INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., June 12, 2012 - At its recent meeting in San Jose, Calif., the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors recently approved several initiatives designed to better educate members, clubs, parents and athletes about the Participant Welfare Policy, signs of inappropriate behavior and the steps for reporting abuse. These outreach efforts supplement the steps the organization has already taken to promote a safe environment for its athletes, including the requirements that limit athlete registration and hosting sanctioned events to Member Clubs and Registered Businesses of USA Gymnastics.
"Promoting a safe environment for our athletes continues to be a top priority for USA Gymnastics," said Steve Penny, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics. "We have an ongoing evaluation of our policies and procedures in this area, and we believe that increased education of our members, athletes and athlete families is an important part of this process."
"Educating our professional members and parents about recognizing inappropriate behavior or abuse is important to reduce the opportunity for abuse to happen," said Peter Vidmar, chairman of USA Gymnastics. "The more our community knows and understands the signs, the better we can promote a safe environment."
The approved initiatives include:
- Expanding the sexual misconduct education information in the "Safety Certification and Risk Management" course, required for professional membership and renewed every four years.
- Providing information on additional sexual misconduct courses and information, available through USA Gymnastics' educational partners.
- Implementing an educational campaign to raise awareness within the Member Clubs and Registered Businesses about the importance of a safe gymnastics environment and the role adults play in establishing and maintaining a safe gymnastics environment.
- Creating a "parents" communication that provides sexual misconduct-related content.
- Providing Member Clubs and Registered Businesses with parent- and athlete-specific materials for in-club distribution.
- Including educational articles for athletes on the website and in USA Gymnastics magazine.
USA Gymnastics is partnering with several different organizations to serve as educational partners for these initiatives, including the U.S. Olympic Committee SafeSport program, "Child Lures Prevention/Teen Lures Prevention" (CLP), "Darkness to Light" (D2L) and "Stop it now!".
The new education-focused efforts complement the steps USA Gymnastics already has taken to promote a safe environment for its athletes through policy and guideline changes implemented in the last few years. Here's a quick overview of what is currently in place.
Participant Welfare Policy - provides guidance on how clubs, coaches and parents can work together to provide a safe environment, as well as requirements and expectations of USA Gymnastics' members. The topics covered in the policy, which may be read in its entirety at www.usagym.org/welfare, include: definitions of abuse used by USA Gymnastics for both physical and sexual abuse; reporting procedures and requirements for suspected abuse; misconduct/grievance procedures; member obligations and recommendations, as well as staff; standards of behavior; and education and communication about the policy to members and the general public.
Mandatory criminal background screening and safety/risk management certification for professional members - background screening is renewed every two years; safety/risk management certification is renewed every four years.
Code of Ethics - offers general principles to guide the conduct, and the judicious appraisal of conduct, of all USA Gymnastics' members (including employees and agents of USA Gymnastics) in situations that have ethical implications.
Published list of individuals banned from membership in USA Gymnastics - posted on the website and printed in both magazines. This lifetime ban means the individual does not have any of the rights or privileges associated with membership in USA Gymnastics, including but not limited to participation in any event conducted or sanctioned by USA Gymnastics. Beginning in 2012, once a final decision has been rendered to bar an individual from membership, not only will the person's name and state be posted on the permanently ineligible for membership list, but also which of the Corporation's Bylaws, rules, regulations or policies was violated. (This action only applies to matters investigated after the adoption of this subsection.).
Bylaws changes. Changes to the Bylaws, including Articles 9 and 10 that deal with Member Misconduct and Disciplinary Proceedings and Grievances, improve policies and avoid any ambiguity in the procedures. The most significant changes included an expanded definition of misconduct; delineated types of complaints; clarification of who can file a grievance; and providing additional information on the permanently ineligible list.
Member Clubs and Registered Businesses. To become a USA Gymnastics Member Club or Registered Business, the organization must agree to follow a number of policies, including implementing recommendations from the Participant Welfare Policy; certifying that no persons permanently ineligible for USA Gymnastics membership - which includes convicted sex offenders and/or persons on the permanently ineligible for membership list - are or will be associated with the club or its activities in any way during the club's membership period; and employing at least one staff member who holds a current, certified professional membership (or a certified instructor for a recreational facility).
Sanctioning policy. USA Gymnastics expanded its sanction policy to ensure that all meet directors and the club(s), independent organization(s), and/or committee(s) are either Registered Businesses or Member Clubs of USA Gymnastics.
Only Member Clubs or Registered Businesses may apply for membership in USA Gymnastics on behalf of an athlete and/or register a team of athletes into sanctioned events. If an athlete who is not affiliated with a Member Club or Registered Business wants to apply for membership in USA Gymnastics, he/she (or his/her parent/guardian if the athlete is under the age of 18) must apply directly to USA Gymnastics for such membership. His/her status will be "unaffiliated athlete."