Town Aims to Improve Background Check Compliance for Youth Sports Coaches and Volunteers

By Michael Klazema on 6/14/2013

In the town of Phillipsburg, PA, officials are considering changes to their background check laws that will hopefully improve the safety of local kids during youth sports activities and events.

There is already a law in place in Phillipsburg requiring youth sports coaches and volunteers to pass criminal background checks. However, council members have identified two main shortcomings with the current law.

First of all, the town’s law does not require background checks on umpires. Since these individuals will have opportunities to have contact with kids before, during, or after sporting competitions, it seems logical to include them on the list of individuals who need background checks.

When performing background checks on adults associated with youth sports, it is vital to use a national product such as US OneSEARCH from This ensures that out-of-state criminal convictions are not overlooked. US OneSEARCH is a particularly good choice of background check tool for positions relating to minors because it automatically includes a search of the Offender Registries, in addition to a search of over 450 million criminal records culled from state and local databases across the country. The broad scope of this search would give town authorities and parents peace of mind that they are not allowing children to be exposed to predators.

Requiring national background checks on all adults associated with youth sports activities in Phillipsburg is a good start. But after experiencing problems with compliance in the past, the town council realized there was a second problem with their law: there were no consequences for non-compliance.

Accordingly, town attorney Richard Wenner wrote a revision to the law to give it “teeth” or an enforcement mechanism. Wenner’s proposed change to the background check law specifies that each youth sports team must submit a certified list of coaches and volunteers who have passed their background checks to the town’s recreation director at least 30 days before the beginning of the season. Failing to do so would result in the team being banned from use of town athletic equipment and facilities.

The proposed new provisions of the law also allow the recreation director to take this action in the middle of a season if a team is proven to be allowing unscreened individuals who were not on their original list to work with kids.

Critics of the proposal point out that it may unfairly punish youth athletes for adults’ errors by preventing them from participating in sports if their coaches fail to comply with the town’s background check law. However, many parents would probably prefer that their kids be safe at home, rather than out with an individual whose suitability for working with kids has not been proven with a background check, even if that means their kids don’t get to play sports.

The proposed changes will be read at the next town council meeting, and local youth sports coaches and organizations will have an opportunity to respond. It’s hard to argue against measures designed to keep kids safe from predators, and the proposal is expected to pass.


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