The city of Columbus, Nebraska is yet another American town that is cracking down on potential sex offenders and other dangerous criminals in its youth sports organizations. According to a recent report from the Associated Press, the town has expended over $10,000 and run over 500 background checks to ensure that youth sports can offer a safe and friendly environment for kids and teenagers. The background checks have been targeted at volunteers for the youth sports organizations, including coaches, referees, and other officials.
Columbus, Nebraska is a relatively small town, with a population of about 22,000 as of the 2010 census. Considering the town’s size, the initiative to screen youth sports volunteers and to spend thousands of dollars in the process has been a daunting and expensive one. However, the city’s Human Resources Director, a man named Mike Oglevie, told the Associated Press that he was proud of the community and the city government for shouldering the cost and fighting to make sure that children can be safe in athletic environments meant to facilitate fun and competition.
The new background check policy requires all sporting volunteers who share close contact with youth players to undergo a screening process on an annual basis. The checks look at criminal history, with a focus on checking sex offender registries and uncovering any past instances of violence or child abuse. Whether the screenings check national criminal records or are merely conducted on an in-state basis was not revealed. Backgroundchecks.com offers similar checks to those used in Columbus, including traditional criminal and sex offender searches.
For the people of Columbus, Nebraska, there were a number of impetuses for the new youth sports background check initiative. Oglevie told the Associated Press that, for a long time, he was just generally disturbed by statistics about sexual abuse in youth sports. Two separate events – the first a local instance where a police officer reported having seen a known registered sex offender at a youth sports event, the second a national news story concerning the sexual abuses of Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach at Penn State University – ultimately spurred the town to action. So far, Oglevie reports that all of the background checks have come back clean, with no “Penn State type report(s)” to speak of.
The newfound dedication to background checks in Columbus, Nebraska isn’t confined to sporting organizations, either. The town has plans to run background checks on volunteers at the local public library as well.