Board for Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence plans to address workplace concerns; current, former staff had posted petition demanding action

Noting that the top priority of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence is the safety of the children attending the club, a statement this week from the club’s board of directors said it planned to review recent allegations about its workplace environment and work toward improvement.

The statement was in response to a petition posted by some current and former staff members who listed many concerns about the club’s workplace standards and included several demands. Some of the concerns focused on what the group called unsafe working conditions and issues of inequity among staff members.

The board said it has called a special meeting to review the allegations and to generate a plan for improvement for the club, which is a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to enhance the development of kids.

“Our dedication to our club members, staff, and our community is unwavering,” the board said.

Specific allegations include staff being put in unsafe positions by the club taking on individuals with special needs while staff members are not qualified or provided training 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 claims 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.

The petition also included personal testimony from several anonymous staff members and a few named former staff members. Representatives for the group did not respond to the Journal-World’s request for comment.

A message with the petition said it was created as a “last resort.” The group said it had been working for months to resolve the issues internally, but had not reached any solutions with the club’s human resources office or the club’s CEO, Monica Dittmer.

“Time and time again, for months, these issues have been swept under the rug and dismissed,” the group said on the petition website. “When serious concerns about specific individuals were reported, no action, to our knowledge, was ever taken.”

In its 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. “Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence Kansas is fully committed to enacting positive change.”

The board said the club could not operate without its staff, and providing a safe environment for club members includes doing so for staff as well. It noted that for the club to operate it must have “stringent safety standards” and that its staff-to-youth ratio, 1:10, is better than national recommendations. The board also said it’s services and programs are reviewed by the club’s national organization, and its next review is in July.

In response to the equity concerns, the board said it stands against racism and discrimination to offer inclusive, safe spaces for local youth. The board said it was also discussing ways to better reach people of color to serve as board members and future staff, among other equity improvements.


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