Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence says it is addressing workplace issues voiced by current, former staff

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

A Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence vehicle is pictured on July 9, 2021.

The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence has begun to address workplace concerns that were expressed by a group representing current and former staff members.

Club CEO Monica Dittmer recently said in a letter to parents that the club’s board has directed its executive committee to research options for a third-party external review of the club’s programs in terms of safety, social-emotional learning, human resources and diversity, equity, and inclusion. The club aims to have the reviews underway by this fall.

Alissa Bourneuf, a spokeswoman for the club, said this week in an email to the Journal-World that the club had already hired a third-party group to review diversity, equity and inclusion and workplace culture and is currently looking for consultants to review human resources and social-emotional learning.

She said the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Child Safety and Quality Assurance team was in Lawrence this week to conduct a safety assessment.

“We are excited for the opportunity to be one of the first clubs in the nation to utilize this support,” Bourneuf said of the assessment. “Safety has been and will always continue to be a top priority.”

Bourneuf also said the club’s board has begun visiting all of the club’s six summer sites to hold listening sessions with club staff. She said the feedback from the listening sessions was being compiled and would be reviewed by the board.

Dittmer told the parents that she feels confident the club “is the safest place for your child in our community.”

The club’s actions come in response to a group, known as the BGCLK Collective, starting a petition last month calling for changes to the club’s workplace conditions.

The group listed many concerns about the club’s workplace standards and included several demands, the Journal-World previously reported. Some of the concerns focused on what the group called unsafe working conditions and issues of inequity among staff members.

Specific allegations include staff being put in unsafe positions as a result of the club taking on individuals with special needs while staff members are not trained to serve them properly. The group said the club was also understaffed, putting the club’s members in unsafe conditions, among other concerns. It also demanded that staff be paid at least $15 an hour.

Additionally, the group thinks the club’s culture fosters systemic inequity, specifically for staff members who are people of color. The group claimed that white staff members have received credit for the work of others, among other issues. The group demanded that the club hire a director for diversity, equity and inclusion and onsite translators to serve the club’s diverse membership.

In its own statement, the club’s board said it did not believe the group’s concerns accurately reflected the “safe and inclusive environment” of the club. But the board said it also regarded all allegations as serious and would work to improve the situation.

“While we can make all these statements and say we will ‘do better,’ it does not eliminate the issue that members in our organization feel that their voices have not been heard,” the board said at the time. “Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence Kansas is fully committed to enacting positive change.”

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