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Understanding Safe Sport and How to Keep Kids Safe in the Sport of Running

01/28/2019
 By Jean Knaack, RRCA Executive Director


On February 14th, 2018, the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 was enacted by Congress and became federal law. It is more commonly referred to as the SafeSport Act.

In 2017, the U.S. Olympic Committee entrusted the U.S. Center for SafeSport (the Center) with the authority to respond to reports of sexual misconduct within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements involving sexual misconduct. The SafeSport Act codifies that the Center has exclusive authority over National Governing Bodies of Sport (NGBS) to investigate and take action for allegations of sexual abuse. What this means is that individual NGBS (USA Track & Field, USA Swimming, USA Hockey) no longer make their own investigations of abuse allegations. This will now be handled by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. This helps to potentially eliminate confusions as to where to report allegations of abuse, as a central organization is now responsible for reporting intake and investigation.

The NGBS have issued Safe Sport directives that outline protocols people must follow if they are associated with those organizations and are actively involved in the delivery of the sport, especially if they are working with youth. These directives are in accordance with the Safe Sport Act. For example USA Track & Field (USATF) has issued their directives (www.usatf.org/About/SafeSport.aspx - See SafeSport Handbook).

In the January article by Phil Stewart in the Road Race Management E-Newsletter, SafeSport and Running Events, Stewart does an excellent job of distilling USATF’s SafeSport Directives (which aren’t very explicit or clearly outlined on the above referenced URL). So we are sharing, via Stewart’s interpretation, what we understand to be USATF’s Directives for USATF Sanctioned Events:

USATF has divided its sanctioned events into three categories with differing SafeSport requirements (most events will likely fall into Category 3 below):

  • Category 1: If the event is a USATF or Association event, or is under USATF or Association control, then the USATF 3-step SafeSport “compliance” is required from everyone who is in an authoritative/official capacity at the event.
  • Examples: USATF championship events like Indoor/Outdoor Championships, or an Association Championship. If vendors are being used, the vendor SafeSport language available on the USATF website should be used in vendor agreements.
  • Category 2: If the event is a USATF or Association event done in conjunction with an already existing non-USATF owned event (USATF/the Association is piggy-backing an existing independent event), then USATF 3-step SafeSport “compliance" is required for all individuals who are working in any areas designated for USATF athletes as well as member-only areas.
  • Examples: USATF Championships in conjunction with non-USATF owned events such as the Peachtree Road Race, owned by the Atlanta Track Club and site of the 2018 USATF 10K championship, and the Twin Cities 10 Mile, owned by Twin Cities in Motion and site of the 2018 USATF 10 Mile Championship, etc. If vendors are being used, the vendor SafeSport language available on the USATF website should be used in those vendor
  • Category 3: If the event is not a USATF or Association event or is not under USATF or Association control, but is a USATF-sanctioned event, then the manner to obtain SafeSport compliance is through acknowledging USATF’s SafeSport policies in the sanction application and complying with same. The event directors of Category 3 events must have protocols in place to ensure the event volunteers and meet workers are not a danger to athletes, and that no participant is a danger to volunteers or other participants. Although [USATF] encourage[s] use of the USATF 3-step SafeSport “compliance” system, an event director does not have to use this specific protocol for Category 3 events in order to comply (e.g. no USATF membership requirement or USATF background screen). However, it is important for all event directors to know that SafeSport is federal legislation, and event directors must still have a similar vetting system and educational component in place for event workers to ensure the safety of athletes and to comply with USATF requirements and federal law. Category 3 events are not exempt from complying with SafeSport, but how the event director decides to comply with SafeSport can be different from the requirements of the USATF 3-step SafeSport compliance system.
Read Stewart’s full article at RRM: www.rrm.com/newsletters/2018/december/safesport.htm

So what does all of this mean for RRCA Member Clubs and Events?

While much of the SafeSport Act speaks to the actions of NGBS, managing interactions during international and inter-state competitions, and the role of the Center, it does outline that non-NGBS, and adults working in youth sports (like RRCA and its members), have certain requirements they must also implement and follow to be in compliance with the Safe Sport Act. These include:

  • Any adult (mandated reporter) who is authorized to interact with youth athletes are required to report suspicions of abuse to the appropriate law enforcement agencies within 24-hours.

  • All adults working with youth are required to go through abuse prevention training of some sort that is pro- active rather than re-active.

  • The abuse prevention training must include educational material about the process of sexual grooming, how to recognize it, and how to prevent it.

  • Organizations working with youth should have a criminal background check policy in place for volunteers that have direct contact with youth.

Now to unpackage the Category 3 USATF Directive, as it mostly pertains to RRCA members. In usual fashion, USATF has issued a directive without providing tools to help club leaders, program directors, or race directors easily implement SafeSport requirements into their organizations. RRCA is here to help.

Establishing a Mandatory Reporter Policy for your Club or Event

As a first step in SafeSport compliance all RRCA running clubs, events, and coaches working with youth should establish a mandated reporter policy for their organizations. Many clubs and events may work with partner organizations that already have reporting policies in place. It is wise to check with your youth running partners to determine if their policies comply with the Safe Sport Act as outlined. The RRCA recommends adopting the following policy:

Any adult interacting with amateur athletes, defined as a child or minor under the age of 18 that participates in youth running programs or any events hosted or operated by (ADD YOUR ORGANIZATION NAME), has a duty to report a reasonable suspicion of sexual misconduct such as child sex abuse, non- consensual sexual conduct, sexual harassment or intimate relationships involving an imbalance of power within a 24- hour period to local law enforcement (PROVIDE SPECIFIC CONTACT INFORMATION FOR YOUR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY TASKED WITH ABUSE REPORTING INTAKE). EVERY adult that staffs or volunteers to organize, assist with, or manage any element a program or event is a mandatory reporter and subject to this policy.

