Changes coming to background checks for youth coaches

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LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- The Lee's Summit Parks Department is seeking tougher background checks for youth sports coaches. The conversation comes months after a Lee's Summit Soccer coach, Joel White, was indicted for child pornography and accused of videotaping his players, young girls ranging in age from 10-13.

Several youth sports coaches and leaders agree stricter guidelines must be put in place, but the recent proposal has sparked debate. The current background check searches for felonies and sex related crimes. Now, the Lee's Summit Parks Department wants to add misdemeanors in those checks.

Stan Ferguson, a coach of more than 20 years says he was surprised those crimes weren't being searched for those applying to be a coach.

"I never really knew what they looked for and some of the things they are proposing to look for now, I just made the assumption there were already looking for those things," said Ferguson.

Ferguson currently coaches his daughters U18 softball team and his sons U10 baseball team.  He's also coached soccer and football. While Ferguson is in favor of the changes he knows it's not the 'solve all' solution.

"There's going to be a good coach with good intentions that is not going to be allowed to coach, but it's also going to catch some in that net that should not be coaching kids," said Ferguson.

The current format checks for felonies but the new proposal would include a range of violent and non-violent misdemeanors like; battery assault, hit and run, domestic violence, public intoxication, drug possession DUI, providing alcohol to minors, and child endangerment among others.

That broad range of misdemeanor crimes that would make an applicant is still be discussed by city leaders and the leaders of the four sports associations. The Lee's Summit Parks Department oversees the Lee's Summit Soccer, Baseball, Softball and Football Associations. All those leagues play on city owned fields.

Bob Johnson is member of the Lee's Summit City Council, but he also coaches girls softball. Johnson says the proper time and effort will be put into this decision.

"That becomes debatable as to what kind of misdemeanor is so important you can't be a youth coach?" Johnson said.

Johnson added the parks department plans to survey parents to find the right balance.

"The question is, say some 22-year-old guy that may have just graduated college and maybe went to the bar on evening and had too much to drink and ends up with some type of misdemeanor charge," says Johnson. "Is that a valid reason to keep this person from coaching?"

Right now there's debate on sex crimes or felonies. The final guidelines could take months to iron out as the parks department and sports associations continue to find common ground.

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