Corruption in the RECF (448X)
Injustice in the RECF (448X)
This response may be a little long . I apologize for that up front. I truly strive to be fair and professional, to not get defensive, and to check my personal feelings regarding any discussion regarding the REC Foundation. I may allow some of my emotion to creep in with this response – I ask for your understanding – it’s been a long few weeks.
Team 448X was disqualified from the finals match at the 3-2-19 California States competition at Damien High School due to a violation of the pinning and trapping rules. After the DQ, Team 448X protested the call. The match DQ was upheld.
Immediately after the event, the REC Foundation received complaints from multiple sources (over 5) that the behavior of 448X (students and adults) violated G1 and the Code of Conduct.
Tarek Shraibati contacted me the following Monday (March 4)that he was disqualifying Team 448X for the rest of the season because of the violation of G1 and Code of Conduct. Note: For the rest of the timeline, when I state DQ, I am talking about the season DQ and not the finals DQ.
The coach of 448X contacted Tarek and requested a phone meeting to discuss the decision, a request which Tarek granted.
On Tuesday, March 5, the coach of 448X contacted Tarek again (and copied me) to apologize on behalf of the team and adults and to provide additional information for Tarek to consider.
On March 7, Tarek reviewed his findings (including testimony from people at the CA Championship as well as from the coach of team 448X) with the REC Foundation leadership team, including me. The REC foundation felt the evidence supported the season DQ and Tarek communicated this finding to the coach of team 448X.
On March 11, the coach of team 448X contacted me directly and requested that the children have a chance to present their evidence. I responded that I stood by the REC Foundation decision and I provided my reasons.
On March 19, the coach of 448X contacted me again with a letter from our team members, statements they gathered to refute allegations, and a request to allow them to present their side of the story (in the interest of fairness).
On March 19, I replied and agreed to arrange a call with the coach and the students. It is true that I requested that the school administration and parents were also present on the call. I did this for transparency for all involved parties (including me). Please note that on March 19th there was continued conversation between the coach and I, at this point he demanded that I provide all of the evidence that I had collected. I did push back on this request and said that I would provide it before the hearing but not at that time. This was so that I had time to further review everything. I do feel this was the most reasonable and responsible reply that could be given.
Note: I recognize that 448X was correct to demand an opportunity to present their side of the story. I agree that this is part of “due process” and the REC Foundation regrets that they did not have this opportunity earlier in the process. I will make the needed procedural changes in order to correct this going forward.
On March 20, we agreed to a date and time during which the students would present their case.
On March 24, I provided an overview of the statements that the REC Foundation had collected to the coach of 448X.
On March 25, we had the call with the team (students, coaches and parents) and the school principal. During the call, I did listen to the school’s principal advocate for the students and clearly understood many of his points. I felt I needed some additional input to make a final decision and It is true that I asked Steve Rummell (California Regional Support Manager) to contact the school principal.
On March 26, I talked to Steve to listen to his feedback. I again reviewed all the emails and other testimonies. I decided I needed the night to reflect on the decision.
On March 27, I contacted the coach of team 448X and informed him that, after careful consideration of all the information, that I was upholding the Disqualification.
Note: I made the final decision based on evidence provided to me from multiple sources. Please refrain from placing responsibility on specific REC Foundation staff members, like Tarek or Steve.
On March 28, the coach of team 448X contacted me and said he was disappointed (which is fair) and claimed my decision was not fair (unjust). I replied to his email.
I am sharing with you part of my response:
“You asked me to do an open minded and impartial hearing. And I heard from multiple parties on the issue which is the impartial way to investigate the issue. The other parties that provided testimonies also provided strong arguments and strong evidence that the students (and coaches) behavior was not professional and violated G1 and the Code of Conduct. Because I did not rule for you doesn’t mean I wasn’t fair - it means you don’t like the decision I made. And the REC Foundation and I do have the best interest of the students and programs in mind: All students and the long term sustainability of the program.”
Please note: there are other facts, including emails, regarding this decision that I am not able to share with the public because of confidentiality rules. I would hope that the community would understand based on my previous decisions that I look at all the facts in a case and give me the benefit of the doubt that I did not make an uninformed decision. I would also like to point out that I have reversed many DQ decisions in the past year once presented with all the facts so it is clear I don’t always just rule with event partners, volunteers, or my staff against the students.
Now my “emotional” response:
I sent my email at 7:23 PM and at 7:50 PM a student from the team created a thread about the DQ called “Corruption in the RECF (448X)”. As everyone knows, I do not regularly read the forums unless someone informs me about a thread. Many of you did inform me but I was working on sponsorships last night and did not get the notices until mid-morning. By the time I logged on, the topic had been changed to “Injustice in the RECF (448X)”. I find the term “corruption” very offensive and I request an apology on behalf of my organization.
I thank those of you that have cautioned the forum against making any conclusions until the REC Foundation had an opportunity to present their side of the story. I appreciate it more than you know.
But I am troubled by those of you that are accusing the REC Foundation and / or REC Foundation employees without any factual basis. That is not fair and is very disappointing. Some of you have brought up Nancy and she had nothing to do with this. Some of you have immediately supported 448X without knowing all of the facts. Some of you are saying I only get information from people that are “out to get” a certain team. All these statements minimize and invalidate all the volunteers that came forward with their concerns. And it shows a lack of respect for the process. Most notably, I’m disappointed that some in the community haven’t given the REC Foundation the benefit of the doubt. The entire REC Foundation, our volunteers, and our event partners work tirelessly to provide a great robotics competition program, and I hope in the future that our community will keep this in mind.
I am asking @DRow to keep this tread open for civil conversation and feedback (I do love feedback). But it it gets disrespectful, I’ll request to lock it again.