Knock, knock. “Hello, Mr. Smith. We’re with the state association. We’re conducting a little check of all our registered officials. You don’t mind if we come in and have a look around your house, do you? It’s not a problem, right? Surely you don’t have anything to hide.”

Criminal background checks certainly are not as invasive as someone coming to your home for a look around, but the presumption that digging into an official’s personal history is no problem – unless there is a problem – might not sit well with the official being dug into. The thing about that is, you might not have much of a choice, especially if you want to continue officiating.

In the past five years, more and more governing bodies have been inquiring into the backgrounds of current and prospective officials. And when they do, virtually all of them draw the line somewhere on who can work for them based on the details of their checkered pasts. Is it justified? Many say yes. Is it fair? Not always – but what is? Is it legal? Good question.

Following are 8 questions your association, league, conference or organization should ask before setting a background check policy.

1 Are your officials already the subject of background checks at the state high school association level or at some other governing body level?

2 Who are you going to run background checks on? Are you going to check your applicants or your current members or both?

3 Is it legal to run background checks on your members in your state? Have you complied with whatever the law of your state or province is?

4 What are you checking for? Are you doing a criminal history check? Are you doing psychological inventories? Are you doing credit checks?

5 Do you need to get consent from the officials you’ll be conducting background checks on? If so, how are you going to secure that consent?

6 Who will have access to the information gathered from the background check?

7 Is an official who fails his or her background check entitled to a hearing or an appeal? Will there be due process? Are you required to give that due process by law?

8 Is it a life sentence? You need to know what you’re going to do with the information. If an official is expelled or suspended, is it forever, or can that official come back in one year, two years, 10 years?

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