No background check required: Sex offender refs kids' sports
GRESHAM, Ore. - Parents were surprised to learn that a sex offender was refereeing children's games in the Portland area after he was convicted of having sex with a young teen.
Many parents think someone is doing background checks on the referees who work with their kids, but that's not always happening.
In January, Stanley Washington refereed 12-year-old girls at a tournament at Centennial High School, but a law enforcement officer in the audience spotted him and recognized him as a sex offender.
Washington pleaded guilty in 1993 to Rape Two with a girl under 14. He was 36 years old. He did not get jail time at first but ended up with violations and warrants for things like not doing his sex offender treatment and moving without re-registering.
They were violations that led to jail time in 2000, 2005 and 2009.
Now, he's off probation, and because he's not considered predatory, he is allowed to be around children.
But that's not enough for Marci Spanier, whose daughter was playing on one of the girls' teams. She is adamant that sex offenders shouldn't be refereeing children's games and she sees a risk with sex offenders in a position of control over children.
"Go down the hall - you've got a referee who is an authoritative figure - you know, (he could say) 'Hey, come here, let me give you a couple tips on your game.' It's not right," she said.
How did Washington end up on the court with kids? KATU News checked with the organization that hired him for the girls' tournament, Oregon Prep Basketball, an independent group running tournaments in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Robby Fenk said he was looking for extra referees to cover games, and Washington called him to fill in.
He said he did not know Washington and did not know he was a sex offender. But Washington told him he had refereed around town in the past.
He'd worked for groups like HoopSource, Portland Basketball and the Portland Basketball Officials Association.
Fenk said he neither has the time nor the money to do background checks.
"That's all we can do. That's all everybody's going to do," he said. "And it's never going to change unless a law is implemented to us that we have to have background checks."
Some children's sports officials do go through checks.
"If it's any kind of sexual crime, then we don't want them around our kids," said Tom Welter, the executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association, certifying officials for high school sports in Oregon.
They do background checks every year and kick out people who don't pass.
"If the criminal conviction history check would not allow them to obtain a teaching license and teach in one of our member schools, we will not give them an officiating license to officiate," Welter said.
But elementary and middle school kids do not have an organization like OSAA and do not have that same protection. There is no law that requires groups doing kids sports to do criminal background checks.
Many groups do not, including HoopSource and Portland Basketball, and people like Stanley Washington can slip through.
"Anybody could get hooked up with anybody at any time," said Fenk. "I mean, you could be on probation, you could be a fugitive - if you're a basketball guy, and call any of our groups on some special weekends, you're going to be able to get referee jobs."
No one answered at the house where Washington has stayed. But he called KATU News. He said he was dating the girl he pleaded guilty to raping when he was 36 and she was under 14, and he said he was a 'victim of circumstances." He believes he's not dangerous, adding he needs to work and it's hard for people with his kind of record to find jobs.
Parents like Marci Spanier would like to see background checks and a law, if necessary, to keep sex offenders away from children's sports.
"If you're going to charge a few more dollars to keep our kids safe, it's worth it," she said. "Why take that risk? Why take that one chance that something could happen to a child and scar that child for life? It's not worth it."
If you are concerned about your kids' referees, you can ask the organization for their names and check to see if those referees are registered with the OSAA. If so, they've had a background check.
You can also look for the OSAA patch on the official's shirt with the current year.