Excerpted from a Idaho State Journal story

Idaho parents likely have an assumption that when their children join a high school sports team, the people doing the coaching are not convicted felons.

But because of a variety of flaws in how the state and its school districts check the backgrounds of prospective high school coaches, individuals with felonies and other crimes on their records could be hired to coach.

The Idaho State Journal recently ran a story that delved into the system’s many shortcomings, and they’re terrifying — especially if you’re the parent of a child who plays high school sports in our state.

It’s a fact that your child’s high school coach could be an individual convicted of a felony crime against another adult, including murder.

Idaho’s laws on hiring coaches are so fuzzy that we couldn’t even get a straight answer from the state Department of Education on whether someone would be disqualified from being a volunteer coach if he or she had been convicted of one of the 14 crimes against children that would automatically disqualify an individual from being a paid coach.

But even if a prospective paid coach had been convicted of one of those 14 crimes against children, he or she could be hired and start coaching before school officials learn about the offense via the state police background check. The reason is that the state police background check takes up to six weeks to complete and prospective paid coaches can start coaching before the background check is returned to the school district that hired them. Newly hired Idaho high school coaches can even start coaching under supervision before they submit fingerprints for that background check.

The only thing that you can probably count on when it comes to those coaching your children is that they’re not on the national sex offender list. Hopefully that list is well maintained because the other systems that are used to check prospective Idaho high school coaches’ backgrounds are far from foolproof.

The Journal uncovered these flaws in how Idaho high school coaches undergo background checks after we found out that Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 last year had hired a volunteer soccer coach at Highland High School who had a criminal record. Once we told the district about the coach’s criminal record, he was removed from his position.

We believe that there are other high school coaches throughout the state who have criminal records — some for very serious offenses.

It’s a fact that lots of people in our society have committed crimes and we’re not saying that being accused or convicted of a crime should automatically disqualify someone from being a high school coach.

But we as a state need to do a better job of nailing down what is acceptable and unacceptable in terms of a prospective high school coach with a criminal record because there are too many gray areas and inconsistencies in the current system.

Such a flimsy background check system means it’s entirely possible that even a convicted murderer could land a paid coaching job at an Idaho high school.

To be fair, the majority of Idaho’s high school coaches are certainly law-abiding individuals with clean criminal records. These individuals devote many hours of time toward helping our younger generation and deserve praise for their efforts and dedication. These law-abiding coaches don’t want to see criminals coaching our kids either.

But the current system provides little in the way of guarantees in that regard and this should concern us all.

The Idaho Department of Education and the state’s school districts need to take a good hard look at the background check system for not just high school coaches but all school coaches and develop a new system that is more strict as well as clear and concise on who can and can’t coach here.

With the current system, who knows who’s coaching your children?

It might be a law-abiding citizen or it could be someone who’s been convicted of felonies.

And what’s really scary is that your local school district might be in the dark about it as much as you.

 

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