USA Gymnastics Independent Review Published

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USA Gymnastics has released the “Report to USA Gymnastics on Proposed Policy and Procedural Changes for the Protection of Young Athletes“.  This report includes the findings & recommendations from the independent review of USA Gymnastics’ bylaws, policies, procedures and practices related to their handling of sexual misconduct cases conducted by Deborah J. Daniels.

This review included discussions with the gymnastics community to learn more about the organizations culture and SafeSport initiatives, formerly known as the Participant Welfare Policy.

Individuals Ms. Daniels interviewed included USA Gymnastics management and staff, professional and instructional members, club owners, national team staff and coaches, former athletes, and parents of athletes.

In the “Report to USA Gymnastics on Proposed Policy and Procedural Changes for the Protection of Young Athletes“, Ms. Daniels made 70 recommendations in the following areas;

  • Administrative management
  • Board structure and duties
  • Culture
  • Education, training and athlete support
  • Member requirements and enforcement
  • Reporting of suspected violations
  • Screening and selection of coaches, volunteers and other adults with access to athletes
  • The process for filing misconduct reports
  • The National Team Training Center
  • National team selection process

“The vast majority of adults in the gymnastics community have the best interests of young athletes at heart. However, the high-pressure atmosphere and relative youth of athletes in elite gymnastics, in particular, can lead not only to enabling abusers, but also to suppressing reporting.  It is critical that the focus of USA Gymnastics be first and foremost on the safety of the athletes.” stated Ms. Daniels to USA Gymnastics.

The recommendations, listed below, impact USA Gymnastics internally but also directly affect its members, member clubs, and athletes.

Overarching: cultural shift throughout USA Gymnastics (Report – pg. 23)

  • USA Gymnastics needs to undergo a complete cultural change, permeating the entire organization and communicated to the field in all its actions. USA Gymnastics needs to take action to ensure that this change in culture also is fully embraced by the clubs that host member coaches, instructors and athletes.
  • The culture that needs to be adopted is that USA Gymnastics’ top priority is the safety and well-being of its athletes, not just their success on the field of play.

Board Structure and Duties (Report – pg. 29)

  • Amend Bylaws to Clarify Priority of Athlete Well-being
  • Revise Board Selection Process
  • Ensure that Term Limitations are Consistently Enforced
  • Reduce or Eliminate Conflicts of Interest
  • Provide Abuse Training for the Board of Directors
  • Create, Maintain and Regularly Update Board Handbook
  • Create Accountability for Protection of Children, Driven by Board
  • Increase the Number of In-Person Board Meetings
  • Ensure that Each Board Meeting Includes a Robust Discussion of Safe Sport Matters
  • Hold an Executive Session at the Conclusion of Each Board Meeting
  • Conduct an Annual Enterprise Risk Review That Routinely Includes Safe Sport Issues

Administrative Management (Report – pg. 37)

  • Develop Position Descriptions for All Positions; Include Child Protection Requirements
  • Seek Individuals With Expertise in Child Protection for Leadership Team
  • Seek Administrators With Fresh Perspective
  • Exclude President from Safe Sport Disciplinary Control
  • Ensure Greater Accountability of President to Board
  • Change Culture of Entire Staff to Athlete Safety First
  • Require Greater Accountability of Child Protection Function to Board
  • Require Strategic Plan from Newly Appointed Director of Safe Sport and Provide for Direct Reporting to Board
  • Create General Counsel Role and Centralize Legal Functions

Member Requirements and Enforcement (Report pg. 51)

  • Require That Owners of Member Clubs Also be Members of USA Gymnastics
  • Require That Every Person Working or Volunteering With Youth in Any Member Club Also Be a Member of USA Gymnastics
  • Strengthen Current Code of Ethical Conduct and Participant Welfare Policy (now called Safe Sport Policy) and Require Adoption In Full by Member Clubs
  • Develop a Disciplinary Process for Violations of the Revised Code of Ethical Conduct and Other Member Club Requirements
  • Ensure that Members Suspended or Deemed Permanently Ineligible are Banned from All Clubs
  • Develop and Require Training for All Member Clubs on Membership Requirements

Screening and Selection of Coaches, Volunteers and Other Adults with Access to Athletes (Report – pg. 59)

  • Expand the Universe of Those Subjected to Background Checks
  • Consider Requiring Certification for Coaches Prior to Hiring
  • Provide Member Clubs with A Detailed Hiring Toolkit
  • Provide Club Owners and Hiring Personnel with Training on How to Use the Screening and Selection Toolkit
  • Review and Reconsider Method of Overriding Red Light Finding
  • Create Database of Persons Dismissed from Member Clubs

Process for Filing Reports of Misconduct (Report – pg. 68)

