USA Swimming Announces New Measures To Help Ensure A Safe & Positive Environment

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, May 1. THE USA Swimming Board of Directors acted this weekend to immediately implement a series of landmark measures that support the organization's 7-Point Action Plan for a Safe & Positive Environment.

The measures were approved during a regularly-scheduled meeting of the USA Swimming Board of Directors, and shared with the USA Swimming membership in an open letter from President Jim Wood and Executive Director Chuck Wielgus.

The measures include the following:

– USA Swimming will publish on its web site the list of individuals who have been banned for life by the organization

– USA Swimming will engage nationally-respected background screening expert Barry Nadell to review the organization's current background screening process and produce hiring best practices to be made available to member clubs

– USA Swimming will create dedicated staff focusing on the area of Athlete Protection, and based at the National Headquarters

– USA Swimming will create a Special Committee on Athlete Protection. The Committee will be charged with continually monitoring industry and societal best practices regarding child protection, as well as overseeing the administration of USA Swimming's athlete protection and education programs. The Committee will be comprised of both outside experts and representatives from the swimming community.

"This is an incredibly important issue," said Wood, following the meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo. "Today, the USA Swimming Board took thoughtful and swift action on this topic. Swimming provides a great outlet for kids – it's a healthy activity and one that can develop excellent character. Everyone on the USA Swimming Board appreciates the values of our sport and is 100% committed to maintaining those values."

In an effort to ensure safety in its clubs and to provide a resource for other youth organizations, USA Swimming will publish the list of coaches who have been banned from the organization for life. The list will include coaches banned for any infraction, including, but not limited to sexual misconduct. This list will be publicly available on the organization's website beginning next week.

"We want to have the best possible safeguards in place for our membership, first and foremost, but we also want to serve as a leader in the area of child protection," said Wielgus. "We know that this is an issue that affects all youth-serving organizations, and we hope that our continued study and action will have positive repercussions throughout the industry."

In support of its 7-Point plan, USA Swimming has formally engaged Nadell, a founding member and former co-Chair of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, to evaluate and make recommendations on its background screening program, implemented in 2006. Nadell is an established industry expert and a published author on background screening who speaks nationally on the subject. Additionally, Nadell, who served on the committee that penned ASIS International's Pre-employment Screening Guidelines, will also produce hiring best practices, to be shared with USA Swimming's nearly 2,800 independent member clubs. Clubs are responsible for hiring coaches and other personnel at the local level.

Additionally, the USA Swimming Board dedicated both internal and external personnel to the issue of Child Protection. USA Swimming will create dedicated staff to focus on the area of Athlete Protection. The staff will be placed in the Executive Division of the National Headquarters in Colorado Springs. Recognizing the need for and value of qualified outside expertise on this topic, the Board also commissioned the creation of the Special Committee on Athlete Protection, which will include both outside experts and representatives from the swimming community.

"In keeping with our organizational history, we will continuously evaluate our policies and programming, on this topic, just as we do in other areas," said Wielgus. "We have conferred with a number of outside experts and nationally-recognized organizations that are acknowledged leaders on this issue, and we will continue to do so as we work to implement the directives of the 7-Point Plan, with the goal of emerging with the best possible safeguards for our 300,000 members."

USA Swimming's 7-Point Plan for a Safe & Positive Environment
1. Develop and disseminate comprehensive guidelines addressing acceptable coach behavior.
2. Enhance the system for reporting sexual abuse to USA Swimming and law enforcement.
3. Review USA Swimming's Code of Conduct, as well as that of other top youth organizations.
4. Review USA Swimming's current background screening program and determine if enhancements can be made.
5. Produce stronger communications to member clubs, as the employers of coaches, regarding pre-employment screening, and the responsibility associated with hiring club employees.
6. Evaluate the process for sharing coaching history records with member clubs and other youth organizations.
7. Educate athletes, parents, coaches and club leaders on this important issue.

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