While mandatory background checks for school employees, coaches, child care personnel and other individuals who may have contact with minors as part of their job are certainly useful, sometimes determined offenders can find a way around them. This is particularly true when it comes to private activities where oversight may be lacking and background check requirements become difficult to enforce.
One example of this problem comes from the state of Virginia, where a convicted offender repeatedly gained access to minors by coaching in private youth basketball leagues.
The offender, Antwain Fletcher, has two worrisome convictions on his record. The first one is a sexual battery conviction from 2010. This conviction is related to an incident involving a 17-year-old player that Fletcher was coaching at the time. In 2012, Fletcher was again convicted of a crime against a minor, namely taking indecent liberties. This minor in this case was 15 years old. Following this conviction Fletcher spent four months in jail.
A background check should have revealed the first conviction and prevented Fletcher from coaching again and having the opportunity to commit the second crime. For example, a national criminal search across multiple jurisdictions using a product like US OneSEARCH from backgroundchecks.com could have returned the first conviction, even though the incident took place in the neighboring state of North Carolina and Fletcher was coaching in Virginia. US OneSEARCh includes offender registries from every state.
However, Fletcher was able to avoid background checks by starting his own basketball team after his first conviction. This meant that he did not have any oversight from a school or other sponsoring organization. The local Amateur Athletic Union didn’t require background checks on coaches until 2012, so Fletcher was able to register his team for AAU events without a problem.
Parents were aware that Fletcher had been denied certification from the NCAA after failing a background check. Yet, buoyed by Fletcher’s promises that he could get basketball scholarships for their kids by having them play in tournaments that college recruiters attend regularly, the parents ignored the problem. Some parents even helped Fletcher out by registering his team for certain events in their own names, to prevent Fletcher’s criminal background from interfering with their kids’ chance at a scholarship.
After the second incident and conviction, parents no doubt felt betrayed by Fletcher and chagrined by their own complicity in helping him to coach minors and participate in various events. This story just goes to show that just having a policy that requires background checks is not enough. All individuals involved in the process must be fully committed to it and unwilling to help people like Antwain Fletcher slip through the cracks.
In the end, a background check is only valuable if people consistently execute it, know how to interpret it correctly and actually use that information to keep kids safe. If Fletcher had only had arrests on his record, the parents’ actions could have been explained away. After all, arrests are not proof of guilt and can’t legally be used as a sole deciding factor in denying someone employment opportunities. However, Fletcher had convictions that solidly indicated guilt. These convictions would have been revealed by a background check and should have been taken more seriously.
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Author: Michael Klazema