Responding to Abuse and Other Misconduct

In response to allegations of abuse or misconduct, the USA Hockey Bylaws that are applicable to suspensions and disciplinary proceedings shall apply. Those bylaws are found in Bylaw 10 of the USA Hockey Annual Guide. Bylaw 10 provides for a disciplinary process that must be followed in connection with suspension or other discipline of an individual, team, organization or others within the jurisdiction of USA Hockey. By following the procedures of Bylaw 10, USA Hockey Member Programs can provide a fair and reasonable process for handling reports of abuse by members.

In this policy on Responding to Abuse and Other Misconduct is:

  • The obligation of USA Hockey Affiliates and Member Programs to investigate and conduct appropriate disciplinary proceedings following reports of suspicions or allegations of abuse or misconduct;

  • USA Hockey’s delegation of the authority and jurisdiction to the USCSS to investigate and resolve allegations of violations by Participants of the Sexual Misconduct Policy;

  • The importance of maintaining confidentiality with respect to the complaint, Claimant, Respondent and other information related to the report and incident(s) until “notice” must be given about a suspension or the outcome of any proceedings;

  • The circumstances in which an immediate or “summary” suspension is appropriate and the procedures following a summary suspension;

  • A general summary of the procedures for a hearing under Bylaw 10; and

  • Factors and considerations that should be incorporated into findings and sanctions that are issued by a hearing panel.

Requirement for investigation and/or disciplinary proceedings

Upon a report or other notice of credible information or allegations that a person who is subject to the jurisdiction of USA Hockey or one of its Affiliates or Member Programs (1) may have violated any of the provisions of the USA Hockey SafeSport Program Handbook, or (2) violated any of the Physical Misconduct, Emotional Misconduct, Bullying, Threats, Harassment, or Hazing Policies, USA Hockey, its Affiliates or applicable Member Programs shall conduct an investigation and/or disciplinary proceedings to determine the appropriate discipline that may be imposed.

Upon a report of an allegation of a violation by a Participant of the Sexual Misconduct Policy, USA Hockey shall promptly report such information to the USCSS, and the USCSS shall have jurisdiction and authority to investigate such allegations or report, to issue any interim suspension or measures pending conclusion of the investigation, to make recommendations of sanctions or disciplinary action as a result of such investigation, and to adjudicate such matter according to the USCSS Code. Neither USA Hockey nor any USA Hockey Affiliate or program shall engage in its own investigation or disciplinary process related to any allegations or reports that are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the USCSS. However, USA Hockey and its Affiliates and Member Programs may issue a Summary Suspension under Bylaw 10.D.(3)(a) which shall be effective until such time as USCSS has exercised jurisdiction over the matter and made a determination related to a person’s eligibility pending the USCSS’s investigation and adjudication process.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, if USA Hockey receives a report of Child Abuse or Sexual Misconduct involving a minor, USA Hockey will make a report to the proper law enforcement authorities. Further, USA Hockey and its Member Programs shall not conduct any investigation or hearing procedure in response to allegations of Child Abuse or Sexual Misconduct if it in any way interferes with a pending legal investigation or criminal prosecution. As described below, it is appropriate to issue a summary suspension of the Respondent during the pendency of a legal investigation or criminal prosecution.

USA Hockey recognizes that there are varying levels of misconduct. For example, physical and sexual misconduct are serious violations that may result in immediate suspension or dismissal. In contrast, a minor Participant who tells a single risqué joke constitutes less serious misconduct and depending on the circumstances, might be dealt with more appropriately through dialogue, education, and/or a verbal warning. Appropriate action should always consider the necessity of protecting minor participants from further abuse. In all cases, USA Hockey’s and its Member Programs’ disciplinary procedures and actions shall be proportionate, reasonable and applied fairly and equally.

It is also recognized that with respect to disciplinary action involving an employee of an organization, the organization will address allegations against its employees under its employment policies and procedures and other documents governing the employment.

All Member Programs shall report to the applicable Affiliate SafeSport Coordinator on a monthly basis any alleged violations of SafeSport Policies and the results of any investigations, hearings or other proceedings within their program that involve violations of the USA Hockey SafeSport Policies or this SafeSport Handbook. In the Affiliate’sdiscretion, the Affiliate SafeSport Coordinator or designee shall conduct the investigation or shall oversee its investigation by the Member Program. In each instance where an Affiliate has referred a matter to a Member Program for investigation or disciplinary proceedings, the Affiliate SafeSport Coordinator shall monitor the proceedings and provide appropriate guidance to help ensure the Member Program investigates and/or conducts disciplinary proceedings, as appropriate. It is important for the Member Program and Affiliate to ensure that those investigating a complaint or on a hearing panel shall be reasonably disinterested and impartial from the Claimant, Respondent, and the program involved.

Each Affiliate SafeSport Coordinator shall compile information on alleged violations of SafeSport policies and results of disciplinary proceedings within their Affiliate and report such information to USA Hockey on a monthly basis.

