January 14, 2003
BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR LITTLE LEAGUE VOLUNTEERS
By: Veronica Rose, Principal Analyst
You asked for background information on the Little League regulations requiring background checks on league volunteers and employees, including a summary of the regulations and the cost of doing background checks.
Little League regulations for the 2003 season (1) require Little League volunteers and employees to undergo annual background checks and (2) prohibit anyone convicted of a crime against or involving a minor from participating in any Little League program as a volunteer or employee. The volunteer or employee must complete a league application consenting to the check, and the league must complete the check before the applicant assumes any duties. Prior to the passage of these regulations, background checks were optional.
At a minimum, the new regulations require local leagues to check the sexual offender registry in the state where an applicant resides. If a registry is unavailable, they must conduct a state or provincial criminal background check, unless prohibited by law. Leagues may elect to exceed the minimum requirement in regulations by conducting a national criminal background check.
Any applicant who does not submit the required application and undergo annual background checks cannot participate in league programs, and leagues that do not comply with the regulations may lose their charter, tournament privileges, or both.
Under federal law, the maximum that states or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may charge for nationwide fingerprint-based searches (as opposed to searches that use a person’s name, date of birth, or both) is $ 18. Connecticut charges $ 18 for a statewide search. The cost of fingerprinting varies.
LITTLE LEAGUE CHILD PROTECTION PROGRAM AMENDMENTS
Beginning in the 2003 season, local Little League programs must conduct annual background checks on managers, coaches, board directors, and other volunteers or workers who provide regular service to the leagues or have “repetitive access to, or contact with, players or teams. ”
As a prerequisite to the mandatory checks, applicants must submit to the local league president an official league application, including a list of references and prior convictions and giving consent to a background check.
As part of the background checks, local leagues must conduct a search of applicable government statewide sex offender registries. If a registry is unavailable (as is currently the case in Connecticut), the league must conduct a statewide or province wide criminal background check, unless prohibited by law. According to the national league, local leagues may conduct a more extensive criminal background check than the new regulations require (e. g. , a national FBI check).
A local league may exclude applicants it deems unfit to work with minors; it must exclude all applicants whose background checks reveal any conviction for crimes against or involving a minor. Also, it must dismiss immediately anyone who refuses or fails to submit the required application. Local leagues that fail to comply with the regulations may have their charter, tournament privileges, or both revoked or suspended (Little League Regulations 1(c) 8 and 9).
According to Stephen Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball, Inc. “[t]he purpose of the background checks is, first and foremost to protect children. Second, they maintain Little League as a hostile environment for those who would seek to do harm. Third, they will help to protect individuals and leagues from possible loss of personal or league assets because of litigation. ”
COST OF BACKGROUND CHECKS
Sex Offender Registry Checks
According to the National Little League, more than 40 states do not charge a fee (or waive fees for nonprofit entities) to access their sex offender registries. Pursuant to a May 2001 U. S. District Court ruling, Internet and public access to sex offender registration information in Connecticut has been restricted and is not currently available from the Public Safety Department (DPS) (John Doe v. Henry C. Lee et al, May 18, 2001, Case No. 3: 99CV0314). Up until then, access to the sex offender registry was free.
Criminal History Background Checks
Criminal history background checks may be done using a person’s name and date of birth or fingerprints. DPS conducts both types of checks. FBI checks are fingerprint-based. Non-fingerprint-based searches have a greater potential for errors. For example, a person with a criminal record could conceivably get a clean record by misspelling his name or submitting an incorrect date of birth. Also, this kind of check will not pick up aliases.
The federal Volunteer for Children’s Act requires states to access and review state and criminal records through the national background check system and make reasonable efforts to respond to requests for a nationwide background check within 15 business days. Under the act, states and the FBI may charge no more than $ 18 for fingerprint-based criminal history record checks of people who volunteer with qualified entities (42 USC § 5119a(e)). Under current practice, the FBI charges $ 18 for national checks of Little League volunteers, and DPS charges $ 18 for state criminal checks. The state fee for conducting criminal background checks of other people, unless waived, is $ 25. Fees are waived for state, local, and federal agencies (CGS § 29-11(c)).
The fee for fingerprinting (if a fingerprint-based check is requested) is separate. Police departments, which usually do the fingerprinting, set their own fees. An informal Office of Legislative Research survey of 12 departments showed that six departments charge $ 5; one department charges $ 7. 00; one charges $ 10. 00; and two departments do not charge volunteers.