New Abuse Prevention Requirements for Youth & Amateur Sports
By: Deborah Ausburn
The scandal in the USA Gymnastics program that came to light in 2017 recently prompted Congress to do what legislators do and pass a new law. As of February 2018, many youth sports leagues have new requirements for the reporting and prevention of child abuse, mandated by the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017. All youth sports leagues should be aware of the new rules, which requirements, even if they don’t apply directly, establish strong standards for the field.
Who is Affected — The new rules apply to all youth sports leagues that compete nationally and internationally. Leagues that compete only within their home state are not directly affected, but should be aware of what likely will become the standard for all sports leagues.
What It Requires — The new statute requires mandatory reporting of child abuse, abuse prevention training, and prevention policies. The rules are slightly different for organizations under the authority of national governing bodies (NGBs) and those that are independent, but both types must follow the new protocols.
Who Must Report: The statute applies to all groups that participate in interstate or international competition, and specifies any “adult authorized to interact with minor or amateur athletes.” That definition would include employees and volunteers.
What to Report: Specified adults must report suspicions of child abuse. The definition of abuse includes physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or exploitation, or negligent treatment.
When to Report: Reports must be made within 24 hours.
Where to Report: All adults must report to local or federal law enforcement. Those affiliated with NGBs additionally must report to the U.S. Center for Safe Sport.
Why to Report: Anyone who fails to report is subject to criminal prosecution for a federal misdemeanor, as well as civil lawsuits.
Prevention Training — The most far-reaching provision of the new law may be the requirement that affected organizations “offer and provide consistent training” to all adults and, with parental consent, to all minors “regarding prevention and reporting of child abuse.” Groups associated with NGBs also must develop oversight procedures, including “regular and random audits conducted by subject matter experts.”
This requirement goes beyond the familiar “recognize and report” training that many groups already have. Prevention training is proactive, requiring a focus not only on the symptoms that a victim may display, but also on the characteristics of a perpetrator. Components of good training also include topics such as appropriate boundaries between adults and children, appropriate behavior between minors, responses to boundary violations, and principles of close (but not stifling) supervision.
The prevention training also must focus not only on abuse of minors, but prevention of abuse of “amateur athletes.” Thus, organizations that serve college-age young people now must start focusing on abuse prevention.
Prevention Policies — All covered youth sports organizations must institute policies to prevent abuse. Again, the policies must cover both minors and amateur athletes. The only specific policy that the statute mandates is “reasonable procedures to limit one-on-one interactions between” minors and adults. A complete policy, however, must include not only that limitation, but also policies about boundaries of acceptable physical contact, off-program activities, and prevention of abuse by a fellow athlete.
Programs associated with NGBs must have in addition “regular and random audits conducted by subject matter experts” to review the program’s prevention policies and their implementation.
More Information — The following resources offer more information about the law and prevention policies.
- S. Center for Safe Sport — https://safesport.org
- Abuse Prevention Systems — https://abusepreventionsystems.com
- Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-Serving Organizations (2007 Centers for Disease Control) — https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/preventingchildsexualabuse-a.pdf
The lawyers at Taylor English Duma LLP have many years of experience with youth-serving organizations, and are available to provide training or help develop prevention policies.