Investigation and resolution of allegations by USCSS

As the national governing body for ice hockey in the United States, USA Hockey has delegated the authority and jurisdiction to the USCSS to investigate and resolve allegations of violations by Participants of the Sexual Misconduct Policy. Neither USA Hockey nor any USA Hockey Affiliate or program shall engage in its own investigation or disciplinary process related to any allegations or reports that are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the USCSS. The investigation and resolution of complaints by the USCSS shall be according to the USCSS Code.

Upon the issuance by USCSS of any interim suspension or other measures, or any other suspension or other sanction issued by USCSS after conclusion of the adjudicative process or by agreement with the person subject to suspension or other sanction, USA Hockey and its Affiliates and programs shall enforce such suspension, measures or other sanction throughout USA Hockey programs. USA Hockey and its Affiliates and programs shall enforce any suspension or other sanction issued by the USCSS even if arising from allegations outside of USA Hockey programs.

There shall be no appeals of any decisions adjudicated by USCSS except through arbitration with the applicable arbitration body in conformance with the Supplementary Rules for U.S. Olympic SafeSport Hearings or other USCSS or USOPC governing documents as apply and are in effect at such time.

The delegation of authority and jurisdiction to USCSS as set forth above, and the restriction on USA Hockey, Affiliates and Member Programs, shall also include the investigation and issuance of sanctions related to allegations of other violations of USA Hockey SafeSport Policies (e.g., physical misconduct, emotional misconduct, bullying, harassment and hazing) that are reasonably related to and accompany an allegation that involves sexual abuse or misconduct. Additionally, in USA Hockey’s discretion, the USA Hockey national office may request that the USCSS accept jurisdiction of matters that do not involve sexual abuse or misconduct but do involve allegations of physical abuse, emotional abuse, bullying, harassment or hazing by or against any Participant.

Importance of confidentiality

Any investigation and/or disciplinary proceedings must be kept confidential. An investigator shall not discuss the investigation with anyone except for the purposes of conducting the investigation, except as requested by law enforcement or child protection authorities. An investigator shall not be required to provide a copy of the investigator’s report or notes to any party unless required by law.

Hearings should be closed and confidential, to the extent possible, other than for notification of the outcome. Participants in the hearing, including the hearing committee, Claimant, Respondent and witnesses (if any are permitted), should be requested and encouraged to keep the proceedings confidential, except as requested by law enforcement or child protection authorities. The hearing panel shall not discuss the testimony with anyone and shall deliberate among themselves until final resolution of the complaint, except as requested by law enforcement or child protection authorities.

Immediate or "summary" suspension

The appropriate disciplinary response will depend on the nature and seriousness of the incident and in extreme cases, misconduct will result in immediate suspension and/or dismissal, provided that the Respondent shall be advised of his/her right to a hearing under Bylaw 10 (or if applicable through the USCSS Code). If the Respondent is a minor, the Member Program or Affiliate will contact his or her parents.

Summary suspension is intended for those situations in which an individual’s continued employment, membership or participation poses a potential risk of ongoing physical or emotional harm. When such a risk exists, USA Hockey, the applicable Affiliate or Member Program should immediately suspend the Respondent pending final resolution of the complaint or any legal proceedings. In such instances, the USA Hockey program shall provide the individual with notice and offer her/him an opportunity to contest the suspension.

A summary suspension is thus appropriate when there is a reasonable belief that the individual has committed emotional, physical or sexual misconduct and there is a risk of future harm to the Claimant or another Participant. Evidence which may be found sufficient to support a reasonable belief includes, at a minimum:

  • the suspension or termination of employment or membership by a Member Program

  • a Report Form has been filed with reasonably specific and credible information

  • other legal documentation or report supporting a reasonable belief that the individual has committed emotional, physical or sexual misconduct, including abuse of a child (e.g., an arrest or a criminal indictment).

For the purposes of this Policy, a suspension from involvement in Member programs or USA Hockey activities shall 

mean that for the duration of the period of suspension, the Respondent may not participate in any capacity or in any role in the business, events, or activities of any Member Program.

Pursuant to Bylaw 10.D.(3)(a) (except when such matter is subject to jurisdiction and authority of the USCSS), the suspended individual, at the time of notice of the suspension, shall be provided with notice of the right to request a hearing under Bylaw 10.C. Ordinarily, Bylaw 10.D.(3)(a) requires that the suspended individual must request a hearing in writing within seven (7) days of being notified of the suspension. However, it is recognized that during the pendency of a criminal investigation or other legal proceeding the suspended individual may not want to or may be unable to appear at an administrative proceeding to contest a suspension, and so it is appropriate that when an active criminal investigation or legal proceeding is ongoing, the seven (7) day period to request a hearing should be stayed until seven (7) (or more) days following the conclusion of the criminal investigation, criminal proceeding or other legal proceeding.

