and renewal process

The Barbershop Harmony Society has always carefully guarded its culture and reputation as a safe and wholesome place for people of all ages to enjoy harmony. Our Code of Ethics states that “We shall accept for membership only congenial persons of good character who love barbershop harmony or have a desire to harmonize.

Recently, in reviewing and updating the Code of Ethics, the Board of Directors determined that one method of carrying out that principle was to enact specific instructions around eligibility for membership: “Effective immediately no one whose name appears on a federal, state, or provincial sex offender registry shall be accepted for membership or retain their membership in the Barbershop Harmony Society.”

Policy & Procedure details

The BHS Customer Service Department will begin phasing in a procedure of public records checks of Sex Offender Registries.

  • In the initial phase, the BHS application to become a member or associate will require the applicant to affirm that they are not on any Sex Offender Registry.
  • BHS staff may then subsequently verify this statement using publicly available Sex Offenders Registries.
  • An applicant found in a registry will be informed by appropriate BHS staff, the membership application declined, and a record marked as “suspended” created in the BHS Member Center system, which will block that person from future enrollment in the Society while that person’s name remains on the Sex Offender Registry.
  • Because one must be a member or associate in good standing to be a member of a chapter, district, quartet, or subsidiary, the headquarters staff will actively notify any affected units of suspended members, although the reason for the suspension might not be disclosed.

The renewal process for members and associates will also require an affirmation that the renewing individual is not on any Sex Offender Registry.

Always, if you have credible reason to believe that dangerous or illegal behavior has taken place or is taking place, contact local authorities immediately. This process is applied only to determining BHS membership eligibility and is not intended to replace the involvement of local authorities if illegal behavior has taken place.

The Sex Offender Registry public records check is part of the continuing review and refining of BHS youth policies, and carried out to conform to our Code of Ethics. This new safety measure seeks to support a barbershop experience that is welcoming, reputable, and safe for people of all ages and backgrounds to share harmony.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Sex Offender Registries public records check?

The Sex Offender Registry public records check is part of the continuing review and refining of BHS youth policies, and carried out to conform to our Code of Ethics. The goal of this new safety measure seeks to support a barbershop experience that is welcoming, reputable, and safe for people of all ages and backgrounds to share harmony.

Conducted during initial membership application or at renewal, this public records check applies factual detail from publicly available sources, which represent cases adjudicated by the courts.

Where and how will these checks be conducted?

The Sex Offender Registries public records check is conducted by Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) headquarters staff as part of the application and renewal process.

  • On the membership application, an applicant affirms that they are not on any Sex Offender Registry.
  • BHS staff verifies this statement using publicly available Sex Offender Registries.
  • An applicant found in a registry is informed by appropriate BHS staff.
  • The membership application is declined, and a record marked as “suspended” is created in the BHS Member Center system, which will block that person from future enrollment in the Society while that person’s name remains on the Sex Offender Registry.
  • Because one must be a BHS member or associate in good standing to be a member of a BHS chapter, district, quartet, or subsidiary, the headquarters staff will actively notify any affected units of suspended members, although the reason for the suspension might not be disclosed.

Who is subject to being checked?

Always, if you have credible reason to believe that dangerous or illegal behavior has taken place or is taking place, contact local authorities immediately. This process is applied only to determining BHS membership eligibility and is not intended to replace the involvement of local authorities if illegal behavior has taken place.

New application to become a member or associate

The Sex Offender Registries public records check will be conducted by BHS headquarters staff as part of the membership application process.

Current members and associates

The membership renewal application will be revised to require that the renewing member/associate affirms that they are not on any Sex Offender Registry. Individuals already listed in Sex Offender Registries may choose to terminate membership without self-reporting, or take the additional step of self-reporting as appearing on Sex Offender Registries and be marked as suspended.

BHS may also implement a process for checking existing members and associates in addition to self-reporting.

Will you check minors? Will you check women?

The check will be conducted for any person applying to become a member or associate of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

How will you enforce this condition on individuals who are not members, such as faculty, coaches or contractors?

To the degree that individuals are informed of BHS policy and subsequently are found to be listed on Sex Offender Registries, the business relationship or association will be suspended.

How will you conduct Sex Offender Registry public records checks on BHS members who live in Canada, where these records are not public?

The Society will continue to require all existing and new members or associates of the Barbershop Harmony Society to affirm they are not on any Sex Offender Registry. We will work with local/provincial law enforcement authorities to investigate credible allegations of violations of our policies and enforce Society policies accordingly.

How will you conduct Sex Offender Registry public records checks on BHS members who live outside the USA and Canada?

At this time, the policy is being implemented only in the USA and Canada. Future enforcement of Society policies more globally will be reviewed.

Why is this policy being implemented now?

The recent review and discussion of BHS Bylaws and Code of Ethics, as well as the implementation of our Youth Protection Policy, provided an opportunity to implement further important protections for our membership.

Is this being implemented in preparation for women becoming members of BHS and its chapters?

The process to study and enact a public records check has been underway for some time, as a means of strengthening the effectiveness of the BHS Youth Protection Policy. Additionally, as BHS expands its membership to include all people, the enactment of this policy will provide additional protection to all Barbershoppers.

Is there a legal requirement or legal protection for BHS by undertaking this?

There is not a specific legal requirement compelling BHS to undertake public record checks. It is a prudent measure pointing toward a safe and welcoming environment for all people.

Doesn’t this entire conversation constitute introducing “controversial issues into the affairs of our Society,” as noted in the Code of Ethics?

