Local gym focuses on safety policy after Nassar case

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Whether at practice or a gymnastics competition, you can find Linda Higgins on the sidelines, coaching her 8-year-old daughter Layla, who has been a gymnast since she was 4.

“We have regional competitions coming up, so she's getting ready for that,” Higgins said.

But lately, Higgins, like many parents with children in gymnastics, has been keeping an even closer watch.

“As a mom, you just want to protect your kids,” she said.

Beth Morphis, director and co-owner of Salem Gymnastics & Swim, says the gymnastics community has been rocked since news broke about former Team USA Dr. Larry Nassar sexually abusing dozens of young girls for years.

“We were disgusted, of course, horrified,” Morphis said. “It was the pink elephant in the room. People were thinking about it. They were tiptoeing around it. And I just felt like the best thing to do was just talk about it.”

She sent a letter to students, parents and staff with all the steps the gym takes to keep kids safe.

“We background screen all of our employees,” Morphis said. “We have certain doors that have to stay locked and unlocked.”

The gym also has another big rule.

“Adults are never to be one on one with a child in this building,” Morphis said.

Higgins, whose daughter practices at the gym twice a week, says the scandal has forced her to start some tough conversations.

“We had to have the talk about inappropriate touching,” the mother said. “What that looks like. What that may feel like.”

“Unfortunately, you have to have these conversations younger and younger,” she said.

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