Subject: Withdrawal of Youth Protection and Adult Leadership Policy
December 22, 2003
In light of the concerns that have arisen regarding the Youth Protection
and Adult Leadership Policy introduced this year, the Steering Committee of
the Board of Directors decided to withdraw it. This withdrawal will allow
time for FIRST to resolve the issues and to come up with an approach that
best fits FIRST’s values and situation.
FIRST continues to take the safety and security of participants seriously.
We must always make a top priority the safety and security of everyone
involved in FIRST and we ask everyone to take all necessary measures.
One of the key challenges facing FIRST as it grows, is to develop policies
that help manage the risks involved with providing an extraordinary
learning experience for a large number of kids (and adults) without
destroying the individual initiatives and entrepreneurial thinking that
create that experience. Unfortunately, the larger you grow, the more
complicated that becomes. Because the issue of balancing between the risk
of too few rules with the risk of too many is a very complex one, affecting
the many constituencies of FIRST in different ways, we have elected to take
the time necessary to get it right.
We recognize that the policy was the result of a great deal of work by many
individuals, and we wish to thank them for this effort. We also thank those
who raised their concerns. We realize that everyone, no matter what their
view on the issue, has been motivated by concern for our participants and
success of FIRST.
We realize that the policy was based on policies used by other
organizations, that it was reviewed by legal counsel, and that the intent
of the policy was supported by many. We now know that the policy in its
current form created serious difficulties for a number of individuals,
teams and organizations, and we apologize for those difficulties.
We know that the vast majority of FIRST volunteers, whatever their role,
are dedicated to the highest level of ethical behavior and to the well
being of our participants. The policy was never intended to question that
dedication. We must determine the most appropriate measures for offering
the caring and safe environment that characterizes FIRST. We are confident
that with dialogue and healthy debate, in the spirit of the “gracious
professionalism”, we will find the measures with the most benefit and the
least drawbacks. In the meantime, we ask everyone to continue to offer a
safe and secure environment for FIRST activities. To use the example of
another safety measure, many find the safety goggles are inconvenient, but
we have concluded that the benefits of wearing safety goggles at
competitions outweigh the inconvenience.
As we move forward, we plan to view the specific issues that the policy
addressed from the broader perspective of overall risk management. This is
an increasingly challenging field, but with your suggestions, support and
vigilance, we are sure that FIRST will continue to offer exciting and
unique learning experiences that are also safe and secure.
Thanks for your support,
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Incoming Executive Director