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Over 100 Riot Games Employees Walk Out to Protest Forced Arbitration

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  • Over 100 Employees at Riot Games staged a walkout in protest of discrimination at the company and its forced arbitration policy.
  • For the last eight months, several reports have emerged of sexist behavior at the company, which is a leader in the gaming industry.
  • Riot Games claims it will work to do better and has outlined plans on how to improve diversity and inclusion within the next 30-90 days.

Employees Engage in Walkout

Over 100 employees at Riot Games participated in a walkout on Monday to protest the company’s forced arbitration policy and to fight against general sexism and discrimination in the workplace.

The walkouts took place at Riot Games’ Los Angeles and San Fransisco offices. Since 2018, several reports have surfaced alleging that the company has a toxic “bro-culture” and creates fewer opportunities for women.

According to reports from the demonstration in Los Angeles, employee Ronnie Blackburn addressed the crowd about Riot Games’ discrimination and forced arbitration policy.

“What we want is a timely end to the systemic silencing of employees and the promise of a fair trial for the current plaintiffs,” she said. “We are not dissonant for the sake of dissonance. We are dissonant for the sake of justice, for the sake of Riot living up to its values and for the sake of Riot being the great place that we all want it to be.”

Other Riot Games employees used the hashtag #RiotWalkout to share why they were participating and the results they hoped to see.

“Arbitration should not be forced and actions should have consequences,” one user wrote.

“We’re going to change Riot for the better, for everyone,” said another.

Company Response

The company, which is behind the popular game “League of Legends,” gave a statement applauding their employees for speaking up.

“We understand and respect Rioters who choose to protest this decision on Monday, and admire their conviction and willingness to stand up for their beliefs,” the company said in a blog post published ahead of the protest.

The Riot Games employees also received support from Game Workers Unite, who celebrated the walkout and claimed it was the first of its kind in the gaming industry.

“You are demonstrating to all of us in this industry,” they wrote in a statement. “That real change can only come when you and your coworkers stand up for one another, share mutual respect, and develop deep relationships of care and support in the workplace.”

History of Allegations of Misconduct at Riot Games

The allegations of sexism and other discrimination began to unfold in August 2018 when Kotaku published a featured called “Inside The Culture of Sexism at Riot Games.” The piece detail several recurring actions happening inside the gaming company. Some included women being regularly passed on for leadership roles, men making inappropriate comments on womens’ appearance, men using vulgar and sexual language in the workplace, and men showing employees unsolicited photos of genitalia.

After this piece was published, an ex-employee of Riot Games, Barry Hawkins, wrote a blog post about his personal choice to leave the company. Many of his experiences validated Kotaku’s piece.

“There were two predominant flavors of behavior,” he wrote. “One was the use of sexual references and gestures by straight men toward other straight men, and the other was the sexist and inappropriate language about women.”

Specific examples he cited included men making jokes about rape, jokes about performing sex acts, and jokes about sleeping with employees’ spouses.

He added that this “aggressive behavior was constant, often daily” and that the “overall environment became fertile ground for sexism toward both men and women to run unchecked.”

Accusations against Riot Games took another step forward in November when female employees filed a lawsuit against the company. The employees claimed they faced gender-based discrimination and harassment.

What Has Riot Games Done in Response?

Since these allegations began to unravel, Riot has taken some action to address the culture that permeates throughout its walls. After Kotaku’s article, they published a blog post titled “Our First Steps Forward.

The company said they were “taking everything we’ve learned from Rioters and leading culture-change experts, and we are starting to develop a plan with substance.”

In December, they placed their C.O.O. Scott Gelb on a two-month suspension after he was accused of sexual misconduct. There were reports of Gleb farting on employees, hitting their testicles, and humping them. Gleb’s two-month suspension was paid, and many employees though his punishment was not severe enough for his actions.

Efforts to move forward still continued. In March, Riot Games hired a Chief Diversity Officer to address issues within the company. More recently, the company posted another blog post anticipating the upcoming walkout. On Friday, they outlined future actions they would take, as well as a timeline in which they planned to accomplish these tasks.

