WGI would like to take this opportunity to make a statement on two issues that have received attention in the world at large and within our community: our support of Black Lives Matter and accusations of alleged abuse amid a culture of silence at one group participating in WGI.
The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbrey, and too many others are painful reminders of systemic racism in our country. The loss of their lives and too many others is tragic and heartbreaking. WGI condemns all forms of racism. As a country, we can and should do better.
WGI believes what is paramount now is tangible and lasting action. We are determined to make our organization more inclusive. Last November, the Board of Directors formed our Diversity Committee to begin a more focused effort to address these significant concerns and to reach out to minorities less visible in our activity. We were in the midst of plans to host forums at our World Championships for black stakeholders in our activity, as well as underrepresented women leaders, to seek guidance when those plans were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of our season and year-end meetings.
Despite this temporary setback, we are still very much committed to these ideals. WGI is a rich and inclusive place and we are proud of our diversity. We also know that we must continue to improve and listen to our young people, our instructors, and from our communities’ best leaders, especially those who are underrepresented in our activity. Recent events have opened new communication within the WGI black community, and we welcome those sometime difficult conversations. It is past time to seek continued growth in providing opportunities in underrepresented areas and to underrepresented people. More particularly, WGI seeks to promote growth and participation of minorities in positions of leadership, in part, by encouraging greater participation and demonstrating to emerging leaders the many opportunities that exist.
WGI supports Black Lives Matter. We see the hurt and frustration in the world and seek to have a better understanding of the struggles and to be a part of the solution within our community.
Recently there have been allegations on social media platforms about inappropriate conduct and a culture of silence in a group participating in WGI. We categorically and without hesitation state that a climate of abuse and misconduct has no place within WGI or the groups and individuals we support. This should be a safe environment for all, and no one should ever experience mistreatment or disrespect because of their race or abuse of any kind. Our Code of Conduct is our moral compass. It covers the legal and ethical aspects of WGI and the way we respond in every situation.
We take any allegation regarding harm to our participants very seriously. All of us should admire the courage of anyone who comes forward to share their story about suspected abuse and misconduct.
It is critical, however, that all of us, especially our youth, understand that WGI cannot respond to serious, and potentially criminal, allegations posted on social media platforms.
While this may be frustrating to some, everyone should be aware that social media too often contains accusations and claims that cannot be substantiated but can still be very damaging without any investigation.
Two years ago, our Participant Protection Reporting Policy was created to foster a safe environment where concerns can be addressed. Any participant experiencing or having direct knowledge of suspected abuse in any form should go to their parent, director, instructor, teacher, or principal. Anyone may also report that conduct, anonymously should they choose, directly to WGI. The only way to hold any misconduct accountable is a documented and equitable process.
We also strongly urge anyone to contact local law enforcement if you have direct knowledge of any potentially criminal behavior, especially if it involves harm to a minor.
When WGI receives a report of suspected misconduct, that information is shared with internal as well as independent legal counsel and the following steps are taken:
- Each group must identify three individuals to receive communication about any report when they register their group with WGI. If one of those three individuals are the subject of the report, they are intentionally not a part of this process.
- WGI asks the group management to conduct their own internal investigation and report back with their findings.
- Legal counsel then reviews and evaluates whether or not the group has adequate participant protection policies in place.
- Once the review is complete, recommendations are made to group management that may range from additional policies to strengthen protections, awareness training for the individual, or dismissal of the person(s) involved.
- Should WGI find the group is operating outside the guidelines of our Code of Conduct for Participating Groups, then any further action would be the decision of WGI. This could include not allowing the group to further participate in WGI not because of the actions of one individual, but because management would not have adequate safeguards in place to protect participants under their direct supervision.
- Should we be made aware of any potentially criminal behavior, especially harm to a minor, WGI will refer the matter to local law enforcement.
We also respect and acknowledge that victims come forward when they are ready, however, it is apparent that there still can be a culture of silence in our activity. There is a moral imperative to speak out for yourself and, importantly, to protect fellow performers, friends, and colleagues. Any mechanisms to report and end inappropriate and abusive treatment are of no use if people with knowledge do not report such conduct.
WGI shares another frustration when individuals are not held accountable. This is also extremely troubling. WGI will continue to work diligently to prevent a repeat of this apparent reprehensible and unacceptable behavior. We are doubly committed to refine our reporting procedures and educate our community that inappropriate conduct should be reported every time.