At its recent meeting, the Board of Directors of USA Gymnastics adopted changes to the Bylaws that further clarify and improve the administrative process for handling member misconduct matters and grievances. The board also reviewed the organization’s policies and procedures regarding member misconduct and promoting a safe environment for athletes. USA Gymnastics is evaluating several policies and programs that strengthen and build upon the requirement for gymnastics clubs and event organizers to become a member club or registered business to host and/or conduct USA Gymnastics-sanctioned events and activities.
“USA Gymnastics is committed to remaining a leader in this category of our business,” stated Peter Vidmar, USA Gymnastics chairman.
“The most important element of our commitment is to engage the entire USA Gymnastics community in this effort,” added Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “USA Gymnastics has an effective and proactive approach to handling member misconduct that has evolved over the years. We will continue to build this partnership with our club owners to promote a safe environment for our athletes.”
The Board approved a number of changes to the Bylaws, including Articles 9 and 10 that deal with Member Misconduct and Disciplinary Proceedings and Grievances. The changes were made to improve the policies and avoid any ambiguity in the procedures. The most significant changes to these two articles include:
- Expanded definition of misconduct. Article 9 expanded the scope of misconduct covered, which includes special categories of misconduct that allow the President to notify an individual that his/her membership may be terminated or impose other disciplinary action, without conducting any additional investigation, if the member is listed on any state or federal sexual offender list or registry; is declared a sex offender, or has been convicted of or entered a guilty plea or pled no contest to a criminal charge or indictment directly or indirectly involved or related to sexual misconduct, child abuse or laws protecting minors.
- Delineated types of complaints. Complaints or grievances are now categorized as administrative, opportunity to compete, and misconduct.
- Clarification of who can file a grievance. For misconduct complaints, a grievance may be filed by current and former members, and if the complainant is a minor, the grievance may be filed by the parents.
- Additional information on the permanently ineligible list. 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.)
- Presidential discretion. The president may decline to render a decision and refer the matter to a hearing panel. In addition, the president also may eliminate any complaints that do not meet the criteria.
The areas discussed by the board and being reviewed include:
- Increasing education. Exploring ways to further refine the current educational efforts so they continue to reflect evolving best practices including to better reach parents and athletes by reviewing existing publications, videos and materials, and identifying new ways to inform them about the Participant Welfare Policy, signs to watch for inappropriate behavior, and steps for reporting abuse.
- Process for Reviewing Complaints. Evaluating the most efficient manner for complaints/grievances to be handled and investigated and the potential for third party involvement.
- Policy development. Reviewing existing policies to continue best practices, including adopting a policy that requires clubs that register athletes with USA Gymnastics to become either a member club or a registered business.
- Safety certification. Expanding materials in the safety and risk management handbook that deal with the participant welfare policy, handling sexual misconduct complaints and grievances, and athlete education on the topic.
- Collaboration with the U.S. Olympic Committee. Continued partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee and its task force to identify best practices in this area.
In November 2011, 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.
Adopting this policy and the Bylaws changes are in addition to the steps USA Gymnastics already has taken to promote a safe environment for its athletes. Among the practices and policies in place are:
- 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.
- Member clubs and registered businesses – USA Gymnastics member clubs and registered businesses agree to follow a number of policies, including adopting 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).
- Mandatory criminal background screening and safety/risk management certification for professional members – background screening is renewed every two years; safety/risk management screening 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.
Pertinent USA Gymnastics links