Bill extends reporting law for child abuse to private sports leagues

DENVER — Coaches in private sporting organizations would be required to report suspected abuse or neglect of the children on their teams under a bill that won preliminary approval in the Colorado House on Wednesday.

Current law already requires that of coaches in public schools and municipal sporting leagues, as well as a slew of other professions that deal with children on a regular basis, said Rep. Jonathon Singer, the Boulder Democrat who introduced SB12.

“High school coaches are already considered mandatory reporters, but it’s with these private youth sports organizations that the same requirements aren’t on those coaches,” said Singer, who works as a child protection social worker in Boulder County when he’s not in the Legislature. “They have the same qualifications most of the times, the same duties, the same jobs. But at the end of the day, one portion ... needs to report when they have reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect, the other doesn’t.”

The same reporting law also applies to teachers, counselors, child care providers, medical personnel and law enforcement officials. The law requires reports be made either to county social services departments or local law enforcement. Mesa County’s Child Protection Hotline is 970-242-1211.

The measure, which passed the Colorado Senate last month, applies only to paid private coaches, and not volunteers, said Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Colorado Springs.

As a result, she said she doesn’t believe it will dissuade people from volunteering their time for fear of getting sideways with the law because of concerns of how to identify abuse or when to report it.

Stephens said most professional club sports organizers already have safety rules in place addressing abuse and neglect issues and how to handle it when it happens. As a result, they carry insurance to protect their coaches and event organizers in case a legal issue arises.

“Those clubs that did that, they drove down their insurance rates,” Stephens said. “It’s less than a club who didn’t think those things through. This bill is very reasonable. It addresses those issues.”

Other lawmakers questioned some aspects of the measure, and amended it to define more clearly who is a volunteer and who is a paid coach.

As a result, the measure had little opposition.

The bill is expected to win final approval in the House today, but must return to the Senate for one last vote because of that amendment before it can head to the governor.



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