In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal at Penn State, the West Deptford Recreation Advisory Board is making moves to strengthen security for its children by instituting new policies for youth sports.
With the help of the Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation, the "Check Em' Out" program will give the township the opportunity to run background checks on youth coaches across all the township's sports programs.
The recommendation for the new policy was approved by the recreational advisory board during their June meeting and is pending approval from the township committee.
If the motion passes, coaches and assistant coaches will be fingerprinted through the end of the year, with the costs borne by the “Check Em’ Out” program.
“A 10- to 15-minute drive for the safety of our kids is a no-brainer,” says John Dunda, vice-chair of the recreation board.
Dunda says he feels that current events, such as the Penn State scandal, have caused the committee to contemplate a “new standard of care for children.” He says that unspeakable acts such as those in the Sandusky case must be stopped and there is no need for such a case ever to be repeated.
“If it can happen at Penn State, it can happen here,” says Dunda.
Committewoman Denice DiCarlo proposed the new policy after learning about the “Check Em’ Out” program, which is provided by the Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation—the same foundation that pushed to pass Megan’s Law in 1996.
While some criminal check policies do currently exist for Boy Scouts and Little League, the “Check Em’ Out” program will provide a more thorough background check and be offered for every youth sports organization in West Deptford.
If the township approves mandatory background checks for all coaches and assistant coaches, the recreation advisory committee also discussed withholding organizations’ allotments until all coaches are verified.
All fingerprints will be ran through both the State Police and FBI criminal databases to determine any risk. A list of convictions that qualify can be found on the foundation’s website.
The Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation was started by Richard and Maureen Kanka after their 7-year-old daughter—the foundation’s namesake—was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in 1994.
Part of the foundation's goals are to promote awareness and policies in order to protect children from child predators, including the “Check Em’ Out” program, which is only offered to non-profit sports organizations in New Jersey.
“It really is a great safety measure for our children,” says Dunda.