USA Gymnastics launches 'We Care' initiative to educate parents about safe environments for athletes
posted on 11/08/2012

INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 8, 2012 - As part of its ongoing efforts to promote a safe environment for athletes, USA Gymnastics is launching the "We Care Campaign" to better educate parents about the important role they play in preventing child sexual abuse. This educational effort complements the "Clubs Care Campaign," which focused on raising awareness among gymnastics clubs about child sexual abuse so clubs can further their work toward establishing and maintaining a safe environment in their gyms.

"USA Gymnastics takes this issue very seriously," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "Providing information and resources to the parents of our athletes is a key part to helping prevent child sexual abuse. The 'We Care' and 'Clubs Care' campaigns are the best means for us to continue educating our community about this and emphasize how important it is for all of us to work together to promote a safe environment."

Peter Vidmar, chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors, said, "An athlete's parents are major players in the effort to prevent child sexual abuse. It is important that our athletes' parents understand how important their involvement is and that they are aware of what to watch for and how to approach discussing this with their children. Harnessing the efforts of our members, clubs and parents, we can send a message to would-be aggressors that gymnastics is a sport where there is no opportunity for them to engage in any form of misconduct."

Beginning with the November/December issue of USA Gymnastics magazine, parent-oriented articles will periodically appear in the magazine. In addition, usagym.org now has a special parents section for the "We Care" initiative at usagym.org/wecare. The site will have additional information and resources, as well as access to USA Gymnastics' educational partners for both "We Care" and "Clubs Care."

USA Gymnastics' educational partners for providing content for both of these educational initiatives cover the spectrum from building awareness to empowering action.

  • U.S. Olympic Committee SafeSport program - SafeSport seeks to create a healthy, supportive environment for all participants. Through education, resources, and training, it helps members of the sport community recognize, reduce, and respond to misconduct in sport. It includes information geared for parents. (safesport.org)
  • Child Lures Prevention/Teen Lures Prevention (CLP) - CLP's mission is to help ensure the personal safety of children and youth through increased awareness, education, advocacy and action. Its initial focus will include educating parents about grooming behaviors and signs of abuse. (childluresprevention.com)
  • Darkness to Light (D2L) - D2L exists to empower adults through awareness and educational programs to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to childhood sexual abuse. It will concentrate on building awareness among parents about what they can and should do to prevent harmful situations from developing. (d2l.org)
  • Stop It Now!® - The mission of Stop It Now! is to prevent the sexual abuse of children by mobilizing adults, families and communities to take actions that protect children before they are harmed. Because of its belief that adults are in the best position to keep children safe from sexual abuse, it will focus on turning awareness into action. (StopItNow.org)

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.

  • Clubs Care Campaign - on a monthly basis from October 2012 through June 2013, the Clubs Care Campaign will deliver information, strategies, templates, toolkits, checklists, action steps, posters, etc., directly to gymnastics clubs through a variety of avenues, including email, Technique magazine, www.usagym.org/ClubsCare, and the U.S. Postal Service. Clubs can use these materials to develop or refine policies and procedures geared toward eliminating the opportunity for inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct to occur. For more information, go to www.usagym.org/ClubsCare.
  • 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. (The expanded listing only applies to matters investigated after the adoption of this policy.).
  • Bylaw 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 have a policy consistent with USA Gymnastics' Participant Welfare Policy; certify 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 organization or its activities in any way during the membership/registration term; and employ at least one staff member who holds a current professional or safety-certified instructor membership.
  • Sanctioning policy - USA Gymnastics expanded its sanction policy to ensure that the club(s), independent organization(s), and/or committee(s) that hosts a sanctioned event is either a Member Club or Registered Business 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."