DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Colorado is considering becoming the first state to require background checks for people who work for youth sports organizations.
Bill supporters argue that hairdressers and child care workers need criminal background checks, but not people going on overnight trips with young athletes.
“Youth sports are growing so fast in Colorado, and that’s great. But we need to make sure our kids are protected,” said Michelle Peterson, a Boulder County consultant who supports the measure.
The bill, which faced its first vote Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would require volunteers to get background checks, too, if they work with young people five or more times per month. Any employees or volunteers on overnight trips would need the checks.
“Tends to be pervasive in our society and we need to do at least the bare minimum to protect our kids,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder.
Peterson got involved in advocacy for young athletes after a boy on her son’s amateur hockey team lodged abuse allegations against a coach. Peterson says she was surprised that coaches working for school-based sports leagues already face background checks, but not people who work for private leagues.
“It’s a gaping hole,” Peterson said.
Peterson then wrote a background-check policy for the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association. She now consults sports organizations on developing policies and procedures to identify and prevent child abuse.
Background checks cost about $40 a year and would have to be renewed every two years for the sport-league employees, if the bill passes.
A fiscal analysis prepared for lawmakers estimated the change would affect some 60,000 adults who would need background checks.
The proposal comes after increased reports of sex abuse in independent youth sports leagues, which have little of the oversight faced by school athletics.
“Youth sports are an area where there is concern across the country,” said Heath.
Heath sponsored a related law that passed two years ago, to extend mandatory child-abuse reporting requirements to youth-sports volunteers.
Among the opposition include those who say background checks catch those arrested but don’t tell if they have been convicted.
LINK: Senate Bill 48
– Contributions to this post by Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
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