Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Kicking to Change a Law ; Teen Aims to Ref Youth Soccer Games

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Kicking to Change a Law ; Teen Aims to Ref Youth Soccer Games

Article excerpt

INDIANAPOLIS - A Newburgh boy is working to change Indiana's child labor laws so he can referee youth soccer games - and his effort is gaining traction. Thirteen-year-old Matthew Burkart hoped he would be able to start working his first job a year ago, but Indiana Soccer officials stopped using 12-and 13-year-old referees right before he started because the organization learned it was running afoul of a state law.

"I was super excited about getting this job," Burkart wrote in a letter to lawmakers asking for their help. "I was so close. It was like shooting and hitting the crossbar at the last second. So close, yet so far."

So Burkart - with Indiana Soccer's support - started working to change the law.

Currently, Indiana law prevents children younger than 14 from being hired - with a few exceptions. Those children can caddie at golf courses, deliver newspapers and work on farms. Burkart wants to add officiating youth sporting events to that list.

"I know child labor can be a terrible thing, but this was my idea, not my dad's, my mom's or anyone in my family. I just want to make some money for myself and save it for college," he wrote to lawmakers.

He lined up a number of public officials, soccer coaches and more willing to champion his cause.

And state Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, is carrying a bill on his behalf. The bill passed the Senate on Tuesday on a 48-0 vote.

Burkart testified at a state Senate committee hearing on Becker's Senate Bill 153. He brought packets with letters of support from Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. Superintendent David Smith and more.

"As a youth, I had a paper route, so I understand completely the pride one has when earning a wage; indeed, this experience did much to shape who I am today," wrote Thomas Kazee, president of the University of Evansville. …

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