Remember When We Fingerprinted CRIMINALS? Now We Fingerprint Coaches

Hi Readers: Two words — Jerry Sandusky — will be invoked for the next umpteen years to justify background checking every male who interacts with children. Let’s remind those folks that if anyone HAD background checked Jerry Sandusky he’d  have looked as trustworthy as a golden retriever. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: My hubby who has been coaching our boys hockey for 16 years just received a letter from our police to come in and submit fingerprints in order for him to continue coaching.  The new policy requires this. Fingerprinting!! Never mind that we already have ‘safeguards’ in place.  Each team has at least 3 coaches and there must always be 2 coaches present with the players at all times if parents aren’t there.  Now they have to submit to not only a background check but be fingerprinted in order to ascertain that you haven’t changed your name after a conviction.  What can you do? If you want to keep involved in your child’s sport you don’t have a choice.
Sad that volunteers are under constant suspicion and offensive to have to be treated this way. — Nathalie Delage

If you are male, you’re guilty till fingerprinted innocent.

51 Responses

  1. My husband is a high school football coach and was formerly a middle school football coach. He’s been finger printed and background checked for every team he’s coached for, paid and unpaid. It is the new normal. Sad but true.

  2. My children aren’t to an activity-participating age yet (they’re barely 1 1/2 years old) but I really think that should the day come that I or my husband is asked to be finger-printed in order to participate in some sort of activity with our kids, we will most likely decline. And when the kids ask why, we’ll be as honest with them as is possible for their age at the time. And try to keep the ranting to a minimum…

    As Lenore points out, if Sandusky had been fingerprinted, he still would have appeared to be safe. What’s appalling about this case is not that he was allowed access to children to begin with but that when it was discovered that he was abusing his position, he was STILL allowed access.

  3. We are marching faster towards a totalitarian regime everyday. I believe as a christian that the tribulation is fast approaching and the only hope is repentance. This should not be being done. I would take my son our of sports and resign from coaching before I submitted to that type of treatment. I am not a criminal either but I refuse to be treated like one because everyone seems to trade their freedom for peace of mind. People who do that, deserve neither freedom or peace of mind.

  4. Just today I had another stupid argument with my daughters sporting club. The powers to be want all volunteers to have a police check done. About a week ago I recieved the forms to fill out. Being a teacher for 10 years, I have to have a police check every 3 years, plus complete refresher courses on recognising and reporting child abuse. Thinking that the clearence I recieve every 3 years would satisfy the club my daughter attends, they told me that this was not good enough as it does not say in the letter that this clearence is for volunteers. I tried to explain that if I ran around getting photocopies of id, then going to the police station to get everything signed and then waiting about a month I will receive exactly the same letter because the police use exactly the same database to do a search for teahcers, volunteers or any other person who needs a police clearence. The powers to be would not shift on thier views and told me I cannot volunteer if I do not get a new police clearence. I can still attend all practices and attend every match. I just cannot put a bandaid on any cuts or look after puffers for the children. Dont get me wrong, I have no problem with having a police check, although I understand their limitations in protecting children, I just dont understand why I need 2 or 3 letters that say the same thing, all because I did not tick the box that said volunteer.

  5. My husband wants to volunteer and teach a free Capoeira class for at risk kids in our community at the local rec center where our daughter attends preschool.

    Not only did he have to submit to fingerprints but the place he had to go to get finger printed is on the oposite side of town from his work and it is only open from 11-3 M-F. He had to take time out of his workday to do this because we live in Los Angeles and driving to the oposite side of town and back for fingerprints takes much longer than the lunch hour.

    After getting them done the new director of the rec center, who came in to the position while he was waiting for his fingerprints to be processed, interrogated him about WHY he would want to teach a free class. He explained that he’s been training for almost a decade, recently graduated, it’s time for him to have his own students, we just move to LA so he doesn’t have built in students like he did in our old city so he thought community kids would be a great first bunch of students in a new city.

    She asked so many pressing questions it was obvious she was suspicious of him and continued to press him to the point where he decided that he would rather teach adults for money than kids for free. We live in a part of town with plenty of at risk kids who would benefit from capoeira yet my husband, a wonderful father of a young child, was made to feel like such a potential threat to children that he decided not to pursue volunteering in our community any further. It’s a sad world where people can’t do nice things for the kids in their community.

