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Safety Spotlight: Background Checks Help to Protect Little Leaguers® and Local League Volunteers

Volume 3 | Issue 1 | January 2015 | Archive
Safety Spotlight: Background Checks Help to Protect Little Leaguers® and Local League Volunteers
Little League® invites and encourages everyone to get involved with their local league, but to be a Little League volunteer; several safeguards are in place to protect the children, the volunteers, and the league itself.

Little League International was the first youth sports organization to require each of its local leagues to annually conduct a nationwide background check on its volunteers as part of its Child Protection Program. When parents and other adults show an interest in volunteering their time, each must annually complete, sign, and submit a Little League Volunteer Application along with a government-issued photo ID to the local league. This is required for all potential managers, coaches, local Board members, and any other persons, volunteers, and/or hired workers who provide regular services to a local league or who have repetitive access to, or contact with, players or teams.

As of August 1, 2014, only a few state statutes mandate background checks for non-school associated activities involving youth sports and athletics. However, there are certain municipal ordinances and administrative regulations that require background checks. Local leagues must determine the applicability of, and comply with, all state, local and municipal laws, administrative rules and regulations and municipal ordinances regarding background checks including, but not limited to, sex offender registry checks, criminal history records or reports, fingerprinting, certifications or other requirements associated with volunteers, coaches, participants and/or employees. Failure to comply with this regulation may result in the suspension or revocation of a league’s tournament privileges and/or its Charter by action of the Charter or Tournament committee in Williamsport, Pa.

New legislation in several states, including Alabama, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, has identified other crimes that would automatically exclude volunteer participation. Little League strongly encourages families living in these states to review the Little League Child Protection program (highlighted above), and suggests that each local league review its state laws regarding service to volunteer organizations. Additional information regarding state laws on background checks for leagues is available online at the Little League website.

Throughout the United States, the information available regarding an individual’s criminal history varies according to the access permitted to state records. In some states, certain criminal charges or convictions that do not involve a child also serve as disqualifying offenses due to state law for individuals wishing to volunteer in organizations operated within those states. Little League asks its leagues to utilize the resources available to research its volunteers, and requires, at a minimum, that each league conduct a check of the National Sex Offender Registry. Each year, Little League pays for each of its leagues to conduct its first 125 background checks, with any additional checks costing the league only $1 if using the services provided through First Advantage.

Local leagues must be aware of the impact and legal ramifications of these crimes when conducting the required annual Little League background checks. Using the statutes in the state of Florida as an example, crimes related to burglary (Section 810.02); theft, robbery or related crimes, if the offense is a felony (Chapter 812); and felonious fraudulent sale of a controlled substance (Section 817.563) are just some of the crimes that will exclude a person from participating in a volunteer organization such as Little League®.

The safety of the children playing Little League, on and off the field, is of the utmost importance to Little League International. Background checks are a great resource for our local leagues to assist in approving proper volunteers, while assuring they will be in compliance with Little League regulations and local laws. Little League also encourages parents and guardians to play an active role in their Little Leaguers activities, to ensure their children are having a safe, fun Little League experience.
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The Parent Connection - January 2015 - Archive