In a departure for the decades-old youth organization, Drum Corps International this week unveiled a new code of conduct that sets standards for how its largely autonomous member organizations should address sexual misconduct. It includes a ban on sexual contact between staff and participants.

It comes six weeks after an Inquirer and Daily News investigation into one of the activity's most prominent directors, Allentown's George Hopkins, sparked widespread calls for change to better protect the thousands of teens and young adults who participate in the marching band activity.

"DCI acknowledges that people around the world and throughout our country have been faced with the harsh realities of bias, harassment, and incivility," the organization said in a statement. "While these social ills are not unique to any one industry or field, society's former tolerance and perhaps willful ignorance of these realities are no longer acceptable; standards and expectations are changing, as must our own."

The new guidelines were released as the drum corps season kicks into gear. The most competitive corps, whose members range in age from 16 to 22, begin a month of intense practice in late May, followed by a two-month summer performance tour. The activity combines music, color guard, and theatrics.

Hopkins was a fixture of the activity for four decades, leading the Cadets drum corps to 10 national titles over those years. A total of 11 women have now accused him of sexual harassment or assault. The Lehigh County District Attorney's Office this week confirmed it has opened a criminal investigation into the allegations.

The scandal had immediate reverberations throughout the drum corps world, prompting many individual corps to address member safety with parents and participants, and leading DCI to draft its new regulations.

They were written by DCI's board of directors. The chairman, Fred Morrison, has come under his own scrutiny for employing a man who lost his Florida teacher's license after sending sexually charged text messages to a student. (Morrison said in a letter to parents the employee, Joel Moody, resigned May 1.)

Executive Director of Drum Corps International Dan Acheson.
Handout
Executive Director of Drum Corps International Dan Acheson.

The board members, through a DCI spokeswoman, declined to be interviewed about the guidelines, deferring questions to Dan Acheson, the organization's executive director. Acheson also declined to speak with a reporter, saying he would only take questions in writing.

In a statement, he said that many of the four dozen corps under DCI's umbrella already have policies in place to ensure member and staff safety but that the corps will be expected to evaluate those policies in relation to DCI's new ones and make needed changes.

The guidelines address matters such as alcohol use and social-media accounts but largely relate to issues of harassment and discrimination.

Specific guidelines include:

  • A ban on sexual contact between staff and performing members. Corps will be "expected to take swift action" to remove staff who break the rule and must immediately report those cases to DCI.
  • A requirement that corps report cases of child abuse or neglect to local law enforcement. The corps must "develop a process" on how such allegations can be reported to a designated employee, who will assist in the mandatory reporting.
  • A requirement that corps have a "policy and process for promptly addressing reports of misconduct." DCI said corps must foster an environment where reports of misconduct are encouraged and where those making reports can have an expectation of privacy.

Corps who violate the guidelines can face repercussions including a fine, suspension, or ban on participating. Earlier this month, the board revised its enforcement policy to give Acheson the sole discretion to make such decisions, whereas previously those decisions were reviewed by a panel.

Acheson said all corps will take part in a  day of education and training on June 9, when the new guidelines will be discussed with members and staff.

"Every participating organization understands the need for timely action with the season fast approaching," Acheson said. "DCI has every confidence that the organizations are making compliance — from safety to education to reporting to enforcement — a top priority."