MORGANTON, NC (WBTV) - Mandatory criminal background checks for all adults involved in youth athletics is now the rule for the Burke County Parks and Recreation leagues.
Commissioners approved the proposal at their meeting in Morganton Tuesday night.
All coaches, assistants and volunteers, including concession stand workers will have to be screened once each year before their teams can play in the county leagues. The checks will be handled by one company so that everyone will be held to the same standards. The cost will be eight dollars per screening with the volunteers or their teams footing the bill.
Officials estimate that 1500 people will have to be screened yearly.
The policy, according to officials, will set in place a uniform method of checking so that everyone would face the same screening. "I think it's a good thing," said Parks and Recreation Director Gary Craigo. "It would make everyone subject to the same thing and they would have to do it every year."
Craigo said background checks are already conducted on many of those who work with the youth but this will expand it to cover all volunteers including those who work in the concession stands.
Checking the background of those who work with children is nothing new. The national Little League group has required it for years.
"It's pretty intense, that background check," said Robert Bolick of the Morganton Parks and Recreation Department. However, Bolick said there is always the chance someone could slip through the cracks. "We have to watch everyone," he said.
Officials point to the case in early July in Burke County where a third grade teacher pled guilty to statutory sex offenses and indecent liberties charges involving children under 10 years old. That teacher, Michael Alexander, could have passed the background check weeks before, said Bolick. "He could have because he had no criminal record."
Still, officials say that was an unusual case and they haven't had a situation like it involving any athletic teams in Burke County but also add that any preventative measures will help.