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Properly Completing Required Volunteer Background Checks Is a Must in Making Little Leagues Safer

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Feb. 15, 2008) – Little League Baseball and Softball is the first and only national youth baseball program to require background checks on its volunteers. For such piece of mind to be effective, local leagues must stay true to the intent of the regulation.

Dan Kirby, Director of Risk Management for Little League Baseball and Softball, has spoken to thousands of volunteers about the importance of completing the required background checks on all volunteers with repetitive access to children.

“The reality is, we really don’t know everyone who is living in our communities and neighborhoods,” Mr. Kirby said. “Everyone knows that Little Leagues must do the checks as part of a person’s eligibility to be considered as a volunteer, but too many leagues may not be doing the checks properly. We’ve found through our partnership with LexisNexis that for every 100 completed background checks, 14 percent discover criminal offenses.”

As stated on Pages 12-13 of the 2008 Little League Baseball Rule Book:

As a condition of service to the league, all managers, coaches, Board of Directors members and any other persons, volunteers or hired workers, who provide regular service to the league and/or have repetitive access to, or contact with players or teams, must annually complete and submit an official “Little League Volunteer Application” to the local league president. Annual background screenings must be completed prior to the applicant assuming his/her duties for the current season. Refusal to annually submit a fully completed “Little League Volunteer Application” must result in the immediate dismissal of the individual from the local league. (See Regulation 1 (b) and 1 (c) 8 and 9.)

This regulation has been in place since 2004, and includes the stipulation that no league shall permit any person to participate in a league in any manner whose background check reveals a conviction or guilty plea for a crime against a minor.

In the past three years, the technology has improved as has the information that is being made available from state to state, yet, leagues continue to take unintentional risks.

These risks are typically the result of changes in leadership as new volunteers replace those who leave the local board of directors. New board members may not fully understand the risks and tend to underutilize the information that is available through Little League’s collaboration with LexisNexis, or other separate independent background checks companies and agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
“We want to make sure leagues are properly checking everybody who wants to be a Little League volunteer,” Mr. Kirby said. “The tools provided help all of our leagues the opportunity to make better choices when it comes to protecting their interests.”

Often, local leagues fail to appreciate and understand the importance of properly conducting background checks.
“Every time I meet with volunteers, I hammer on the point that making smart choices increases the level of understanding, responsibility and accountability,” Mr. Kirby said. “Doing the minimum check meets the requirements, but doing all you can to protect your league is the essence of the regulation.

“The way I look at it is, you would never encourage anyone to do just the minimum they could do,” he said. “Checking only the national sex offender registry is doing just the minimum and not the recommended method of choice if you are interested in protecting the children and volunteers in your league.”

Doing a more thorough check may reveal a potential volunteer’s broader criminal history. By using LexisNexis, other crimes, such as embezzlement, assaults and drug-related offenses, can be discovered that are unrelated to crimes against a minor.

Little League International has received feedback from volunteers on how to make the background check process, through LexisNexis, easier and more secure. Many of your suggestions have yielded improvements to security measures for personal and credit card information, expediency and availability of information.

LexisNexis’s improvements and related information on conducting background checks can be found here: http://www.littleleague.org/common/childprotect/states.asp and http://littleleague.choicepoint.com.

“LexisNexis has corrected issues with charges to credit cards and using social security numbers,” Mr. Kirby said. “Incoming league board members also can find out electronically if their league has an account, and if not, they can create one. When finished, an e-mail reply is generated, automatically describing the status of the account.”

Still, with the ever-increasing amount information available, there remain several states that will only allow a “name-only” search. To that end, LexisNexis and other public information outlets are frequently posting photos of those individuals that are flagged.

LexisNexis continues to notify individuals if their name draws a hit on a name-only search. Upon receipt of a letter from LexisNexis, the recipient is informed that on a name-only search, that a person with the same name was convicted of a crime against a minor. Also included in the letter is the last known address of the offender along with a photo of the individual (if available).

The cost of fulfilling Little League’s background check requirement is offset by Little League International’s television contract with ESPN. Beginning with the 2007 season, the first year of an eight-year contract, each Little League in the United States received their first 80 checks for free through LexisNexis with each search above 80 costing only $1.

“The background checks were put in because we believe there was, and is, a necessity,” Mr. Kirby said. “We need all local leagues to take this same level of responsibility and accountability with the choices they make on behalf of the children and volunteers in their leagues.”