Regarding Effingham County (Georgia) State Court Judge Ronald K. Thompson’s decision to release 54 USA Gymnastics administrative files related to sexual misconduct to the public with certain personal information redacted by the court for privacy reasons:
“USA Gymnastics believes one instance of child abuse is one too many, and we are angered when any child has been harmed during his or her athletic career. We work every day to help young people fulfill their potential in a safe environment.
“As a membership organization, USA Gymnastics has a grievance procedure to address misconduct complaints or concerns. The administrative files regarding misconduct are kept confidential to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. However, many files contain publicly available information, including media reports and law enforcement records, and USA Gymnastics publishes a list of individuals permanently banned from membership.
“It is important to note that the grievance process is separate from the duty to report suspected abuse to law enforcement or child protection services.If USA Gymnastics suspects sexual abuse, the organization encourages those affected to contact law enforcement or child protective services, assists in making such contact, and/or contacts law enforcement or child protective services itself. Reporting to law enforcement does not require a formal complaint.
“Of the 54 files made public, 37 represent individuals who are on the banned list, and 48 of the matters involved law enforcement.
“USA Gymnastics has been conducting an audit of its administrative files to determine what, if any, additional actions are necessary. We have engaged a former prosecutor who specializes in child sex abuse cases to assist us in this process.
“Keeping athletes safe requires sustained vigilance by everyone – coaches, athletes, parents, administrators and officials – and there is more work to be done. We recently initiated the most comprehensive, thorough and independent evaluation of our athlete safety program to date. Deborah J. Daniels, a former prosecutor who spent her career prosecuting abusers and offenders, is examining our requirements, mandates and structure to identify ways to strengthen our program and better protect youth. This is a community-wide effort designed to examine the culture and generate recommendations that can help USA Gymnastics strengthen its efforts in this area.
“USA Gymnastics supports the development of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is expected to open within weeks. It will provide important leadership on Safe Sport and support for the entire U.S. Olympic movement. It is expected to provide oversight and expertise on this issue to all National Governing Bodies, and serve as an independent third party to refer and handle all sexual abuse claims in the future.”