TO OUR NEW ENGLAND
October 31, 2023
To our New England FIRST community,
FIRST New England was recently made aware that law enforcement arrested a FIRST Robotics Competition volunteer, Brian Lingard, in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. FIRST immediately terminated the volunteer’s affiliation with our organization. Since learning of this news, our leadership team has been in close communication with the FIRST Youth Protection Program and with Shrewsbury Public Schools. To help ensure the continued safety of our teams, we are sharing what we know with our community at large.
On Monday, an individual was arrested on charges relating to the possession of child pornography. Prior to the arrest, this individual served as a team lead for one of our robotics teams at a high school in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Upon learning of this news, FIRST immediately revoked this individual’s eligibility to participate in any FIRST activities or engage with teams in any capacity. We are in close communication with current leaders and members of the affected team, and we will continue to work with them in the coming days to ensure that they have the support that they need.
As noted in the statement issued by Shrewsbury Public Schools Superintendent Joe Sawyer, we are not aware of any information that would suggest that this individual acted inappropriately with students in the robotics program. In addition, as noted in the statement by Superintendent Sawyer, the arrested individual successfully completed regular background checks (which is a requirement for FIRST team leads). Nonetheless, we take this incident incredibly seriously, and we intend to fully cooperate with any inquiries that we may receive from law enforcement. If you have questions about the investigation or think that you might have pertinent information to share, we ask that you reach out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Project Safe Childhood hotline at (617) 748-3274 to speak with a victim witness advocate.
Across all FIRST programs, the care and safety of our students is our highest priority, and this news is deeply disturbing to us. As the Executive Director of FIRST New England, I want to underscore that we’re here to support not only the team that was directly associated with this individual, but all of our teams, participants and the amazing volunteers who serve them. It is our mission to ensure that all teams, students, mentors, and volunteers feel welcome and safe in this program, and that they adhere to the FIRST Code of Conduct. We want every member of our community to feel that they are able to speak to someone they trust when something does not seem right.
The FIRST Youth Protection Program is a key component of our youth safety commitment, and we implore all mentors and coaches to review its guidelines with their teams. The FIRST Youth Protection Program helps to ensure that coaches, mentors, event volunteers, employees, Program Delivery Partners, team members, parents, guardians of team members, and others working with FIRST programs have the resources (including information, guidelines, and procedures) to create safe environments for all FIRST participants. The FIRST Youth Protection Program sets minimum standards recommended for all FIRST activities.
As thorough as the FIRST Youth Protection Program is, it remains all of our responsibilities to remain vigilant in order to protect our community. Please reach out to Perla Lopez Freed, Senior Manager at the FIRST Youth Protection Program (email@example.com), or your FIRST Senior Mentor if you need additional resources at this time. We have provided links to additional FIRST Youth Protection resources below as well as resources related to the prevention of child abuse.
With all our best,
FIRST Youth Protection Program resources and contact information:
Phone: (603) 518-6793
200 Bedford Street
Manchester, NH 03101
Report Child Abuse and Neglect in Massachusetts
Toll-Free: (800) 792-5200
Child Pornography Prevention
To report an incident involving the possession, distribution, receipt, or production of child pornography, file a report on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)'s website at www.cybertipline.com, or call 1-800-843-5678. Your report will be forwarded to a law enforcement agency for investigation and action.