Many of the items we post on this site analyze situations where the allegations raise questions about whether child protection policies could have prevented the situation, or given the sports club a reason to terminate a volunteer’s services before the wrongful conduct occurred. However, in the terrible stories that come out of situations like these, it is easy to lose sight of the fact the child protection policies also serve to protect the volunteer from false allegations.
In Oklahoma, a respected youth softball coach is on trial facing charges that he molested a ten year old child on his team during a sleepover. (Full story here). The coach had a daughter on the team, and when the allegations were reported, he immediately informed the parents on the team he coached. Between the time of the report and his arrest, he was apparently permitted to continue to coach, and no parents removed their players from the team. After his arrest, he continued to watch his daughter play without protest from any other parents.
Leading up to trial, the victim’s story changed, leading to the most serious count against the coach being dropped. The trial continues on the remaining counts against him. We don’t know what happened. Perhaps he will be found guilty as charged; perhaps the changing stories will lead to an acquittal. However, we should ask how this coach got into a situation at a team sleepover where it is his word against the child. Sound child protection policies also protect the volunteers. A good two adult policy prevents false allegations. A good extra-organizational contact policy prevents situations like this one from arising.
When implementing a comprehensive child protection program, many coaches may resist and feel that they are being subjected to suspicion or extra scrutiny. It is important in introducing the plan to emphasize the great benefits such a program offers to the volunteers. False allegations can be as damaging to a coach as true allegations are to the child. Being accused of child molestation is a bell that can’t be unrung. In deciding whether to implement child protection measures, consider the benefit to your volunteers, as well as your players.
Update: Coach Found Not Guilty – Underscoring the importance of policies that avoid the potential for false accusations, a jury acquitted the coach in the story above after only two hours of deliberation. (Full story here). The coach had vehemently denied the charges, said his attorney, Eric Jones. “My client has always maintained his innocence,” he said. “The jury returned a verdict that reflected that. . . His denial has been constant,” Jones said. “He never wavered, though the story relayed by the girl changed four times.”
If we can assist you with a review of your current policies, or the creation of a comprehensive child protection plan, contact Scott Placek at 512-879-1655.