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SOPA - A Culture of Safety and Awareness

Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) is committed to providing appropriate and safe environments for its athletes, volunteers, and employees. The health and safety of all Special Olympics participants is of paramount importance. Participants should feel that every Special Olympics event is a safe and positive experience and should not be fearful of other athletes, coaches or volunteers. We have created a multi-faceted safety program, and everyone (including staff, volunteers, coaches, parents/care givers, and athletes) has a role to play in ensuring its success.

Aspects of the program include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Organizational Policies and Procedures:

    Several organizational policies have been developed to promote and ensure a safe environment including a Housing Policy which applies to the housing of all SOPA athletes and Unified Partners traveling to overnight events. Arranging housing for overnight events involves the consideration of a variety of factors, including the varying abilities, ages, maturity, and behaviors of athletes. Although it is not possible to avoid all risks associated with sports training, competition, travel, and other activities, we must always consider ways to avoid or minimize risks when practical, including, in housing athletes during overnight events.
  • Volunteer Screenings:

    Background checks are conducted on prospective volunteers who will have close contact with athletes or who will serve in positions of authority, trust, or with access to sensitive personal information.
  • Mandatory Protective Behaviors Training:

    Volunteers who have close contact with Special Olympics athletes are required to participate in Protective Behaviors Training. This training helps volunteers learn to identify inappropriate behavior, recognize the signs of abuse and determine what to do if abuse or inappropriate behavior is suspected.
  • Behavior Expectations For Everyone:

    All participants, including staff, volunteers, athletes, and spectators, are expected to conduct themselves appropriately at Special Olympics events and while engaged in Special Olympics activities. These expectations include, but are not limited to, good sportsmanship and appropriate interactions with others. Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. Depending upon the severity of any violations of these expectations, suspension or dismissal from SOPA-sponsored activities may result.
  • Resource Guides to Increase Knowledge and Awareness:

    We are developing role-specific guides to help prepare all stakeholders to meet our shared responsibility to create and maintain a culture of safety.
    • Parents/Care Givers. The following guide has been created to help you better understand what Special Olympics is doing and what you can expect from us as well as to help you identify red flags, recognize signs of abuse, and know what to do if you have a concern.  Parent/Care Giver Guide
    • Additional resources developed specifically for parents of children with disabilities to keep children safe from sexual abuse can be found at:http://www.stopitnow.org/parents-children-disabilities.  While these materials were not developed by Special Olympics Pennsylvania, we are providing a link to this information in order to promote and foster prevention of abuse.
    • Other stakeholders. Guides and resources for other specific stakeholder groups (coaches, athletes, etc) will be provided when they become available. In the meantime, please consult any of the other resources provided above.