The Parks and Recreation Department in Forsyth County, Georgia will soon implement a new background screening policy. Per local coverage, the policy focuses largely on ensuring that background checks are happening for all volunteers and independent contractors, including in youth sports. Parks and Rec board members reviewed and voted in favor of the new policy at the beginning of October. This week, county commissioners gave the policy their stamp of approval—the final step necessary to implement the checks.
According to a report from the Forsyth County News, one Parks and Rec board member said background checks were already happening in most cases, but there was no “streamlined” policy that applied to all Parks and Rec Department activities. There was also nothing in place to guarantee that all independent contractors and volunteers were getting background checks.
One board member claimed that in youth sports, the head coach usually gets a background check but assistant coaches don’t. The board member claimed finding people for head coaching positions is easier than finding people to fill assistant roles. Often, the head coach will just “grab whatever dad” is available to help. In those situations, background checks have often gone overlooked, the board member explained to reporters.
According to administrators, the new Parks and Rec Department policy should prevent such oversights from occurring in the future. Per a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the new policy will require annual background checks for all volunteers and independent contractors who work “directly with at-risk clients.” At-risk populations, as defined by the policy, include kids under the age of 18 and people with disabilities. The Parks and Rec Department will also run background checks on anyone who works in an office or rec center, anyone whose role involves the handling of money, and anyone who frequently works without the supervision of Parks and Rec staff members.
Per reports, in addition to helping to ensure volunteers and contractors are properly vetted, the new Parks and Rec policy outlines past convictions that can disqualify potential personnel. Anyone whose criminal record includes a violent felony conviction or sexual offense will be barred for life. Other offenses can lead to disqualification depending on their relevance to the volunteer or contract position and how long ago they occurred. For instance, a non-violent misdemeanor triggers a disqualification if it occurred within the past three years, while a violent misdemeanor will bar a candidate if it took place within the past decade.
The Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department has not yet announced which types of background checks it will be using to vet volunteers and contractors.