Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)
By Marjorie Cortez
SALT LAKE CITY - All high school coaches are required to certify with the Utah High School Activities Association, but some members of the Utah State Board of Education worry the registry doesn't do enough to protect students from predators.
All high school coaches - paid or volunteer - are required to certify with the UHSAA registry, the organization's Executive Director Rob Cuff told the State School Board on Friday.
To receive certification, coaches must undergo criminal background checks and complete training on CPR, first aid and concussion protocols, as well as the National Federation of State High School Associations Fundamentals of Coaching course.
Following the Utah Legislature's general session earlier this year, the State School Board passed an administrative rule that creates other requirements: child sexual abuse prevention training, and bullying, cyberbullying, hazing, harassment and retaliation training.
But some members of the Utah State Board of Education worry that the scope of the registry doesn't go far enough to protect student- athletes from coaches who have had inappropriate contact with students.
"You just have to know, for me, it's all about the safety of these kids," said board member Laura Belnap.
While the registry will be able to track previous coaching assignments, it won't necessarily have any information about why a coach was released because the terminations occur at the school level and the UHSAA may not know or attorneys caution against collecting information if coaches have no ability to rebut it, Cuff said.
Schools hire and fire coaches, he said, and the association often is not privy to reasons coaches are terminated.
Perhaps given additional training or under a policy school officials could be required to check all coaches' histories before giving them access to high school students who participate in UHSAA-sanctioned sports and activities, Cuff said.
"We're not a hiring and firing organization. We run state tournaments for kids, and we want safety for kids more than anything," he said.
Board member Scott Nielson said he has worked extensively in high school athletics and it is a tight-knit community. If someone crosses the line, news travels fast, he said.
"I can say with almost 100 percent certainty, if there is someone that's involved (in something) that's questionable, there's not a single school administrator that I've met ... (who is) going to allow anybody around their kids, their school, regardless of their coaching ability," Nielson said.
But that was little assurance to board member Brittney Cummins.
"We hear stories over and over and over again of times when it doesn't occur and when students are harmed by people who slipped through the cracks, intentionally sometimes," she said.
Dunlap said it is particularly worrisome when coaches are not public school employees.
"You have nonpaid people on this list who can jump around and go where they want and have access to children," she said.
Cummins said if the activities association can certify coaches, it can also decertify them.
"Finding a solution to this problem is very important," she said.
Cuff agreed to continue the conversation.
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