  6. Why is Jerry Sandusky the only one on trial? This wasn’t a case of an outcry – where a child makes an accusation. Adults WITNESSED the abuse. and protected the abuser. Why aren’t they going after every member of the administration who aided him in his abuse of kids, by covering it up.

    Why is the US Attorney General allowing the BSA and Catholic church to get away with moving abusers around and hiding them? They blame the statute of limitations. Why not use RICO – it is an on going criminal conspiracy to silence and blame victims, while protecting the predators. That means the statute of limitations hasn’t kicked in yet, because the crime is on going.

    Instead they make show of protecting kids that rivals the TSA show against terrorism. We need to call the politicians on this garbage and tell them to stop grandstanding and actually go after the 100’s of known predators being protected by these institutions and every one of the scumbags that are protecting the predators.

  7. As far as giving your fingerprints when you’re working with children in a professional capacity, that is par for the course. I was fingerprinted when getting my teaching license, and it has to be updated periodically. I don’t mind doing it for my profession, though ultimately, I don’t know if it is at all effective in stopping predators from teaching. However, I would resent having to do it as a volunteer.

    As far as the Penn State thing goes, Jerry Sandusky isn’t the only one on trial. The assistant coach who witnessed it and didn’t say anything is also on trial, and (I believe) another man, too. And it wasn’t until recently that there was any evidence that anyone else in the upper echelons of Penn State knew what was going on. Do I think they knew it and looked the other way? Yes, I do. And I think they should be made to answer for their actions. However, charges cannot even be filed without a certain amount of evidentiary support, and since you cannot prosecute someone for the same crime twice, I understand why prosecutors might be waiting to gather more evidence before bringing anyone else to trial.

  8. Excellent point that Sandusky would have passed a background check and finger printing. I will keep that one in my holster of sanity. Pa-pow!

  9. Whatever happened to “Innocent until proven guilty”? Is that not one of the foundations of the Western world? Fingerprinting volunteers is very much a “guilty until proven innocent” approach, and has no place in our society.

    Lenore, I think you’re onto something as big as the original Free Range Kids movement, and I’ll be with you 100% if you explore this avenue further.

    To the other volunteers and coaches out there, please don’t put up with this form of treatment. Please decline to be fingerprinted and clearly express your reason for declining (it can be summarized in two words: Civil Liberties). The teams and activities may suffer in the short term until the policies are reversed, but the children will benefit in the long run.

  10. Now that you are mentioning fingerprinting…
    Any tourist entering the United States is fingerprinted. It’s a nightmare for us europeans to pass the border at the airport. We sure feel welcome.
    To make things easier, we have our fingerprints saved in the chip of our new passports.

  11. Unfortunately “innocent until proven guilty” has been replaced by “trial by media”. I personally know people who have been accused of a crime and then found innocent at trial. The problem is that by the time they were cleared, they had already lost their job, had their bank account cleaned out to pay for a lawyer and in one case had already lost his wife and family. The few times the media reported their innocence the report was slanted to make it look like they bought their way out or got away with it.

  12. I work for a nature center and am subject to regular background checks from three local school districts who send their students through nature education programs at the center plus the one required by the state to license the nature center’s day camps. I have been fingerprinted by one school district and, again for state licensing, by the nature center. None of the school districts will accept the nature center’s background check (perfomed once when I was hired and on an annual basis each year). I can’t help but think that if background checks are like credit checks, where the number of times one’s data has been accessed is recorded and that information available to those who access it in the future, I must look like a convicted criminal and repeat offender despite never having commited a crime greater than a speeding ticket (they show up on most background checks, btw).

    Also, I see this site hasn’t yet picked up on the news about the “common occurance” of people dying when the large holes they have dug in the sand at the beach collapse in on them. This is so “common” that there are upwards of 31 cases reported in the last 20 years… Watch out parents! your kids might dig themselves to death at the beach! /facepalm

  13. I only need to be checked once every 5 years for my children’s school if I choose to volunteer. I wanted to help out at the previous school, so, finally, I went ahead and did it. The new school, just 6 months after the switch, said that I need to go through another criminal record check. Wait… What???? So, I appealed that decision verbally, and the principal said “you’re right. and they are good for 5 years. You’re clear.”

    That was a principal ago. The new one hasn’t asked yet, but I’m not volunteering either.

