Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Leaders of private youth sports programs looking to impose strict background checks on coaches and other volunteers will soon have back up in state law.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation authorizing private youth sports groups to require background checks for coaches and other volunteers. In doing so, the legislation clarifies that the groups can access records kept by the Department of Justice, which includes nationwide data.
“In this day and age we need that extra protection,” said Debra Rogers, representing the San Diego-based Alliance for Background Checks in Youth Sports that pressed for the legislation.
The group originally sought tougher provisions to make background checks mandatory, but that ran into opposition because of the potential cost to sports groups in low-income areas that feared losing volunteers.
Background checks can cost between $50 to $70 each.
Nevertheless, Rogers called Brown’s signature a milestone in protecting children. Many parents automatically assume that coaches and other volunteers have been vetted. But not every program takes such precautions, she said.
“Awareness is growing,” said Rogers, vowing to try to secure passage of a tougher law next year.
The original bill was carried by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego. He later teamed with Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, to push through the compromise striking the mandatory background investigation but clarifying that programs have the authority to do so. Programs can also request that state officials notify them if a volunteer has a subsequent arrest.
“This is just good policy and a logical step toward protecting our most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Maienschein, a volunteer coach himself and father of two girls who play soccer.
“Children shouldn’t have to worry about the adults around them when they are out of their parents’ care. They have the right to be protected from anyone who would harm them. AB 465 helps to provide such protection so they can continue to be kids as long as possible.”
There are no exact figures available for the number of participants in youth sports. But the website of the San Diego Alliance for Background Checks in Youth Sports said it is estimated that in California more than 5 million children participate along with 875,000 coaches and volunteers.
The legislation will become effective Jan. 1.