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Anime Expo's SPJA Announces Youth Protection Program

posted on by Jennifer Sherman
Convention particpation policies outlined to protect young attendees

The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), the California-based non-profit organization behind Anime Expo, announced on Friday that it will launch the Youth Protection Program for this year's convention. SPJA is partnering with the Nonprofit Risk Management Center to launch the program to protect young attendees at Anime Expo.

The Nonprofit Risk Management Center began streaming an introduction video for the program on Tuesday. The organization also began streaming a video on April 29 that explains the responsibilities of being a partner to the Youth Protection Program.

Youth Protection Policy

SPJA adopted its Youth Protection Policy on April 14, and the policy's training videos and resources are available on a new website. The youth protection training course slides and course videos are currently available only in English.

The policy applies to all SPJA-managed facilities, venues, and events, including online activities. The new policy involves individuals participating in SPJA events such as employees, volunteers, panelists, performers, guests, members of a guest's or performer's entourage, Artist Alley participants, exhibitors, vendors, and press.

In accordance with the new policy, all employees, volunteers, panelists, performers, guests, members of a guest's or performer's entourage, and Artist Alley participants must complete specific requirements to participate in SPJA events. These requirements include providing accurate personal information, completing certain online youth protection training courses (the policy has a total of eight training courses with certain groups needing to take different courses), consenting to a third party criminal background check, and providing truthful information as required by the background check provider. Employees and volunteers must also complete an online application and agree to SPJA's code of conduct.

Exhibitors, press, and vendors must affirm that all representatives have been subject to a screening process that includes a criminal background check. Additionally, members of these groups must also guarantee that their representatives are not disqualified based on the criteria laid out in the policy and the results of the criminal background check. Freelance members of the press or those whose employers will not follow this policy must complete a third party criminal background check. Exhibitors, press, and vendors are also encouraged, but not required, to take certain online training courses.

The policy does not state if those who must submit to a criminal background check will need to pay for it themselves.

Any of the above individuals who refuse to comply with SPJA policies, provide inaccurate information, or who are disqualified based on SPJA's disqualifying criteria will not be allowed to participate in that year's activities. They may also be disqualified from working with SPJA in the future.

Prohibited Activities

The Youth Protection Policy also outlines prohibited activities including abuse and physical force, sexual contact or communication, bullying and harassment, and inappropriate photography. Participants are encouraged to report incidents of abuse or misconduct.

SafeSpace Locations

SPJA will provide SafeSpace locations at all events where attendees can go if they feel unsafe or want to step away from the main event. The Youth Protection Program mascot, Chikara, will be featured at every SafeSpace and promote the new policies.

SPJA and Anime Expo

SPJA CEO Ray Chiang said regarding the new policy, "Not only does this mark a huge milestone for SPJA and our upcoming Anime Expo, we expect this move to shift the status quo for event safety and security." Chiang became CEO after former CEO Marc Perez left his position last month.

SPJA revealed in January that the organization is "expanding, refocusing and rebranding." Perez told ANN at that time that Anime Expo's focus "will continue to be Japanese culture." The organization plans to open an additional office in Tokyo this year and reveal its new brand name and logo soon.

Anime Expo will celebrate its 25th anniversary at its convention this year from July 1-4. Confirmed guests include Your Lie in April manga creator Naoshi Arakawa, singer Michi, and Final Fantasy and Vampire Hunter D artist Yoshitaka Amano. SPJA's director of industry relations Azusa Matsuda said regarding this year's convention, "It would be great if we could stage some events looking back on 25 years of Anime Expo, and at those same years in terms of anime and manga."

Last year's Anime Expo set a new attendance record with 90,500 unique attendees, up 12% from 2014. The Los Angeles Convention Center will host Anime Expo through 2019.

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