In the wake of a sexual-abuse investigation surrounding its former president and chief executive officer, the Amateur Athletic Union will start requiring all coaches, volunteers, and staff to undergo mandatory background checks, the organization announced today.
The AAU initially organized two independent task forces in response to the allegations against former CEO Robert “Bobby” Dodd, to determine how the organization could better protect children against potential sexual abuse. Together, the Youth Protection Task Force and the Adult/Volunteer Screening Task Force came up with 42 recommendations, all laid out in a 31-page report published on the AAU’s website today.
By Sept. 1, all adult applicants for AAU staff or volunteer positions will be required to successfully undergo background checks, including screenings of their criminal history and the sex-offender registry. No current staff member of the AAU will be grandfathered into the policy, the organization announced, and there will be no exceptions to this new rule.
The AAU Board of Review will monitor the background-check process and permanently ban any adult found in violation of the new child-protection code of conduct. However, a felony conviction isn’t necessarily required for an adult to earn a lifetime ban, AAU leaders made clear today at a press conference announcing the changes. If an adult is banned from participating in another youth organization, such as the Boy Scouts of America, that will constitute reason to ban them from the AAU, under the new policy.
“If you are a felon, it’s probably best that you stay away from the AAU,” said Louis Stout, the president of the organization, at today’s press conference. “Plain and simple.”
Beyond the mandatory screenings, the task forces recommended the creation of a Youth Protection Committee and Youth Advisory Council to ensure that child-protection policies are at the forefront of the organization’s attention.
They also suggested implementing a policy that would require at least two AAU-affiliated adults to be present when around children, to prevent an adult being alone in a room with one child. On that same note, discipline from coaches should never occur in a one-on-one setting, according to the task forces, and should “be constructive and reflect leadership and good sportsmanship.”
The task forces recommended that whenever possible, coaches and youth-athletes should make separate sleeping accommodations when traveling, to prevent coaches from staying in the same room with their charges.
The organization will also follow a recommendation that rose into public consciousness this past fall, when Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing children. Now, anyone who’s involved with the AAU, from students and parents to coaches and staff, should be “mandatory reporters” any time they suspect wrongdoing or sexual abuse.
“We expect everyone to do their part for a strong new culture of safety” said Stout.
These changes “will propel the AAU into a new era that will establish it as the gold standard for youth organizations,” said Ron Book, president of Lauren’s Kids Foundation, at the conference. Book served on the Youth Protection Task Force commissioned by the AAU.
To help cover the costs of the background checks, AAU membership fees will be raised $2 this year, said James Parker, director of operations for the AAU.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.