The Code of Ethics also states: “We shall accept for membership only congenial persons of good character who love barbershop harmony or have a desire to harmonize.” Using public records of adjudicated cases limits controversy by referring to an objective, legal, third-party authority.

What is the status of individuals investigated or suspended under this policy?

Isn’t being on a Sex Offender Registry in and of itself an adequate protection for BHS? The individual is probably already barred from contact from potential future victims. Why does BHS need to suspend membership as well?

Laws vary among jurisdictions, and as a practical matter, it can be hard to distinguish nuances among them in a highly mobile society. While sentencing and parole instructions may provide a level of deterrence, removing convicted offenders from direct contact adds an additional measure of safety for BHS members, associates, and others within our circles of influence.

I know a person who is listed in a Sex Offender Registry but has not self-reported to BHS. Is there a way to report this information?

Always, if you have credible reason to believe that dangerous or illegal behavior has taken place or is taking place, contact local authorities immediately.

If you have reason to believe that an individual is listed in a Sex Offender Registry, please email details to the confidential reporting system at awareness@barbershop.org, or fill out this confidential form. This will enable the history of the reported name to remain trackable, only accessible to certain senior staff, and keeps a running history. The Director of Membership or designee will screen these names and, if the individual is found to be on a Sex Offender Registry, will notify that person of the suspension of membership.

Because of the serious nature of such actions, the reporting form includes this statement: I attest that I have legitimate reason to believe that this public record corresponds to an individual Member/Associate of the Barbershop Harmony Society. I understand that frivolous or intentional misuse of this reporting tool may in itself constitute a breach of the BHS Code of Ethics and may constitute defamation.

What is the status of a person who has been accused or charged with an offense, but not convicted?

The public records check only handles cases that have been adjudicated and names that have been listed in Sex Offender Registries.

I heard about someone who did some inappropriate or questionable things, but was never arrested or charged. Does this policy address that situation?

As always, if you have credible reason to believe that dangerous or illegal behavior has taken place or is taking place, contact local authorities immediately. Conducted during initial membership application or at renewal, the public records check applies factual detail from publicly available sources, which represent cases adjudicated by the courts. Hearsay, rumor, and conjecture based in third-party anecdotes are outside the scope of this check. Behavior among adults which is not criminal, but which may be inappropriate, or in poor taste, or not to your own personal standards of behavior, might be candidates for review under the Code of Ethics, but would not be managed under the public records check. See the Code of Ethics procedures for more details.

Laws vary from state to state. Who is BHS to decide?

BHS does not make any judgment regarding differences in state laws. For purposes of membership, BHS follows applicable law in each state and makes a simple yes/no check of Sex Offender Registries related to the member, associate or applicant’s state of residency.

Why is BHS only addressing the Sex Offender Registry and not other criminal background checks? Why not drug offenses or DUIs, etc?

As a first line of interpersonal safety for all people of all ages, the public records check is focused on Sex Offender Registries. Other criminal convictions may be of issue when dealing with actions outside barbershop meetings and performance, but sex offenses represent a specific danger in a culture that prides itself on open emotions, trust relationships, and physical proximity in rehearsal and performance.

What about drug and alcohol usage at Youth Events?

Barbershoppers must always abide by local laws regarding consumption by minors of alcohol or controlled substances. The BHS Youth Protection Policy states, “Youth may not be permitted to attend any Activity where alcohol is served, made available, or being consumed, unless accompanied by a Parent or other person having parental responsibility and authority for the supervision and control of the Youth. No Youth shall be permitted to consume alcohol at any Activity, whether or not the Youth's Parent consents to such consumption. Society members who consume alcohol at Activities where Youth are present must be particularly careful to demonstrate responsible usage.”

Suppose someone has been suspended by BHS. Does that also automatically suspend the relationship with a chapter, district, or quartet?

BHS membership in good standing is a requirement for being a part of a BHS chapter, district or quartet. Suspension as a member or associate of BHS would necessarily mean suspension of all related memberships.

How can someone appeal suspension of membership?

Misidentification of records

If for some reason an individual is mistakenly identified in our public records check as being a person on a Sex Offender Registry, please contact Customer Service at Harmony Hall at customerservice@barbershop.org or 800-876-SING.

Record legally expunged

Certain states have procedures in place that may allow someone to be removed from a Sex Offender Registry. Please contact outside legal counsel for additional information. The Society’s policy applies to anyone who is currently on a Sex Offender Registry. The policy would no longer apply if an individual is removed from a Sex Offender Registry.

What controls are in place to assure privacy?

The purpose of the Sex Offender Registries public records check is to provide a measure of awareness and deterrence against potential future undesired activity. Because the information derived is a matter of public record, there should be no expectation that this information will not be disclosed to affected parties, including officers, members, and leaders of chapters, districts and the Society.

Confidentiality

Because the purpose of the Sex Offender Registries public records check is to add a measure of safety and protection to members and associates, we make this status available to any parties authorized to view member/associate record details.

The BHS Employee Handbook notes: “Employees must not discuss confidential matters or release confidential information to any outside party. Anyone with access to materials of a confidential nature must maintain that confidentiality and respect each member’s rights…. Employees who improperly utilize or disclose Society or member confidential information may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.” Employees are held to the same disclosure standards for this information as apply to any other record data.

Data privacy

The Barbershop Harmony Society highly values the confidentiality of its members and associates. Disclosure of any record data for members and associates is subject to the same data protections attached to all contact information.