Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rap Sheets Benching Coaches Screenings Trim 44 from Leagues

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rap Sheets Benching Coaches Screenings Trim 44 from Leagues

Article excerpt

They've been convicted of crimes including selling crack cocaine, robbery, child abuse and domestic violence.

As recently as last week, some of them were coaching or otherwise helping kids playing sports in Jacksonville parks. They're not allowed to anymore.

Since May, 44 coaches and other volunteers at city parks have been banned from their league work under a criminal background check program initiated by the city's Parks, Recreation and Entertainment Department in response to national reports of player abuse by ex-con coaches.

A first batch of 17 coaches were baseball volunteers banned in early summer. The second group, 27 volunteers who coach or otherwise help with football, were being notified last week.

The banned are just a fraction of the 2,158 coach applications the city has run through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's criminal computer.

But finding just one potential threat is a benefit to those who play youth sports, said Nan Musslewhite, the city's chief of recreational activities.

"Our intent is to ensure that we provide a safe environment for the children," Musslewhite said. "This is an ongoing process. We intend to make sure everything is in compliance."

Head coaches, assistant coaches, team moms, equipment managers and trainers whose associations use city parks are required to submit applications for background checks. The city spent $100,000 on the program in the past fiscal year and budgeted another $100,000 this year.

City officials estimate there are about 6,500 volunteers who will need to be checked. Applications are either mailed to the associations or handed out during organizational meetings with the city before a particular sports season begins. Applications must be renewed annually.

The city sends association presidents a form letter stating that a named volunteer "will not be allowed to coach, work with or around children on city facilities," because of information found in the background check. The nature of the charge is not disclosed to the association.

Criminal records involving sex offenses, child abuse, drug charges, domestic violence and other violence can get a coach banned. …

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