  14. I am a RN that takes care of Mentally Ill people. I was finger printed over 15 years ago when I started my job. This is nothing new! I feel anyone whom works with vulnerable people should have a background check…….. That goes for people working with children, mentally ill and disabled, and the elderly.

    The policy two adults must always be present at practices is a good one too. It protects the adults from false accusations as well as the kids.

    Personally – if I knew background checks were not being implemented – I would probably be less of a free range parent.

    My brother’s youth basketball coach was charged as a pedophile taking many indecent liberties with kids. My Elementary School Principal was arrested for taking indecent liberties with kids. The fact is – people who want access to kids volunteer to be coaches, Principals, teachers, Priests……. they screw it up for the rest of us. My dh is a Robotics Instructor at our after school robotics class. He was required to get a background check and fingerprinted.

  15. Seven years ago, I had to have a background check to be able to coach my daughters’ 4th grade basketball team. It took several weeks because of a backlog and I was not allowed to practice with the girls until it was completed. At the time, I was posted at the White House in the White House Communications Agency and at various times had traveled with the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State to provide secure communications all over the world. I wasto travel with three of the most powerful men in the world, but could not be alone with seven 8 year olds, two of which belonged to me!

  16. Well Kristie – you should understand about background checks. My dh’s job requires the highest level along with a 6 hour polygraph test for his job. We have to submit all our financial data to his employer at the end of each year. He did not mind the little one the School required.

  17. That’s become standard practice in Canada. When you get a background check done for work with children, if someone of your gender and birthdate comes up in the system, you have to get fingerprinted to confirm you’re not that person. They say it’s something like one in four men and something like one in ten women has to get fingerprinted, but I have a friend who’s entire group of something like 15 men had to get printed. And because of the backlog, it takes up to 8 months to get the results, as opposed to the week it takes for those who aren’t printed. It’s slightly ridiculous.

  18. I’m a teacher in Indiana and our state law requires us to get a federal background check, state background check, and one from each county you’ve ever lived in. None of these are free. I spent almost $200 in background checks! What exactly would someone do that would be serious enough not to hire or to fire someone for that would only be recorded at a county level, anyway?

  19. If it prevented anything I’d be all for it. It doesn’t though. It just gives people a false sense of security.

    Preventing sexual abuse requires that supervisors watch for signs that something isn’t right (coach is rooming with kids, coach is grabbing on female students in the hallways) and do something about it when it happens. Fingerprinting does nothing.

  20. Do we also fingerprint politicians, police, celebrities, and others?

  21. “My brother’s youth basketball coach was charged as a pedophile taking many indecent liberties with kids. My Elementary School Principal was arrested for taking indecent liberties with kids.”

    Were either of these individuals CONVICTED child molesters when the incidents occurred? I highly doubt it since they would never have been hired. You do realize that fingerprints are not actually crystal balls? They only tell whether a person has previously been convicted of a crime. They don’t tell you whether someone is likely to commit a crime or their sexual proclivities.

    I’ve been working as a public defender for more than a few years now. Our office has represented at least 50 accused child molesters during the last 5 years. I can count on one hand the number who would have failed a background check due to prior sex charges (some more may have failed because of previous convictions of a nonsexual nature).

  22. All coaches should revolt and refuse to comply. People only pull crap like this if they’re allowed to get away with it. If parent coaches boycotted such pettiness I bet things would turn around pretty quickly.

  23. “What exactly would someone do that would be serious enough not to hire or to fire someone for that would only be recorded at a county level, anyway?”

    Crimes are prosecuted on a county level. Those records are then provided to the state by the county. What shows up on your criminal history depends on how well many people do their jobs. As a result, state criminal records are often incomplete. I look at state generated criminal histories for each of my clients. It’s quite common for clients to tell me they’ve been convicted of crimes that appear nowhere on their state generated criminal history. Entries of arrests with no dispositions and prison time with no corresponding arrest or conviction are found in most of the criminal histories I review. If you really want a proper criminal history, you have to do it on a county level.

  24. I emailed several school districts to ask about the background check policies. What I’ve learned from the couple that have come back is they are not necessarily looking for pedophiles. They are looking for other convictions like drugs. I still believe wholeheartedly that there is no reason to background check parents that will always be will a school (or sport) staff member who has undergone these checks but I can see parents who are coaching or otherwise going to be unsupervised. However, I really think that drug addicts aren’t going to be bothered trying to help with thier kid’s activities (sorry to categorize, maybe there are some really involved addicts) and there are too many sex offenders that have never been caught for it to do much good.

