PRORPOSAL FOR THE ELIMINATION OF REGIONAL OVERNIGHT YOUTH CAMPS
FROM: The Executive Committee
APPROVED by the WTSDA Board of Directors December 17, 2021
Link to form to request a camp: https://form.jotform.com/213155778928065
Many years ago, Grand Master Shin believed that overnight weekend camps for Cho Dan Bo and Black Belts would be a positive experience for our students and instructors. There were several goals of such camps: continued Tang So Do practice, learning from different instructors, making new friends with others outside of a student’s usual dojang group, and for youth students, gaining a sense of independence from their parents. As an idea, this was something that was important for youth and adults which lead to the implementation of camps that included both (and in some regions, separate camps for youth from adult). Indeed, much of what was envisioned came true as the benefits of such camps have become evident when seeing the interaction of members from different dojang at events such as tournaments and the skills demonstrated at demos and tournaments. Additionally, in some regions, participation at the camp was not only expected but mandatory for promotion. In those regions, a Cho Dan Bo had to attend one camp before being eligible for Cho Dan, a Cho Dan needed 2 camps before E Dan and so on.
Early on, virtually all regions held a single camp where youth students and adults attended camp together and for years there were few issues. In recent years some regions, for various reasons including behavioral issues and/or to provide a more age-appropriate learning experience, the youth and adult students have been separated into youth camps and adult camps. Other regions, still combine youth and adult students at camp whether due to the smaller number of attendees or geographic challenges.
While there are many positive aspects to conducing joint youth and adult camps, or separated by age, overnight camps pose some logistical and management challenges. For instance, separate and appropriate accommodations, recruiting enough counselors and adult students with completed clean background checks to supervise the youth, medication distribution, dealing with younger students not used to being away from home, etc.
Over the years, WTSDA leadership has been aware of issues occurring at camps that expose the WTSDA to scrutiny and risk.
Recognizing inherent value in training camps, the Executive Committee (“EC”) has determined that overnight camps for youth students (under the age of 18) no longer provide benefits that outweigh the potential risks. Accordingly, the EC proposes that most overnight camps for those under eighteen (18) years old be discontinued (overnight camps for adults can continue) effective January 1, 2023 (unless there is a current, valid, legal reviewed and fully executed multi-year contract with a venue; in such case, you must promptly inform Headquarters).
Recognizing that there are regions which cover vast geographic areas, where it may be difficult to run and/or justify to parents the amount of travel associated with a single day camp, a region may elect to request an exception to the prohibition on overnight camps which include or are for youth students, provided certain guidelines, restrictions and requirements (collectively, “Youth Camp Policies”) are followed. Such Youth Camp Policies will be provided to all Regional Directors by March 31, 2022 (a list of some of the key items which will form the basis for the Youth Camp Policies is attached on Exhibit A).
The request to hold such a camp must be submitted to Headquarters through the following link: https://form.jotform.com/213155778928065 and Headquarters (the President and OVP in consultation with Legal Affairs will review such requests). This link will also be made available via the WTSDA website (or the Legal Affairs Website).
For those where attendance is mandatory for promotion consideration, this should be reviewed and may need to be revised.
Advantages of single-day camps/clinics.
- Clinics can be more focused on rank requirements.
- Clinics can offer more age-appropriate activities.
- Association liability is decreased significantly. See below.
- Counselors and instructors only have to sacrifice 1 day instead of 3.
- No need to find “time filling” activities for hours at a time. Many of the overnight camps have schedules which have gaps in productive time. For example, see Exhibit A [GET LAST YEAR OF OVERNIGHT CAMP SCHEDULE], noting the free time/time not dedicated to TSD training. Instead, with proper planning it is more efficient to have a single day with training occupying the majority of the day.
- Attendees energy level and eagerness to learn remains high during the duration of the clinic.
Risks of Overnight Camps:
While there are a number of risks related to overnight camps that can be discussed in detail, one of the best ways to illustrate these are to discuss actual issues that have arisen in the WTSDA due to overnight camps. Set forth below is a small summary of a number of incidents that have occurred over the years.
