a. After the SCA got sued over a member abusing a minor, the Board ordered that we get youth policies in compliance with state law and best practices.
b. While doing this, we suddenly got inundated with a lot of teachers panicking about what could happen and whether they could get sued. It also prompted a lot of people to complain about past issues dealing with minors.
c. While some of these concerns were obviously crazy, others were very legitimate. Some comments raised troubling questions. Some concerns looked very hard to address. Some concerns looked like they might require instructors to act according to their judgment rather than according to a set policy.
d. So we decided to do the standard SCA thing -- initiate a draconian universal policy designed to address the craziest objections possible with one, uniform, universal rule that addressed all the concerns of the staff making the rule and did not address the burdens on members subject to the new policy in any way, shape, or form.
e. We then compounded this by simply announcing the policy without any explanation or solicitation of any comment. I mean, hey, why should we learn from experience, right?
f. Oopsie! That created a total sh** storm/Society-wide freak out. Who'd a thunk it? So we responded by modifying the craziest part of the policy to make it slightly less crazy. Of course, we continued to believe that absolute refusal to explain any of this, accompanied by strategic leaks to friends and general invocations of about SCA being all volunteers and all wonderful and stuff.
g. In a radical break with tradition, the Pennsic Autocrat/Mayor of Pennsic will actually explain the above and adopt a more reasonable policy:
(Established 7/12/2010) Minors are welcome to attend Pennsic University classes. Individual teachers and classes may have restrictions due to topic, materials, request of instructor and such. Unruly or disruptive youth will be asked to leave the class as per Society Seneschal Handbook Policy. Classes specifically geared for minors are handled through Youth Point and will adhere to all relevant policies for youth activities. No classes through the University and Youth Point specifically for minors will be permitted in private camps or merchant booths. Further, any minor who wishes to attend regular University class in a private encampment or in a merchant booth must be escorted by a responsible adult appointed by their parent or legal guardian.And we will accept volunteers to help us with the "two deep leadership" model implemented by orgs that train minors (must have two adults present when training minors).
h. The Mayor of Pennsic asks everyone to forgive us because I actually acted smart about this after my staff got whapped up the head for several weeks for acting like typical SCA bureaucrats. Please forgive them, and remember to keep volunteering.
[To which I must add: Would it have been so hard to have gotten this right in the first place? Really? At least the communication part?]
From the Mayor of Pennsic 39 Concerning Minors in A&S Classes
Greetings to all from the Mayor of Pennsic 39!
Let me first say that the war is coming together very well and we are looking forward to many great activities and wonderful memories.
I am writing to clear some air and to take direct charge of the minor policies at the University. Please note as I continue this letter that all relevant youth policies dealing with young children are still in full effect. (See Rule 11 of the Pennsic Site Rules) I do want to review with everyone the current policy in the University dealing with the teens (and twelves J ).
Where do we stand today? As of the last update, Minors (12-17) were allowed to attend Adult A&S Classes if they were escorted by a responsible adult appointed by their parent or legal guardian. Each escort was allowed to be responsible for more than one child, but the escort did have to remain in the class while the minor was there.
The question has come up many times demanding to know why this change is being made. Well, there are many reasons a few of which I will share here (mostly to try and keep this letter under the length of my dissertation J).
On March 25, 2010, a post went out from the SCA Board of Directors as follows:
Announcement from the Board of Directors, SCA, Inc. The directors and corporate staff have the unfortunate obligation to inform the membership that the SCA, Inc. has been named in a civil suit seeking damages as a result of sexual misconduct of an adult toward minors.Unfortunately, at the time the activities occurred, the individual was a member and officer of the SCA. The SCA clearly did not sanction the alleged misconduct, had no prior knowledge of the misconduct, and had never received any complaints concerning the adult involved prior to his arrest.
This suit originated in Pennsylvania, USA, and was filed in January of 2010. Complete information regarding this suit is not yet known, as it is still in the preliminary stages.
The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. intends to take all appropriate actions available to defend itself against the allegations in these suits. As we are able, we will continue to update our membership. Board of Directors SCA, Inc As any responsible autocrat of Pennsic might do, I went to my senior staff and requested that they review all of their policies and procedures to make sure that we were in complete compliance with ALL youth policies. They did an amazing job to review ALL Pennsic policy, rules, procedures and activities in two months in a herculean effort. They could not have made me any more humble to know how hard they were willing to work. At the May Staff Meeting held during Aethelmearc War Practice (a GREAT event, FYI), we put our pieces on the table and created solutions to any problems or grey areas found. The Division of Cultural Affairs' policies were found to be grossly out of compliance,and the staff began working on a fix for them.
As we began to overhaul these youth procedures and policies, we began to get feedback from a wide variety of sources: Society, teachers, students, past staff. We discovered that we had grabbed the proverbial tiger by the tail. We had much larger issues that we had thought at first. Many issues began to be brought forth. Minors received materials through teachers at the University that they legally were not allowed to posses. Minors were attending classes that were not appropriate for their age, and teachers were unsure of the mundane laws dealing with their topics and Minors (brewing for an example). Issues were raised about the uncomfortable situation of going up to a minor and requesting their age (think man in 40's and girl in teens' creepy much?). Many, many discipline issues were raised dealing with the behavior of some teens during classes in the past (I will not innumerate these to protect the children from embarrassment). With all of these issues raised and many discu ssions held, the staff created the only policy they felt they could legitimately execute with the resources they had. There were many potential policies put forth, but time and time again the staff ran into the wall of resources, background checks, and volunteers.
The great thing about SCA people is that when there is a dire need to help children, people are eager to step forward. We are not a Society of Complainers, but a Society of Doers. Since our most recent postings we have had many wonderful people step forward and offer their time to help. These people (many of whom have SCA background checks) are willing to give up parts of their vacations to help try to give our University more resources. So with these new resources, we are able to set a new policy and add a new service to facilitate our solutions.
New Pennsic University Teen Minor Policy (12-17): (Established 7/12/2010) Minors are welcome to attend Pennsic University classes. Individual teachers and classes may have restrictions due to topic, materials, request of instructor and such. Unruly or disruptive youth will be asked to leave the class as per Society Seneschal Handbook Policy. Classes specifically geared for minors are handled through Youth Point and will adhere to all relevant policies for youth activities. No classes through the University and Youth Point specifically for minors will be permitted in private camps or merchant booths. Further, any minor who wishes to attend regular University class in a private encampment or in a merchant booth must be escorted by a responsible adult appointed by their parent or legal guardian.
New Pennsic University Service:
The Pennsic University Ambassadors are a group of volunteers organized through A&S Point to aid teachers and students. They will roam through the University areas prepared to help teachers if the "Two Deep Leadership Model" is necessary, aid with basic classroom discipline if required, and assist all members of the populous [sic] to find class times and locations as desired. Our Ambassadors are there to help with quick easy questions. For more in depth questions and normal University business, please visit A&S Point in the middle of the University.
Again, please let me thank all of the staff and volunteers who are making this new addition possible. If you would like to volunteer to help with the ambassadors, please come past A&S Point and sign up! Further, if you are SCA background checked and would like to lend a hand we are in desperate need of you. Please come past A&S Point and speak to us.
Please note that the Pennsic Book went to press almost a month ago and the material dealing with this issue will be incorrect. We will make available at Troll an insert updating this policy, but please know that on this issue the original published text will be incorrect J.
Master John von der Velde
Mayor, Pennsic 39