    Maybe it would be good if we all stopped submitting to these needless background checks. If a parent wants to coach a kid’s team and can’t do it without a background check I bet that signs around the neighborhood (or fb invites or somethng) would gather enough kids to create a couple of new teams that could play apart from the organization. Even better, if the kids who are playing on these new teams bring the equiptment and it’s played at a park or someplace where the field is free to use the teams could be free. How great would that be for some neighborhood families that might like to play but can’t afford it?

  25. I had to be fingerprinted to substitute teach – after teaching for years and also passing all the background checks. I had to drive 50 miles to be fingerprinted – so that is 100 miles round trip. Then I had to do it again because the prints didn’t take. I drove another 100 miles only to be told that my prints must be rubbed off due to age, chemicals, cooking, etc. Eventually, I was told that since I had passed all the other background checks that they would allow me to sub. Really? By then, I’d gotten my blog going and was happy to be home. Lenore – I’m so happy to see that you are supporting Let Children Play. Katie Norris and I used your book as a reference in our new book. The Happy Mommy Handbook. We will have a guest post on Let Children Play this week called: The Importance of Play and Not Being a Helicopter Parent. I love your blog!

  26. Even though I live in a town that has squat for decent jobs for single parents, I am glad our schools have not hit the hysteria point yet. I have been a chaperon for my sons orchestra trip to a nearby amusement park for 2 years now, in charge of 11 boys the first time and 22 kids under my direct supervision the second time as well as being responsible for making sure an entire coach bus full of people was accounted for both ways.

    No one has ever asked me for a back ground check, made me submit fingerprints or anything. The teachers know me through my son and my time helping at school, conferences and other communications. I also know the teachers via the same means.

    You can get a lot more info from a person and an idea of the type of person they are by talking with them than you can from a bunch of paperwork. I stay in a town that is difficult for ME to live in because it is a much easier place for my KIDS to live in.

  27. My husband runs a computer club at lunchtime in our local high school. He signs in (and out) at the door, gets the key and takes the group in an extra classroom. (one of the group is our eldest) There is usually a teacher present. Sometimes he brings a visitor with interesting stuff who also has to sign in and out.

    That’s it.

    End of story.

    Background checks happen when you apply for teachers college. Volunteers are welcomed gratefully. Even my teacher aid paid position did not require any sort of check. They already know who I am because of my kids.

    There will always be the occasional problem but no amount of background checks are ever going to tell you where that problem is and for this stupidity, you are losing all the good that comes from being part of the school community.

    viv in nz

  28. I had this conversation today. If you are innocent why not submit to finger prints or background checks or searches if it will keep us safe? This kind of thinking leads to fear and mistrust. The very things that work against strife safe communities.

  29. My husband quit his tenure as a little league and soccer coach this year b’c of the background check rule. They are calling and begging for coaches, but we refuse to be guilty until proven innocent. We are also more than a little grumpy that the league is up-charging the costs of the background check and making money off of them. Hey, why not make a little money if it is in the best interest of the children?

  30. TRS, I have my kids play in a soccer league (if you can call it that as they only have practice and then scrimmage on Saturday mornings.) The cost is $5 per kid, to help cover goals and pinnies. There is no background check, of anyone. There is nothing that parents have to do to sign in or out, or make special arrangements if a kid is leaving with a different person than they came with. All that is up to the parents. They ask, but don’t require, that a parent stay for the practice, or have another adult available to call the parent if something goes wrong. Nothing has yet. No bathrooms, not even any bushes for the boys to pee behind.

    I wouldn’t have it any other way. I trust these people. And some parents don’t trust them. I stick around to see my kids have fun as I don’t have much else to do. A couple parents stick around because they aren’t sure if they should trust these people. And, it is all fine.

    Our school district requires that all volunteers get a background check….each year. I really hate to think of the staff that is processing all those forms every fall. There are about 200 from our school because our school is a homeschool support program, and all the parents who have kids take classes are also supposed to volunteer. We arrived 3 days before classes started, and filled out the forms. It covers only the current state, which I had lived in for all of….3 days. It wouldn’t tell them anything at all had I had any history to report.

