Posts Tagged ‘volunteer screening’

Who Checks the Background Check?

Written by PC News on . Posted in Coaches, News, Volunteer Screening

How One Simple Omission Puts the Entire System at Risk

I am generally reticent to give specific risk management advice online.  Every club is different and there is no one size fits all solution.  People ask for forms, but forms don’t address your specifics.  A risk management consultant can start with a template, but it is their expertise that let’s them customize the program to fit the specific needs of your association.  Risk management requires an investment of capital and human resources.  A program for a 1000 player club may not be feasible for a 200 player club.  This is what your consultant understands, and it is the reason that I hesitate to give blanket advice online or in my presentations.

After my last three presentations, though, I am going to make one exception, and I will make it because I think it proves two points.  First, it proves that whatever benefits criminal background checks yield, and there are some, there is an equal or greater risk of complacency that comes with the knowledge that those checks are being performed.  The second point is just as significant.  It proves that there is a reason clubs should rely on risk management professionals, instead of trying a “do it yourself” approach to risk management.  We have had background checks in Texas for ten years.  The advice I am about to give it so simple, the usual response I get is open mouths or gasps because people realize they have borne this risk for years and years.  If this simple procedure hasn’t been implemented in ten years, is it really feasible to think that you can create a functional risk management program by web surfing and forming a committee?

Cheer Coach Arrest Again Illustrates Limitations of Criminal Background Checks

Written by PC News on . Posted in Coaches, Molestation, Volunteer Management, Volunteer Screening

A Dallas area cheer and dance coach was arrested while attempting to board a flight for France on charges of molesting three of his students. (Full Story Here).  A variety of stories are posted on the internet that detail various aspects of the case.  These articles paint a picture that is far too familiar.  Moreover, the articles and the comments of the police highlight a growing myth in risk management that frankly is reaching the point of creating as much or more risk to the participants than it prevents.  The issue again, is the over-reliance on background checks, and the myth that conducting a background check somehow absolves the association of the need to do anything further.

Let’s be clear.  Criminal background checks are a good thing.  They serve a purpose as one part of a risk management plan.  However, they are simply that.  One part.  Let’s remember that criminal background checks have very clear limitations:

  • They only detect people who have previous criminal convictions.  Since a NIMH study reported that the average child molester begins molesting by age 15, engages in a variety of deviant behavior, and molests an average of 117 youngsters, most of whom do not report the offense, it is clear that much abuse takes place well before the initial arrest or conviction of an offender.  Those people will not be caught by a criminal background check.
  • There is no national database for criminal background checks available to private parties.
  • Each state has different standards for what offenses are reported to their state database.
  • Many background checks screen by how recent and how serious the offenses are.  Older, minor offenses may not cause a background screen to return with a red flag.
  • Most background checks will not detect civil actions such as lawsuits or restraining orders.

Yet despite these known shortcomings of background checks, the police in this case still made the extraordinary statement that “”[t]he gym did the background checks. They did everything they needed to do to ensure to themselves and to the parents and the children that it was a safe environment to be.”  But the reports received to date suggest that there were many red flags that a good risk management program would address.  Let’s look at some of the reported facts:

  • The coach had worked for three gyms in a short period of time.
  • The coach was fired from one gym for inappropriate communication.
  • The coach had pictures of himself shirtless with young girls in bikini type clothing on his publicly viewable social media page.
  • The coach was known to offer private lessons to some girls.
  • At least one gymnast reported that he was “creepy” and made her feel “uncomfortable.”

Even setting aside the subjective feelings of a young gymnast, how many issues are identified that a good risk management program addresses?  The private lessons are extra-organizational contact, time with students away from the supervised environment of the gym.  Why was this permitted by the gym?  Did the screening include looking at his social media pages, which showed him shirtless with young girls in non-gym settings?  What type of reference checking was done between the three gyms he worked at, or was he considered a “prize catch” who might bring new students/customers with him, so checking with a competitor was not considered?  Who did the gym that fired him for inappropriate communication report that to?  Child protection?  Police?  A sanctioning body?  Or did they just let him go on his way?  The inappropriate communication was via text message.  Were there no policies prohibiting the coaching staff from texting minor children?

And I have one simple question: Other than running a criminal background check, what was your risk management plan?  Far too often, the answer is nothing.  So, finally, can we please stop pretending that running a criminal background check is “doing everything”  that can be done.  It is doing one small part; but it is not addressing the far greater risks that are out there.  And that is the danger of the criminal background check.  People see it as a cure-all or a get out of jail free card.  What it ought to be seen as is one piece of a jigsaw puzzle.  And if you only place the one piece, not only are you not finished, you have barely started.

Information Sharing: Vagabond Gymnastics Coach Arrested for Molestation and Child Porn

Written by PC News on . Posted in Coaches, Molestation, Volunteer Screening

Once again, a story of a coach who has bounced from place to place ends in arrests, molestation charges and huge potential liability for the club that hired him. (Full story here.)  A Broward County, Florida gymnastics coach was arrested and facing charges relating to the molestation of an underage student he coached in gymnastics.  In the course of the investigation, his computer was seized and last week federal charges were filed against him for attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor, possession of child pornography and the attempted receipt of child pornography.  It may not be surprising to find the two crimes occurring together, but a different revelation in this article should be shocking and worrisome to every group that uses volunteers or paid coaches to work with youth.

As it turns out, this coach was accused of molesting other gymnasts at gyms he worked for in both Missouri and Illinois.  In Illinois, he even plead guilty to a charge of misdemeanor battery.  However, because of the passage of time and the misdemeanor nature of the offense, many criminal background screens would not have flagged the coach as a risk.  This case again highlights the problems with a lack of information sharing between youth sports organizations.  A coach may move from association to association, with bad outcomes at each stop, but unless there is a recent, serious criminal conviction, the background checking process will not prevent the coach from working or volunteering and putting more kids at risk.

At Placek Consulting, we are well aware of the problems of information sharing and are working hard to address the issue.  Our volunteer screening training is one way we help clubs overcome this hurdle.  Let us assist you in designing a volunteer screening process, and training your association to implement it.  Volunteers come and go, and unless you put the effort into proper screening, you could be on the wrong end of a story like this one!