Posts Tagged ‘volunteers’

Child Protection Policies Protect Volunteers Too

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

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.

Information Sharing: Arrest of Mobile Coach Highlights Ongoing Challenges

Written by PC News on . Posted in Board Members, Governing Bodies, News, Volunteer Management, Volunteer Screening

The arrest of yet another coach/official on charges of child molestation highlight the ongoing need for information sharing between local sports associations.  Richard Perry, a Rhode Island baseball coach and umpire was arrested after “decades” of involvement in youth baseball.  (Full story here).  The story behind Perry’s arrest should trouble every state association.  Mr. Perry had a long record of service as a baseball coach and umpire.  He even umpired Little League World Series games at one point.  In 2004 a criminal complaint was investigated, but the allegations from the 1990s were deemed to be outside the statute of limitations.

Although Mr. Perry was informally “pushed out” of the baseball league he was working with, he continued to get umpiring assignments from other youth baseball groups.  Amongst his former association, the rumors and suspicion of his behavior were well known.  However, this local knowledge was never communicated outside the organization.  In youth soccer, we have much the same problem, and there seems to be no concerted effort to address this.

While individuals that fail criminal background checks or are suspended by D&P committees may be denied registration, there is little in the way of safeguards to prevent a coach who is denied participation by a local club from moving on to a different organization in the same state or even the same city.  While sharing this information in the past may have been an unreasonably difficult or expensive task, the current state of technology is such that information sharing is feasible if a state association has the commitment to making sure its local members know when other local clubs have rejected or terminated a volunteer.

At Placek Consulting, we have developed uniform volunteer screening procedures that can be used to implement an information sharing database.  Design and implementation of the database is not a prohibitive task.  The challenge is the commitment at the state or national level to making information sharing a priority.  The burden on the local level is miniscule.  In reality, few clubs terminate or reject more than a handful of volunteers a year.  Many clubs have never terminated or rejected a volunteer.  Implementing a statewide system of reporting those rare instances when volunteers are rejected or terminated would put only the smallest burden on the local club.

One possible reason that no information sharing system has been put in place yet may be a concern that information sharing could lead to accusations of defamation by a rejected volunteer.  However, this is again where Placek Consulting shines.  Our reporting forms are designed and reviewed by attorneys to make certain that the information reporting process does not expose the clubs and associations to those types of allegations.  If your state (or area) association is ready to commit to information sharing, let us guide you through the implementation of a properly designed and effective information sharing system.