    My husband’s job on the other hand, required background check with every place he has lived, interviews with current and past employers, and phone conversations with neighbors. Now THAT was a background check that might show up something shady going on. But honestly, it is not needed for his job, as he does research and publishes his results.

  31. It’s not south that I mind the finger printing or even background check. I need to have one for work. It’s the fact that I have to pay for it if I want to volunteer and if I don’t the money that should be going to my kids education is going to pay for something that should not be needed. Also let’s all be honest before we had kids and were young we all made some bad judgement calls and in some cases convictions for one thing or another can be part of that. I am not trying to justify, but think about it. So why should an error on judgment back 10 years ago prohibit someone from doing the right thing.

    Although if they truly wanted to be “safe” then just do away with classrooms and home school them through Skype this way there is no chance of in appropriate touching…….

  32. TRS, the point is that it is ridiculous to require someone with the kinds of clearances Kristi already had to undergo another background check just to coach kiddie basketball.

    Just like it was ridiculous to require my son to spend $50 and delay his summer job start by two weeks until our non-automated state child abuse registry reported back, so that he could work a maintenance job in *empty* schools.

  33. I’m in the UK where as far as I know the fingerprinting hasn’t started yet – but no doubt it will soon. I’m attemping to challenge about the moral panic about children and abuse and the following campaign is one way. Please all join in and post your own videos:

  34. Shay: If a volunteer has to spend his/her money to get a background check, he/she is perfectly entitled to approach the parents of the kids in the program and ask them to pitch in for a pro rata reimbursement. After all, let’s say you were volunteering to teach art to a bunch of kids. Would it be reasonable to expect you to shoulder the entire cost of the art supplies? (not unless you were dealing with kids from very poor families). Similarly, if you’re volunteering to coach a team, the benefit of a background check is supposed to accrue to the other kids and their parents (if one of the kids in the program is yours, you don’t need a background check to raise him/her, now do you?).

    I’d go as far as saying that if you need to pay for a background check in order to coach a team, you’d be entirely justified in giving more playing time to the kids of parents who are willing to reimburse you (unless there’s financial hardship involved).

  35. “Were either of these individuals CONVICTED child molesters when the incidents occurred? I highly doubt it since they would never have been hired. You do realize that fingerprints are not actually crystal balls? They only tell whether a person has previously been convicted of a crime. They don’t tell you whether someone is likely to commit a crime or their sexual proclivities.”

    This was back in the 70’s so there were no data bases kept on these pervs. They may have had prior convictions but who would of known back then.

    I agree that if it is a first offense or a person has never been caught before – it does not prevent. However, it prevents sexual predators from frog hopping from one state to the next if they have been convicted or ever under investigation for indecencies with a minor.

  36. “TRS, the point is that it is ridiculous to require someone with the kinds of clearances Kristi already had to undergo another background check just to coach kiddie basketball.”

    You can not divulge to people that you have high clearances. They would have no way of knowing. They would not even know through simple background checks. Those things are not supposed to be divulged to the general public.

  37. I am a GS leader and a Girls on the Run coach. I needed background checks for both volunteer jobs. Both organizations paid for them and honestly is was 0 big deal. I don’t get the drama.

    There should always be two adults monitoring practice, scout meetings….. The adult that does it on their own is an idiot and could be falsely accused of something. Also if there is an accident then one coach can deal with that and the other with the kids.

    I am starting to believe that there is a huge lack of common sense. It is not preventing the kids from having fun and being free.

    BTW I always drop off and pick up for practices. Never had to sign my kids in or out except for school and that is for their mandatory attendance policies.

  38. Because fingerprints tell the world what crazy thoughts you have floating around in your head, waiting to be acted upon. It’s a lot more than just checking your criminal record. They are magical things, you know.

  39. What I find distressing about all this is the faith people will put in the background checks, and forego common sense and intuition. “He seemed like a creep when I saw him flirting and staring lovingly at the toddlers, but his CRIMINAL CHECK CAME BACK CLEAN. How was I supposed to know?!?!?!?!”

  40. “missjanenc, on July 20, 2012 at 07:36 said:
    All coaches should revolt and refuse to comply. People only pull crap like this if they’re allowed to get away with it. If parent coaches boycotted such pettiness I bet things would turn around pretty quickly.”

    Yes. This. Over and over again, until the dolts get it permanently pounded into their tiny, fear-poisoned little brains.

