Illinois mandates background checks for high school referees
The Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) Board of Directors approved the change during its meeting last month. The policy goes into effect beginning with the 2019-20 school year.“The background check is important for the peace of mind of everyone involved in a high school sporting event in Illinois,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a news release. “It is something we have studied closely the past few years and believe adds an extra level of safety for officials, schools, student-athletes and coaches.”
Sam Knox, assistant executive director for the IHSA, told the Chicago Tribune that previously the registration process only asked candidates whether they had been convicted of a felony. The association would cross reference its list with the state’s criminal database, but the process wasn’t foolproof.
In 2016, 51-year-old Dennis Cotton was discovered to have been working basketball and baseball games in a southern Illinois school district, despite a 2003 conviction in Arizona involving a 15-year-old girl. He was charged with failing to register as a sex offender, and later sentenced to three years in prison.
The IHSA increased officiating fees to pay for the background checks and the association’s partnership with ArbiterSports. Fees increased from $50 to $70 for the first sport, and from $15 to $20 for each additional sport.
Read more from the Chicago Tribune.