Osceola County, FL: The Amateur Athletic Union will begin what its national president said Tuesday he hopes will foster a “culture of safety” with the implementation of several reforms, including mandatory background screening for all staff, coaches and volunteers.
The new screening is set to begin Sept. 1 and coincides with the youth organization’s new membership cycle. No one will be exempt from screening and any questionable information they turn up could permanently disqualify people from participation in AAU programs. AAU’s Board of Directors will have final say on all membership decisions.
Everyone involved in AAU programs will also be required to report any known or suspected child abuse to law enforcement.
“The new recommendations are not because we suspect anyone, but rather because we expect everyone to do their part to create a strong, new culture of safety,” Stout said.
The moves follow a six-month review by two AAU-commissioned task forces that focused on youth protection and adult volunteering screening. They produced a joint 30-page report with 42 recommendations for changes to AAU’s policies, protocols and procedures.
AAU commissioned the review last December in the wake of decades-old sex abuse allegations against former president Bobby Dodd. The organization had never faced any abuse allegations prior to those against the 63-year-old, who had it severed all ties with, and he to date has never been charged with a crime.
AAU had previously done some random screenings of officials, but they were not mandatory
The oldest organization dedicated to youth athletes in the country, the 124-year-old AAU oversees about 30 sports programs for all ages nationwide, including major sports like football, basketball and baseball to bocce ball, baton twirling and competitive jump rope. More than 500,000 athletes and 50,000 volunteers participate in its programs.
The new screening will be done through a contract with LexisNexis Risk Solutions and will take between a few to several days per person depending on the applicant.
The company has a special program for nonprofits, which will help to defray a lot of the costs. The company has done more than 5.5 million screenings for different nonprofit organizations over the past 15 years including the Boys &Girls Club, Little League Baseball and Boy Scouts.
“They are coming to the right place,” said Beverly McIntosh, who heads LexisNexis’ volunteer screening division. “This is what we do.”
But some of the costs will be passed to AAU members, with membership rates increasing by $2 in each of its categories. That means that youth athlete fees will increase from $12 to $14 and from $14 to $16 when new member registration begins.
In addition to the background checks, policies will be in place to prevent adults from being alone in rooms with youths. Also AAU will put together a child protection manual to guide its members, and have a zero-tolerance policy for hazing.
“It probably should have been done a long time ago….There’s a term we use every day — change. That’s what all this is about,” Stout said. “I don’t think about what we didn’t do, I think about what we are going to do. And that is change the perception of this organization hopefully across the rest of its serving youth across this country.”
It’s a perception that probably needs changing after the Dodd allegations.
ESPN reported that two former basketball players had accused Dodd of molesting them as children in Memphis and other locations in the 1980s. But Memphis police suspended their investigation a month later because they could not find any victims, and no one has come forward to file a formal criminal complaint.
Dodd’s attorney, Steve Farese, said in January that his client is innocent. Farese said he was not surprised that police did not go forward with a criminal investigation.
Kids–No more fun with adults….Single Parents–No more help from Coaching Staff
Long gone are the days of asking the coaching staff to pick your child up and take them to practice when you have to work late. Long gone are the days of asking the coaching staff to bring your child home from practice because you have to work late.
Our laws have to get tougher for those grown ups who can’t keep there hands off of our children. And–and we need to instill in our children that lying is not good. We have to lead our children by example. When anyone lies–nobody wins.