  41. ,,@TRS –

    First we’re suppose to take two incidents that happened 40 years ago and say they have any meaning now. Second, criminal databases have always been available. It would be easy to determine if these men had been previously convicted of something. But it makes much better fear mongering to say we don’t know.

    The validity of your argument would depend on the amount of “frog hopping” there is without fingerprints. If fingerprints are meaninful, facts should show that areas without fingerprinting have a much higher rate of convicted pedophiles volunteering with children. In fact, convicted pedophiles should be flooding those areas and school molestation should be high.

    There has been no evidence of this. My area doesn’t even require background checks for volunteers at school. Yet, there has not been a single incident of a child being molested by a volunteer at school – and I have at least passing knowledge of EVERY SINGLE case in the local court system. In fact, the only teacher we’ve had charged with molestation was 20 years ago and a model citizen who, not only would have passed any background check, but was highly sought out and extremely well-respected NATIONALLY as an educator.

    Volunteers and teachers molesting children happens. However it is a VERY small portion of child molestation cases. The vast majority are family members (stepdad/mom’s boyfriend, uncle and grandfather are the prime actors in that order). And I have yet to see single study done that shows that background checks, fingerprints and even sex registries make anyone safer. In fact, they appear to make people less safe as they give a false sense of security.

  42. I did not have to divulge my security clearance! It was implied, by the fact that I held a position that provided me daily access to classified information, technology and people at the highest level of our government. At no point in time was my duty station or job considered classified.

    Did I go around informing everyone of my security clearance? Of course not.

    Did I let everyone know that I thought it was just plain stupid that I was not allowed to be in a gym with little girls until their flimsy background check was done, when I held the job I did? You bet! Because it was!

  43. Kristi, that’s what I thought you meant. You worked in the White House. Anyone should realize that means you had clearances far beyond the background check required for volunteer coaching.

  44. “I am starting to believe that there is a huge lack of common sense. It is not preventing the kids from having fun and being free. ”

    Maybe not, but it is discouraging people from being involved with kids *for no good reason,* because as others have pointed out, it won’t stop potential molesters without a record. Whether the issue is economic (because organizations *don’t* always pay) or simply resenting the “everybody’s a criminal” treatment, it’s a deterrent. And that’s bad for kids, because it could create fewer opportunities for healthy interactions with adults.

  45. Or maybe the issue is that the potential volunteer is a decent person with a conviction of some sort in the past. Being convicted of a crime at some point in your life — and let’s be clear that people are not excluded simply because of sex crimes against children — does not actually mean in all, or even most, cases that you are completely unfit to be around children for the rest of your life. Regardless of whether I thought I’d be rejected or not, if my child’s school did a background check, there is no way in hell I’d volunteer if I had any criminal conviction, no matter how small, how far in the past or how irrelevant to my character today. People are way too gossipy and judgmental.

    One of the biggest indicators of school success is parent involvement. In many neighborhoods in the country youthful convictions are par for the course. I deal with kids every day whose parents don’t give two craps about them and, as a result, they spend their childhoods in and out of juvenile detention and their adulthoods in and out of prison procreating bunches of kids that they don’t give two craps about. A parent that has managed to pull his stuff together well enough to want to volunteer should not be discouraged from doing so because of a cocaine conviction 10 years prior when he was young and stupid.

  46. I had a major fight with Girl Guides of Canada earlier this year. I have been a teacher for 14 years and was fingerprinted with a background check when I started my career. I am also a leader for my son’s Scouts Unit. Every year I need to submit an offense declaration stating that I haven’t committed, been investigated or committed a crime in the past year. My daughter started Sparks this year (the youngest group for 5-6 year olds). She has a peanut/nut allergy (not anaphylactic) and one of their outings was to make cookies in a community outing.

    We have a couple of guidelines for her. She can eat things that `may contain peanuts/nuts’ if: She has her Epi-pen and someone who knows how to use it is with her. She is within 30 minutes of an ER. She has someone who can supervise her (in cases of birthday parties I know that the parents have a bunch of other kids to watch so I usually send her to parties with her own cupcake to put the parents’ mind at ease). Otherwise, she doesn’t eat food that may be potentially unsafe.