- A number of individuals took some youth campers, after dark, to a different area of camp and the remaining individuals in the main area thought the children had disappeared.
- An overnight camp was held and the students were separated by sex and age. A female adult counselor was in the cabin changing prior to going to bed. Youth students witnessed the adult female without a shirt or bra. The parents raised this as a potential sexual/indecent misconduct involving youth students. The parents consulted with law enforcement and considered filing criminal and civil charges against the individual and considered civil charges against the WTSDA.
- An overnight camp was held and during the evening activities a group of 6 teenage campers (3 male, 3 female) elected to find space in an empty building and “hang out” without chaperones. A counselor discovered them when looking for a vending machine.
- A request from a student who needed “24-hour individual supervision” and the corresponding accommodations that were required both to his schedule as well as the medication that needed dispensing. Some of the restrictions – which failure to accommodate could have led to significant issues, included: “[Student] as medications that need to be taken at specific times of the day. He will need to be taken to the nurse at breakfast, 3pm, dinner and bedtime. [Student] has significant, self-imposed, dietary restrictions due to anxiety. At each meal, confirm with [Student] that he has either partaken of the camp menu or eaten a reasonable meal from the food provided from home. [Student] as ongoing anxiety and fears directly related to food, bees and being alone. These fears can be dealt with by allowing for food choice from home, removing him from the proximity of bees and providing for accompaniment (i.e. walk with him to a bathroom down the hall or in the next building). [Student] can listen and follow directions, however, he may require extra prompts, redirection or the repetition of directions particularly in a large group setting. [Student] can be very hard on himself if he feels like he can’t overcome an anxiety in order to do what was asked of him by an authority figure. Humor, understanding and positive reinforcement applied at the first sign of concern will side step self-defeating negativity.”
- A number of facilities have started asking for sexual molestation indemnification or insurance. The earliest request easily located in LAC’s files is 2010, but it is most common in University and YMCA contracts.
- A number of facilities require background check completion – and the contracts often ask for results of such checks. We do NOT have consistency of process or personnel reviewing results of these checks. In some states, these are only required if the camp is overnight.
- We have been asked to certify that we are registered as a “camp” under state law. We are not, in any state so licensed. Research has shown (and not all states have been researched) that this element is moot for day-only events.
- A child was playing another sport during some down-time and was hit in the face and lost a number of teeth. The child left the camp for medical attention. Approximately 3 months later, the WTSDA received notice from an attorney for the family seeking reimbursement for all expenses and notifying of their intent to sue. Luckily, this was settled without further action because events were timely reported and the correct waiver was used with the student.
There have been others. Generally, in addition to any specific incident related risks, the risks presented by these items include (not in any particular order):
- Reputational risk;
- Harm to those involved (physical and emotional);
- Loss of trust of parents/students/instructors;
- Civil liability for actions;
- Potential criminal liability to both the individuals involved and the WTSDA itself (which is taken against the officers and directors of the WTSDA);
- Loss of members (students involved, instructors, etc.);
- Risk that insurance may not cover the actions (whether due to a specific exclusion or the need for a separate rider);
- Use of standard WTSDA (not regionally developed) forms such as registration form (including a waiver), consent to treat (NOT a formal power-of-attorney), etc.;
- Indemnification often provided to counter-party contractually; and
- Lack of consistency of policies and/or implementation of such policies.
While some of the risks mentioned above may exists with regular dojang activities, the overnight youth camps pose unique problems due to the numbers of attendees, housing, venue requirements, and appropriate supervision.
Youth Camp Policies – draft list of items to be addressed
- Background checks (and review of any positive results);
- Medical staff (EMTs vs volunteers);
- Use of a standard parent’s guide;
- Responses in the event of certain emergencies (e.g., when children are missing);
- How to assign cabins (age and sex);
- Use of a standard counselor’s guide;
- How to handle and dispense medication;
- Training of counselors;
- Required insurance;
- Incident reporting;
- Contract approval; and
- What might/might not apply in the event the camp is held but at a facility (i.e., hotel) where parents are with the minors.