Hold Spirit of Atlanta Accountable

Hold Spirit of Atlanta Accountable

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McKenzee Hales started this petition to Drum Corps International

Since I have gone public, there has been little to no resolution other than a probationary period. Spirit of Atlanta needs to actually be held accountable. Had I not gone public, Spirit would have carried on as if nothing happened. Without pressure from the public, there's a good chance little could be done. Please help me not only protect these current and future members, but advocate for former as well.

My 2021 Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps Experience

I have been hesitant to make this post. I've been scared for backlash, retaliation, fear of opportunity and much more. One day I knew I would want to stand up and advocate for member safety. That day is today and everyday after. I am no longer scared, and this is my story.

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021 I received my Spirit of Atlanta member contract to march as part of their hornline on trumpet. Receiving that contract was a dream come true, however my dream quickly turned into a nightmare once move-in’s came around. June 26th, 2021 I moved in with Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugles Corps at Carrollton High School in Carrollton, GA. Less than a week later, I was sexually assaulted by a veteran member of the corps. The sexual assault happened repeatedly and almost daily during the corps stay at Mortimer Jordan High School in Liberty, AL (7/6-7/12), and then Dora High School in Dora, AL (7/13-7/30). Up until 7/9/21, I didn’t fully realize the behavior was grooming behavior and inappropriate until the member decided to smack my chest on that same day. Up until then, it’d been small things like poking my stomach, hand placements on my lower back, etc. Not long after, I went to 3 staff members about the incident, a Medical Staff Member, the Head of Operations, and the Corps Manager. The three of us spoke, and the head of operations and corps manager assured me something would be done. Absolutely nothing was done to protect myself from said individual, and there was zero separation. Each day the touching got worse, and I reported it daily from then on. Each time I reported it to the corps manager, nothing changed. It wasn’t until 7/25 that the individual was removed, and no kind of resolution was given. From late June, to late July, it took nearly a full month for my safety to even be considered by corps staff. Not once was I given the opportunity to report him to the police. Not once did the corps staff separate him from me or other victims he had put his hands on. Not once did the corps inform my parents of any kind of action being taken, or what was happening to me. Spirit of Atlanta was incredibly negligent not only with my safety, but other corps members as well. Each day I was in fear for my safety, and for the members around me.

Once my assaulter was removed from the corps, tour life started and I had 14 days of normalcy. Then on August 9th, 2021 a text went out explaining the rules of Rookie Talent Night from a veteran trumpet player on my bus. He told us the activity would be taking place after our performance in Akron, OH. I happened to be on the guard bus, and almost everyone except for me and one other guard member participated in Rookie Talent Night. The two of us that didn’t participate, were behind a blanket duct taped to the ceiling to block the camera in the back of the bus. There was one other blanket at the front of the bus that blocked the driver's view of what was happening. Some did things like sing, minors making out with other minors, and adults performing oral sex in front of minors. There was an adult that was fully naked and urinated into a plastic bottle in front of those on the bus. On several occasions we asked the bus to stop so we could sleep, people being uncomfortable etc. I sent our Corps Manager a text stating there were illegal things happening and it was disregarded. The event continued. Once we got to our site, I vocalized to my section leader how uncomfortable the entire event made me. He then went on to tell the person who led Rookie Talent Night. As I was planning to go to sleep, the person who led Rookie Talent Night demanded I speak to him in the hallway, and tried to tell me this is the dark side of drum corps and it’s normal. I told him multiple times it made me uncomfortable, and he tried to justify it each time. The very next day after breakfast, I went to the Corps Manager and reported what happened. Before I even reported the incident, the bullying and harassment by corps members had started. When I told the Corps Manager, he assured me action would be taken but they couldn’t penalize everyone because “that would be the whole corps”. The harassment was so bad and to the point where I was ready to go home just days before finals. Members were threatening me, threatening to steal my items, and damage my property. I was once again scared for my safety. The very next day I had packed all of my belongings and threatened to leave because nothing had been done. The Corps Director and Corps Manager gathered the corps into the gym for a meeting to discuss what had happened and to discuss the whistleblower policy. The recording of that can be found here https://youtu.be/vJlMQhrtsa4 Two corps members received punishments which were that they would not perform in the next two performances because they participated in the more “severe” acts of Rookie Talent Night. There were no consequences for the ringleader(s) of the game, other participants of Rookie Talent Night, or those who bullied me. The harassment continued beyond that meeting in the gym, up until December 18th, 2021. On finals day (August 14th, 2021), Spirit of Atlanta had our Corps banquet. Several of the members who participated in Rookie Talent Night and harassed me extensively were given awards for the season. At the end of the banquet, the Corps Manager informed me the remaining $700 in tuition was waived due to the nature of my season, and for my experience.

Since my season with Spirit of Atlanta has ended, we have called the ethics reporting line, and an investigation was completed by EquitAbility Consulting, LLC. Drum Corps International and Spirit of Atlanta have had the recommendations since the beginning of October. Nothing has been done, changed, or brought to the public. No reporting procedures for members under the age of 18 who have been violated have changed at Spirit of Atlanta. Members who led the hazing and harassment still have spots within Spirit of Atlanta as “student-leadership”. The ringleader of Rookie Talent Night for the guard bus has moved on to the Blue Devils and still has yet to be penalized. We were told that Spirit would have to provide us a copy of the report which they seem unwilling and non-responsive with our attempts to obtain it. Spirit of Atlanta claimed they went to the police regarding the sexual assault, but I never gave a victim statement, my parents were never contacted, and they’ve ignored our requests for a police statement.

The Drum Corps community needs to do better. Not just in regard to member safety and accountability, but timeliness as well. We sent in our initial report in August. It is unacceptable that it has taken this long for anything to be done. When are we going to start making the necessary changes for member safety and experience? I’m angry that this Drum Corps almost killed my passion and spark for music as a whole. No person should ever have to go through anything like this. No person should have to sacrifice their dream just so they remain safe. No one should want to forfeit their passion because of a corps' negligence to do the right thing. It shouldn’t take going public for action to be made. Do better, Spirit of Atlanta.

Thank you for your time and Attention

Remaining screenshots on my Facebook and some still being posted :

https://m.facebook.com/100001523737826/posts/4838454732881937/?d=n

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