Little League International Adds Criminal History Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 1/5/2017
Individuals hoping to volunteer with Little League youth sports programs will soon be required to go through criminal history background checks. Per a report from PennLive, Little League International has mandated an expansion of its volunteer background checks for 2017. Previously, the organization only required its volunteers to submit to sex offender registry checks.

Little League International is the non-profit organization that administers Little League affiliated baseball and softball programs around the world. According to the organization’s website, Little League International has a presence on six different continents. The non-profit’s youth sports programs are active in the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, Australia, Germany, and many other countries globally.

Based on the PennLive report, it sounds as if Little League International’s new background check requirement will apply mostly to United States Little League programs. The organization offers local leagues access to a system called First Advantage Screening Services. The system is a multi-jurisdictional background check database, which reportedly consists of 281 million records. The database includes criminal and sex offender files collected from all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C. It is unclear what plans Little League International has for local leagues operating in foreign countries.

In the United States, Little League International has often been at the forefront of background checks for youth sports. Per the PennLive article, the organization initially began requiring background checks for some of its volunteers in 2003—before any other youth sports organization had begun calling for screenings. Several years later, the non-profit began mandating sex offender registry checks for all volunteers.

Along the way, Little League International began recommending that leagues conduct criminal history checks on their volunteers. The organization even offered each local league an annual allotment of 125 free checks through the First Advantage Screening Services database. Only in 2017, though, will all Little League volunteers be required to face these types of background checks.

The new rule requires local leagues to take criminal records “into consideration” when deciding whether to approve volunteers. Little League International will bar candidates for any crimes “involving or against minors.” The PennLive report did not specify if serious criminal convictions that did not involve minors—such as violent or drug offenses—would be grounds for disqualification. Little League International will likely consider such past offenses on a case-by-case basis, with the safety of league participants as the top priority.


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