  • Err on the Side of Protecting the Athlete in All Situations
  • Create a Clear Protocol for Response to Allegations Made Outside the Formal Grievance Process
  • Remove President from Controlling Role in Determining Disposition of Allegations
  • Provide for Board Oversight of the Process
  • Relax Due Process Requirements in Cases of Alleged Grooming or Abuse of a Minor
  • Clarify in Bylaws the Use of Preponderance of the Evidence Standard
  • Ensure That All Persons Involved in Response to Reports Are Properly Trained
  • Remove or Extend Time Bar for Allegations Relating to Abuse and Other Violations of the Code of Ethical Conduct

Education, Training and Athlete Support (Report – pg. 79)

  • Implement a Strategic, Comprehensive Abuse Prevention Training Plan for Members, Parents and Athletes
  • Create Standalone Course in “Preventing Child Abuse in Gymnastics”
  • Revise and Expand the Current “Preventing Child Abuse in Gymnastics” to Include the Following, at a Minimum: Content and Examples Specific to Gymnastics, Updated Section on Reporting, Information About Other Types of Sexual Abuse
  • Ensure That USA Gymnastics Consistently Reinforces the Revised Training Content Through Annual Training Requirements
  • Create a Required, Annual Safe Sport Training for All Members Regarding USA Gymnastics’ Revised Abuse Prevention Policies, Procedures and Reporting Mechanisms
  • Include Mandatory Plenary Sessions for All National Congress Attendees on Safe Sport Requirements and Abuse Prevention Information
  • Require All Member Clubs to Host Annual Training for Coaches, Athletes and Parents (All Together) Regarding the Revised Code of Ethical Conduct and Revised Safe Sport Policy
  • Consider Creating a Safe Sport Certification for Clubs
  • Provide Parents Annually with Information about USA Gymnastics Abuse Prevention Policies and Procedures and How to Protect their Children from Abuse on an Annual Basis
  • Provide Athletes with Age-Appropriate Abuse Prevention Education on an Annual Basis
  • Provide a Stronger Support System to Athletes
  • Consider Creating an “Athlete Bill of Rights”

Encouraging Reporting of Suspected Violations (Report – pg. 87)

  • Permit Third-Party Reporting of Policy Violations and Abuse to USA Gymnastics by Third Parties
  • Require Reporting of Abuse and Reporting of Policy Violations
  • Enforce Serious Consequences for Failure to Report Abuse
  • Expand Reporting Methods to Encourage and Facilitate Reporting
  • Accept and Investigate Reports Relating to Misconduct by a Member in Which the Victim is a Non-Member
  • Provide Training to All Members and Staff Regarding Reporting Requirements

National Team Training Center (Report – pg. 94)

  • Create a Policy Handbook and Code of Conduct for All Coaches Bringing Athletes to the Training Center
  • Develop a Transportation Policy for National Team Training Center and Include this Information in the New Handbook
  • Formalize the Athlete and Coach Orientation Meetings at Each Specific Camp
  • Create a Formal Monitoring Plan for All Athlete Lodging
  • Provide Athletes with a Reliable and Accessible Way to Call Home/Parents
  • Formalize the Role of the Athlete Representative and Ensure This Individual Does Not Continue to Sit on the Selection Committee
  • Formalize Safety Procedures for the TOPs Camp
  • Require all National Team Coaches and Staff to Complete an Intensive In-Person Training on Abuse Prevention and Athlete Safety
  • Discontinue Use of the Athlete Recovery Center in Beijing and Consider Moving to a More Central and Open Location
  • Improve Physical Safety and Emergency Communications

National Team Selection Process (Report pg. 99)

  • Review Process with Experts
  • Remove Athlete Representative from Role in Selection Process

According to USA Gymnastics’ Board of Directors, the Policy Review Panel and USA Gymnastics staff will begin to implement changes immediately to it policies based on the recommendations listed above.

This includes the USA Gymnastics’ Ethics, Grievance & SafeSport Committee, and USA Gymnastics’ Nominating & Governance Committee making edits to current USA Gymnastics’ SafeSport policies and USA Gymnastics’ Bylaws.

Casey Koenig, member of USA Gymnastics’ Board of Directors and co-chair of the Policy Review Panel told USA Gymnastics, “We have a lot of important work ahead of us, but we will be a stronger and better organization as a result.  The Policy Review Panel will be actively involved in the implementation of these recommendations, some of which will occur over time.”

Sources: USA Gymnastics

RELATED ARTICLES:

Open Letter From USA Gymnastics

New Required Training for USA Gymnastics Professional/Instructor Members

SafeSport & USA Gymnastics – Reporting Procedures for Sexual and Non-Sexual Misconduct

President & CEO of USA Gymnastics Resigns

USAG “Independent Review” of Sex Abuse Scandal

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