Remember where you were when Subway spokesman Jared Fogle was arrested on child porn charges in July 2015? I do. I saw it on my phone at a youth soccer game. I immediately remembered two statistics: the average “seducer” molester victimizes 120 kids before he is caught, and for every serious incident reported, 10 go unreported. Fogle came up again in June 2016, when a judge denied his argument that he was innocent because all he did was watch child porn supplied by the executive director of his foundation. Yeah, Jared, you HIRED the executive director.
Remember the first time you heard about a big youth league theft? I do. I was fifteen, and it was the Little League in my home town, Carmel, California. Someone endangered the season by stealing $3,000 (it was 1974…$3,000 was big money then). There have been tens of thousands of youth league thefts since then.
What can you do to prevent your league from Jared’s and thieves? Background screening is a great start. Because screening data availability from federal and state databases has improved so much in the past five years, you can significantly cut your league’s risks by screening folks who haven’t been previously screened.
While screening is now better and faster, it’s still politically complicated. You’re screening your friends and neighbors. Sure, if you find a serial check-thief or a convicted sex offender, you saved your league from near-certain victimization. But what if what you discover is merely cringe-producing, like a missed child support payment or a personal bankruptcy or a 10-year-old drunk driving conviction? How does your league draw the line, and what do you do with the information? After all, there is always the threat that by leaking something embarrassing, the league could get sued. (Although league Directors and Officers insurance coverage, aka “D&O,” often covers lawsuit costs.)
And youth league volunteer screening is pricey, from $9 to $35 each time you pull a report. That means that if you have 250 coaches and a board of 20, that’s going to run you somewhere between $2,430 and $9,450. That’s the cost of several teams’ tournament entry fees, travel to those away games, or replacement of old equipment that’s damaged and dangerous.
So what’s the best practice for youth league background checking? Here is your 2-point short course.
1. Have your league decide to screen volunteers of certain types, including your board, once, then again at least annually for newcomers. Then, follow two basic rules: First, disclose to everyone (on you website, for example) that you screen volunteers, and the offenses or findings that would disqualify an applicant or current volunteer. Second, collect the minimum amount of information necessary to accomplish the goal, and don’t keep the info around so it can be accidentally released.
2. Pick a background screening company. Starting August, 2016, on the LeagueNetwork.com Buyer’s Guide, you can pick from several dozen screening companies who serve youth leagues and volunteer organizations. In the meantime, check the National Association of Background Screeners, www.napbs.com. Stick with companies that confirm to the Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA, and who do both federal and local (at least state-level) checks. The services that may be satisfactory for your league offer “minimalist” screens, and example of which is the “red,” “green” scale. While not giving you the specific reason for the designation, these scales allow you to set the “red” level, or what is “unacceptable” for your league, such as a conviction for sexual molestation or financial theft or violence against a sports official. “Acceptable” or “green” would be everything else, the specifics of which are not shown on the reports to protect you and your league from inadvertent disclosure.