    I inquired about the facility and the ingredients (as you have to do with an allergic child) and was told that they had to buy food from a bulk food store to keep costs down. Usually this is not a problem for my daughter but because there is 25 kids in her unit, it would be difficult for the leaders to watch her, in case this was a time she did have a reaction. Because of this they said that I had to provide all the ingredients without reimbursement (I already had paid dues!), provide all the cooking equipment and clean the kitchen before we arrived, and attend with her. I had no problem meeting all their `requirements’ but the final addition was the kicker: I had to attend all meetings that had food AND I had to get a criminal background check done that I paid for at full cost (you can get a letter from organizations stating that you are a volunteer and your costs are a lot lower-plus many volunteer organizations will reimburse their volunteers). First of all, as a teacher and Scouts leader I was able to provide peanut free activities without any incident for several years so I was surprised that in this day, that an organization was unable and unwilling to do so. But the real issue to me was that a background check was a necessity for my child to participate in their program! I told them how Scouts Canada did not require a background check since the one from the school board can be submitted. They did not accept that and said that it is policy that any parent who is helping for more than ONE meeting must have a background check done. Also, since I was being required to attend (in my eyes as a caregiver rather than a parent volunteer), my child falls under the disability act for my jurisdiction so a background check could not be enforced. They would not budge on their `policy’. Ridiculous!

    I ended up switching her to another unit (the new leaders had a child who was allergic as well) which was much smaller with 12 kids and they had no problem with parents helping out when leaders were sick or they had a tricky craft or an outing. With the smaller numbers, and having a leader who was aware of symptoms, we felt confident sending our child to her meetings, knowing that they took her needs seriously. Some people know when a policy hurts an organization and will bend the rules. Worst they can do is `fire’ the volunteer who allowed the breach of policy. What a shame this goes on as many parents would like to occasionally help out but now can’t or won’t because of this stupid policy.

  47. I have a friend who’s husband committed a crime when he was 19- he stole a car with some friends. He did his time and cleaned up his life. Now over 25 years later (and his `life of crime’ a thing of the past), he tried to volunteer for a field trip with his children’s school. He got his background check done and it states that he has committed an offence. No details about what the offence is or when it happened but that he once committed a crime. Because of that he can’t volunteer at his kids’ school. I’d like to have him come volunteer rather than go on a trip with insufficient supervision ratios!

  48. @Jenn, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t understand this mentality: your friend’s husband is unfit to volunteer at school, but the same authorities have no problem with him living with his own children.

    I am advocating it should be assumed that loving parents, as most are, will not immediately convert to nefarious criminals upon seeing other people’s children.

  49. The crazy thing about coaches is that they are USUALLY with an entire team or group of kids. Even if they are evil – how much could they even attempt to do in that environment. Especially considering there are usually parents there watching the game or practice.

  50. This sort of thing really hits home for me. I played soccer starting at 8 and through college. When I graduated I was approached by a co-worker to help out on her daughter’s team (13 year olds). To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled as I had always hoped to coach boys closer to high school age and teach them the subtle nuances and techniques of the game.

    But newly in the workforce, and still in love with the game, I acquiesced. It was the classic situation of a moms coaching a team – no idea what they were doing. I helped out at positions and managed to get the team turned while getting privately approached by parents to take over the team next season… I declined.

    Fast forward about 12 years and I again had a co-worker who, this time, was coaching his own son’s soccer team. Never played and no clue. I jumped right in and didn’t really think about how it might look that a 33 year old male with no wife or kids would be coaching. It was a favor and I hoped I could help out my co-worker and make a difference. But over time I started to feel shady… Even though my parents were awesome. And even relating that experience has, on occasion, led to raised eyebrows. Why in the world would a mid aged man coach other people’s kids????

    But between my first coaching experience and this one I had started to hear things about coaches, frankly, men in general being accused of all sorts of things. Even though I had amazing parents, I can remember quite clearly showing up to a game only to be mobbed by my “boys” and reluctantly keeping them from jumping all over me. They were my team and I loved them but I certainly could not show that in the ways I was raised – a hug, a ruffle of hair, or any other physical demonstration. I worked with them. Instilled in them sportsmanship (above all), ethics, and a love for the game. We eventually went undefeated for 3 years before my friend and I passed them off to a competitive league/coach.

    But I still can’t remove from my mind the boy who wanted to celebrate his first goal with his coach (me)…. And I had to put my arms out to keep him away (all with a smile on my face and joy in my heart for his accomplishment). All because… Well… You know.

    I have never coached since.

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