The post specifically addressed the issue of forced arbitration at the company and announced a change in that policy.

“As soon as current litigation is resolved, we will give all new Rioters the choice to opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims,” the post said.

They added that they would cover the costs of the arbitrator, that all arbitrators must be agreed upon by both parties, and that plaintiffs have rights to lawyers in these cases.

Riot Games also rolled out new plans for diversity and inclusion, which involved updating their code of conduct, committing to hiring diverse candidates, and launching anti-harassment training for all new hires. They said that all of these are set to be completed within the next 30-90 days.

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Variety) (ESPN)

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Bodycam Footage Shows Officer Arresting Six-Year-Old At School

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  • Attorneys for the family of a 6-year-old girl released bodycam footage of an Orlando school resource officer arresting the young child.
  • The video shows the girl getting handcuffed with zip ties and sobbing as she pleads with the officers to let her go.
  • The officer made national headlines in September when he arrested that child as well as another 6-year-old in a separate incident that same day.
  • He was fired a week later because he failed to get the necessary permission from his department to arrest children under the age of 12.

Newly-Released Footage

Bodycam footage of a 6-year-old girl being arrested by a former Orlando police officer was recently released to the public by the attorney of the child’s family. 

The incident took place in September 2019 and led to the termination of the officer, Dennis Turner, a week later. The newly-released video shows Kaia Rolle reading a book with a school employee when two officers enter the room. 

“Okay, she’s going to have to come with us now,” Dennis Turner can be heard saying. 

“What are those for?” the little girl asked when she saw the zip ties. 

“It’s for you,” Turner responded, as the other officer put them around Rolle’s wrists. She immediately started crying and pleading for help, even begging the men for “a second chance.” 

Rolle’s sobbing continued as the officers led her outside toward the police car. 

“I don’t want to go to the police car,” she said through tears. 

“You don’t want to?” the officer who handcuffed her said. “You have to.”

After Rolle is put into the back of the vehicle to be taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center, the footage shows Turner back in the school. An employee asked him if the restraints on the child were necessary.

“Yes,” Turner replied. “And if she was bigger she would’ve been wearing regular handcuffs.”

The officer then added that the youngest person he’s ever arrested was seven-years-old. He continued with details and said that he’s arrested 6,000 people over the course of his career.

“She’s six?” Turner said when one of the school staff members told him Rolle’s age. “Now she has broken the record.”

Background

The police report states that the officers were responding to a complaint that Rolle had “battered three staff members by kicking and punching them” at her charter school, Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy. 

The child’s grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, told WKMG in September that Rolle suffers from a sleep disorder, sleep apnea, and had acted out as a result of not enough rest the previous night.  

Rolle was not the only child Turner arrested that day last September. In a separate incident, he also arrested another 6-year-old from the same school.

Dennis Turner had been working as the school’s resource officer. He retired from the Orlando Police Department in 2018 and was assigned to the Officer Reserve Program, which is made up of retired officers, according to the Orlando Sentinel.  

It is department policy that officers must get approval from a superior before arresting anyone under the age of 12. Turner did not get that approval before he proceeded with the arrest of both the children. 

The officer’s arrest of the six-year-olds made national headlines and sparked outrage from many across the country. An investigation into the incidents was opened and Turner was terminated from his job. The department told WKMG that the other officer, who is seen putting the zip ties on Rolle, was not aware that protocol was not followed. State Attorney Aramis Ayala said at a news conference in September that she would not be pursuing the charges against either child.

“I refuse to knowingly play any role in the school-to-prison pipeline at any age,” Ayala said. “These very young children are to be protected, nurtured and disciplined in a manner that does not rely on the criminal justice system to do it.” 

See what others are saying: (WKMG) (NBC) (WESH)

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The School-To-Prison Pipeline Debate: SROs & Why Student Arrests Are Increasing…

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The existence of the school-to-prison pipeline has been debated for decades. The term is pretty self-explanatory, but it describes how children are funneled from schools to prisons through multiple school discipline and safety initiatives like zero-tolerance policies and school resource officers. The issue isn’t black and white because while there appears to be evidence, like the decrease in juvenile arrest rates, that suggest it isn’t a problem, there’s more to the story.