As part of your volunteer registration form for your club programs or event(s) where youth will be participating, you must include a copy of this policy as part of your volunteer sign-up form. Require all volunteers and staff attest to having read the policy and agree to abide by the policy. This policy should not be buried in a waiver of liability; it should be clearly visible text where someone must affirmatively agree that they have read, understood, and agree to abide by the policy.

Establish a NO One-on-One Contact Policy for Anyone Working with Youth

The concept is pretty simple, but very powerful. A NO one-on-one contact policy or rule simply outlines that an adult staff member or volunteer shall never be alone, unsupervised with a child that is not their own child during a youth running program or at an event.

Include Text in Your Waiver about Barring People on the Sex Offender Registry

The USATF Directive 3 outlines events must have protocols in place to ensure...”that no participant is a danger to volunteers or other participants.” I know what you are thinking, this is crazy right. It is inconceivable for event directors to be expected to compare all of their participants against a sex offender registry. However, viewed in a sensible light, we believe there is a reasonable approach event directors can take to address this directive.

The RRCA has long-promoted that clubs should adopt the RRCA recommended member code of conduct (RRCA.org/resources/club-directors/manage-your-club/adopting-a-member-code-of-conduct). This member code of conduct speaks to barring registered sex offenders from club membership or removing members found on the sex offender registry. This same point can be applied to event participants. The RRCA encourages events to include a notice in the event waiver that outlines that race organizers reserve the right to bar the participant from the event if it is reported to and confirmed by organizers that the participant is a registered sex offender. What this does is put registered sex offenders on notice that they are not welcome at your event, and your event has put a protocol in place to help protect volunteers and other participants.

Understanding Abuse Prevention Training

As outlined, all adults working with youth are required to go through some type of abuse prevention training. All RRCA members working with youth should adopt policies and procedures to address this SafeSport requirement.

First, it is important to understand that Safe Sport does not mandate what training must be provided. The Act does not dictate that all adults working with youth must pay the SafeSport training fee and get trained if they are not a USATF member. The Act does outline that all adults working with youth should be trained to understand sexual abuse awareness, and the training should focus on being pro-active versus re-active. The training must also focus on understanding the process of sexual grooming and how to prevent it.

Safe Sport does provide an online education program for NGBS and their members. Members or adults involved with non-NGBS can pay a $20 fee to take the Safe Sport training. For many RRCA members, requiring all of their program or event volunteers to undergo a $20 online education program is probably not financially feasible, nor is it practical, considering some youth events may have hundreds of event volunteers. But the fact remains that “some type” of abuse prevention training must be provided to program staff/volunteers, coaches, event volunteers, etc. There are several online training options available that RRCA members may utilize that charge a fee for training that range from $10 - $30. These options are posted on the RRCA website at RRCA.org/education/understanding-the-safe-sport- act/

The RRCA provides the following recommended options for compliance as it relates to training staff and volunteers on abuse prevention:

1. We recommend that clubs and events adopt a policy outlining that any paid staff or volunteer(s) tasked with leading or having oversight of a youth running program or directing youth races should complete the SafeSport online training program (or another program selected by the organization and outlined in its policy). This ensures that your key personnel responsible for overseeing any youth activities have completed a generally-recognized, sports abuse-awareness training program.

2.  All other volunteers that assist with implementation and/or have some level of interaction with children during a youth running program or during event(s) should be provided with either online information/training or be provided with an in-person orientation or training session that provides training about abuse prevention and reporting as part of your overall volunteer training program. Clubs and events may develop these training materials, or they may utilize resources available online and require their volunteers to complete specified training. This option may be a bit burdensome for your volunteer coordinator to create training materials from scratch, but it is an option nonetheless.

Screen Shot 2019-01-28 at 10.22.13 AM3. The RRCA has posted a FREE online training resource that clubs and events can use to train their staff and volunteers. This training addresses:

  • Understanding sexual abuse;
  • Understanding grooming;
  • Intervening if grooming is suspected or witnessed;
  • Mandatory reporting within the 24-hour time period;
  • And more.

The materials used to create the training were provided, with permission, by the American Bar Association, Stop It Now, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

We recommend you have all of your volunteers complete the RRCA training and maintain a copy of the training confirmation certificate in their personal files. Ask them to include the name of your organization in the “Company” line of the guest book for the training program. As part of the volunteer registration form or volunteer check-in procedure, have the volunteer affirmatively agree that they have completed the required training. Ask volunteers to bring a copy of the training confirmation certificate to show during the volunteer check-in process. Retain a copy for your organization’s records.

The RRCA presentation is available for any member club or event to embed on their website. The embed code is posted in the “Members Only” section of the RRCA website.

The RRCA can provide a copy of the presentation, and associated notes, to present at an in-person volunteer training session for your organization. While the RRCA will collect names, emails, and ideally “company” name of an organization the person is volunteering for, we are not in a position, at this time, to confirm if specific individuals have completed the training. If you request or require your volunteers to include your “company” (organization name) in the guest book, upon request, we can run a list for your organization’s name and provide you with the list of individuals that have completed the training. We strongly recommend that the burden of proof should be put on the volunteer to provide proof to your organization that they have completed the required training that is expected for your club or event(s).

Find the RRCA’s Sexual Abuse Awareness and Reporting Training for Anyone Working with Youth Runners at RRCA.org/education/understanding-the-safe-sport-act

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