As parents, we possess no greater asset than our children and bear no greater responsibility than their protection from physical or emotional abuse.
The past few years have brought unthinkable atrocities into public view.
The charges and convictions surrounding Penn State and coach Jerry Sandusky, the charges and convictions of the USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar and the ongoing revelations that abuse has even come from the clergy.
All of these were not isolated cases; they took place over years and even decades without report or perhaps even noticed.
As a response to this, congress passed the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017.
President Trump signed it into law in 2018, and it applies to all amateur sports organizations.
The act provides for limitations of liability for the sports entity, officer, employee, agent or member who report a suspicion of abuse by protecting them from civil action and retaliation for reporting; believed in having been a factor in prior reporting.
The act provides for a system of mandatory reporting, mandatory prevention training and mandatory prevention policies while offering a path for charges of noncompliance under federal statute for a violation of public safety (negligence per se).
Charges can be brought in a U.S. District Court for damages up to $150,000 and may be awarded punitive damages as well. Insurance companies are demanding compliance with safe sport as a condition of underwriting and may terminate coverage for noncompliance. Every organized sport organization is mandated to participate.
As a United States Bowling Congress (USBC) director, I’m charged with monitoring my centers for compliance to safe sport. Coaches in the USBC have been required for years to submit to a biannual background check as a provision to maintain active status at their respective levels and not having that alone would prevent a coach from engaging in any youth activity until cleared.
Effective Jan. 1 this year, all coaches of the USBC were required to cease activity if not in compliance of federal law. Failure to comply with that deadline, results in the suspension of their credentials to coach (until they take the required training and certification).
Is this system a cure all? Obviously, no.
All too many times we turn on the news and hear stories about kindly people who commit unspeakable things and, like the Las Vegas shootings, the suspect passed all federal requirements and checks.
Day care providers are filmed harming children and those defendants underwent checks and licensing. Elder abuse in care centers seems to be in the news weekly and all their employees are screened and licensed.
In just the past couple of weeks, there was a story of a young lady who had been in a comma for years who gave birth in an assisted care facility, all employees who had checks.
It’s very easy to be cynical and believe that all these safeguards are being put in place just to insulate a governing body from liability and accountability, but you have to have faith that there’s good somewhere in their hearts: that they truly care about your children or loved ones.
All that being said, we live in times of constant vigilance.
If we error, it must be an error in the direction of caution.
While security is not an absolute it has to be strived for down to a quantum level. No price is too high for a life or someone’s innocence.
If you need guidance in where to verify someone’s credentials, seek me out. A few simple clicks can help with your peace of mind.
Wilson is a U.S. Bowling Congress Silver Instructor and an International Bowling Pro Shop and Instructors Association ball technician.