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Tik Tok “Skull Breaker” Challenge Leading to Severe Injuries

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  • Tik Tok has seen a new viral challenge that involves a person getting tricked into jumping into the air while two others kick their legs out from under them, causing them to fall onto the ground.
  • Multiple young people have suffered injuries as a result of the challenge, and it has been reported that one Brazilian teenager died.  
  • Concerned parents are striving to raise awareness of the dangers of the trend, and one student even started a non-profit organization to combat pranking and bullying after falling victim to the challenge herself.

Dangerous Online Trend

A new trend is making its rounds on the popular app Tik Tok— one that has led to serious injuries and received backlash from concerned parents.   

The “skull breaker” challenge involves three people standing in a line, shoulder to shoulder, under the pretense that all of them will jump into the air at the same time. But instead, only the middle person jumps while the two people flanking them kick their legs out from under them, causing them to slam into the ground. In most cases it appears that the middle person is tricked into the challenge, unaware that they will be knocked over.

The danger of the “skull breaker” challenge can be found in its name, as it quite literally has the potential to crack people’s heads open. Doctors are warning that it can result in broken bones, concussions, and brain bleeding, among other injuries. 

Tik Tok has expressed their disapproval of the challenge. The app told ABC News that the safety of their users is a top priority and they “do not allow content that encourages or replicates dangerous challenges that might lead to injury.”

Awareness Growing 

This new online fad is the latest dangerous trend among young people, akin to the Tide Pod challenge and the viral Tik Tok “outlet challenge” that prompted warnings from fire officials. A Brazilian teenager reportedly died from the “skull breaker” challenge, and more youth around the world have been seriously hurt.  

The recent virtual trend raised eyebrows in Daytona Beach, Florida in January, when two students convinced an unsuspecting third female student to perform the challenge for Tik Tok content. 

According to the Daytona Beach News Journal, the video has since been deleted. The News Journal reported that the victim’s parents were originally going to let the school handle it but ultimately decided to press charges. The Daytona Beach Police Department told TODAY that two students are facing misdemeanor charges of battery and cyberbullying as a result of the prank.    

On Feb. 8, an Arizona woman posted images of her injured son to Facebook, reporting a head injury as well as stitches and cuts to his face that stemmed from the skull breaker challenge.

“My son was asked to do a jumping contest with his 2 ‘friends,’ when he jumped up, the 2 boys kicked him, as hard as they could, so his legs flew out in front of him,” Valerie Hodson wrote. “He landed hard flat on his back and head, as he struggled to get up he lost consciousness, he fell forward landing on his face.”

“I really contemplated posting this, but I feel there needs to be awareness of this malicious cruel viral prank,” Hodson said.

Facebook: Valerie Hodson

Hodson’s son is not the only child to be hospitalized due to the skull breaker challenge. Teri Smith, a woman located in Alabama, also took to Facebook to discuss her son’s broken bones after falling victim to the prank.

“Prayers needed… Parker was unknowingly tiktok pranked which caused him to fall,” Smith wrote. 

Facebook: Teri Wimmer Smith

Similar pushes for awareness have been seen as impacts of the challenge have been felt by others around the country. In Portland, Oregon, 14-year-old Olivia Ross said she hit her head hard on the ground after she was tricked into the challenge by two seniors at her high school. 

“They just told me we were going to jump for a video. Of course I was excited since they were upperclassmen and they were asking me to be in their video,” Ross told KOIN 6. “But I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Ross and her mother, Lindsay Zobrist, decided the best course of action was to spread awareness of these types of viral pranks because they expect that many kids don’t know how dangerous they can be. They created a non-profit organization called Teaching Kindness Matters and are working to get school districts to include “pranking” in their definition of bullying. 

See what others are saying: (TODAY) (Forbes) (ABC13)

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