Delaying any hearing of a person subject to a summary suspension until after the conclusion of a criminal or legal proceeding is also consistent with USA Hockey’s policy that it will not enter into an investigation that may interfere with a pending legal investigation or criminal prosecution.

Hearing

USA Hockey Bylaw 10.C. sets forth the hearing procedure applicable to disciplinary proceedings following complaints of abuse or misconduct or any violations of this SafeSport Program Handbook (other than violations that are subject to the jurisdiction and authority of the USCSS).

It is recognized that not all disciplinary action requires a hearing. There may be discipline imposed for minor violations where a reprimand, training or other sanction may be imposed and where a hearing would not be necessary. However, in cases where USA Hockey or a USA Hockey Member Program seeks to suspend or otherwise discipline a party, the governing body shall offer the party the right to a hearing, and the hearing shall occur in accordance with Bylaw 10 and within the time periods required under Bylaw 10.

The Claimant and Respondent shall have the right to receive written notice of the report or complaint, including a statement of the allegations, to present relevant information to the hearing panel and any investigator, and to be represented by legal counsel (at the party’s own expense). Counsel for any party to a hearing shall be allowed to advise his/her client in the hearing, but may be limited in other activities as the panel in its reasonable assessment may determine.

In connection with any hearing, the Respondent must be given a reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations brought forward. This may or may not include cross examination of the Claimant. In circumstances where the Claimant is a minor, it may be appropriate for the person that conducted the investigation that led to the hearing to provide testimony on the Claimant’s behalf, or that the investigator’s or fact finder’s report substitute for the minor’s testimony.

The hearing panel may proceed in the Respondent’s absence if it cannot locate the individual or if the individual declines to attend the hearing.

The conduct of the hearing should be closed and confidential, to the extent possible, other than for notification of the outcome. The hearing panel or governing organization that imposes any discipline should consult with legal counsel before making any hearing decision or other report public.

Pursuant to Bylaw 10.E., there is a right to appeal the panel’s decision. A Statement of Appeal must be delivered to the appropriate appeal authority within fourteen (14) days of the disciplined party’s receipt of the written decision from the hearing panel. While the Claimant has have the right to participate in the hearing process and provide evidence and argument to the hearing panel, a claimant does not have the right to appeal a disciplinary decision.

Findings and sanctions

The hearing panel has the discretion to impose sanctions on the individual if it finds based on a preponderance of the evidence that any violations of the USA Hockey SafeSport Program Handbook or any violations of the Sexual Misconduct, Physical Misconduct, Emotional Misconduct, Bullying, Threats and Harassment, or Hazing Policies have occurred.

The hearing panel will communicate its finding to the individual. Its findings shall describe the facts that support any sanctions it concludes are necessary along with a statement of the rule(s) and/or policy(ies) that were found to have been violated by the individual. The panel may impose sanctions on the individual in its findings. Any sanctions imposed by the panel must be proportionate and reasonable, relative to the findings and conclusions of the panel as to what has occurred. The decision regarding the appropriate disciplinary action shall be up to the panel deciding each complaint. In imposing discipline, the panel shall consider:

  1. The legitimate interest of USA Hockey, the applicable Affiliate and the Member Program in providing a safe environment for its participants.
  2. The seriousness of the offense or act and impact on the Claimant.
  3. The age of the Respondent and alleged Claimant when the offense or act occurred.
  4. Any information produced by the Respondent, or produced on behalf of the individual, in regard to the individual’s rehabilitation and good conduct.
  5. The effect on the ongoing operation of USA Hockey, the applicable Affiliate and the Member Program.
  6. Whether the individual poses an ongoing concern for the safety of participants in USA Hockey, the
  7. applicable Affiliate and the Member Program.
  8. Any other information, which in the determination of the panel, bears on the appropriate sanction.

Appropriate disciplines may range from a warning and a reprimand to suspension from involvement in USA Hockey Member Programs for a period of time, or may in some cases be permanent, and may involve a term of probationary conditions upon completion of an imposed suspension.

The SafeSport Program is intended to address and respond to conduct, and any sanctions or discipline should be directed to that conduct. While participants and their families may have financial or contractual disputes with programs, a SafeSport investigation or hearing regarding allegations of violations of SafeSport policies shall not consider or address any liability or responsibility in a financial or contractual dispute.

Generally, a Member Program’s suspension is only effective with respect to that Member Program, and an Affiliate’s suspension is only effective with respect to that Affiliate. Bylaw 10 provides that a Member Program that desires that a suspension extend throughout the Affiliate may request that the Affiliate recognize and enforce the suspension throughout the Affiliate and its other Member Programs, and the Affiliate may request that USA Hockey recognize and enforce the suspension throughout USA Hockey and all other Affiliates. However, any suspension imposed by USA Hockey or a USA Hockey Affiliate (i) for violation of the sexual misconduct policies of the USCSS or USA Hockey, or (ii) that is one year or more in length, shall automatically be considered a national suspension and shall be in effect across all USA Hockey sanctioned programs.