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Screening Coaches to Prevent Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports Organizations

August 24, 2018

The prosecution and conviction of the team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University on charges of sexually assaulting more than 160 young athletes rocked the nation in part because it had gone on for decades before he was ultimately brought to justice. The problem of children and young adults being sexually abused by coaches and others involved in supervisory roles in youth sports organizations is equally as prevalent and serious.

According to studies, one out of every four females and one out of every six boys are the victims of sexual abuse by the time they reach 18 years of age. Youth sports programs bringing children into contact with trusted adults provide the perfect environment for abusive behavior. There are steps organizations and parents can take to prevent their children from becoming victims, beginning with background screening of coaches and other adults supervising children.

Screening Coaches and Volunteers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youth sports organizations are good for youngsters because they promote close relationships between the children and coaches and adult supervisors. It is this close, trusting relationship that can expose children to abuse.

One method of identifying potential issues is through background screening of coaches and other adults who work with the children participating in the organization. The CDC recommendation is that all volunteers and paid individuals applying for positions within the organization who will be in contact with children should be screened.

It is recommended that organizations should not make exceptions to their screening policies simply because the individual is known to people within the organization. Someone who appears to be the kindest and nicest person could have a felony or misdemeanor conviction making the individual a risk to be in contact with children.

Background screening to reveal prior convictions is only part of the process organizations should have in place to identify individuals posing a danger to children participating in its activities. Organizations should be vigilant about updating their screening to disclose arrests occurring after the individual has been hired or chosen for the position.

State Requirements for Screening Adults Working in Youth Sports Programs

A bill signed into law by the governor in 2013 made California one of only a few states with laws pertaining to youth sports organizations and background checks of coaches, both paid and volunteer. The measure amended the penal code to permit youth organizations to request conviction and arrest records from the California Department of Justice for any person in a supervisory position over children and young adults.

The law provides a mechanism for an organization to ask the Department of Justice for updates about arrests occurring subsequent to the individual’s being hired or chosen by the organization. One thing the law does not do is make background screening mandatory.

How Can Parents Know If an Organization Screens Its Coaches and Personnel?

Parents with children participating in a youth sports program in California have the right to receive written notice about the organization’s policies regarding the screening of coaches. State law requires youth organizations that use background checks as part of their screening of coaches to let parents know if state and federal criminal records are part of the reports and the name of the source for the background checks.

Consequences of Not Screening Coaches and Other Adult Supervisors

The primary obligation of youth sports organizations is the safety and welfare of the children who participate in their programs. The failure of an organization to conduct background screening of the adults having contact with children can make it liable to pay compensation to a child who is sexually assaulted or abused.

A youth sports organization that relied upon applicants for coaching positions to voluntarily disclose convictions was sued when one of its coaches sexually assaulted a player. The court awarded damages in favor of the child against the organization for its failure to protect the child by conducting a background check.

Contact Us

Parents have the right to know the coaches to whom they entrust their children do not pose a threat of harm. When a child playing on a community sports team is the victim of sexual abuse, the organization could be responsible for paying compensation. The dedicated attorneys at The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP have spent more than 25 years in the aggressive pursuit of justice and adequate compensation for the victims of sexual abuse. If you believe your child has been abused, contact us now by calling (949) 502-8600 or use the form on our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an attorney.

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