While the state of Texas has implemented strict regulations designed to protect students, those who officiate youth athletic events are not required to undergo criminal background checks.

In an interview with the Daily Light, Texas Association of Sports Officials executive director Steven Ellinger said the organization, which provides officials for UIL and TAPPS events, does not screen its officials.

“We don’t do background or criminal checks because with 17,000 officials it is cost prohibitive,” Ellinger said. “I want you to understand these are contract workers, not employees we’re talking about.”

The organization will initiate checks when an individual official is brought to the attention of TASO officials, he said.

“If it is brought to our attention that something may be wrong, we’ll contact the member and take away their schedule until we can have a committee of five people review the situation,” Ellinger said. “Obviously some offenses result in automatic disqualification, but some are discretionary.”

Waxahachie ISD Superintendent Tom Collins was surprised to learn TASO doesn’t background check its officials prior to a complaint.

“Anyone with anything to do with our district, whether as a volunteer or worker, has a background check done,” he said. “There’s no reason TASO shouldn’t be doing it as well.

“It’s definitely something I’ll sit down and talk with coach (David) Ream about this week to see if there’s something we can do,” said Collins, noting it costs the WISD $1 per person to do a background check through the Department of Public Safety’s Web site.

“You can’t tell me it’s cost prohibitive if the (youth baseball) programs in our area are able to do it,” he said.

Referees at Friday night’s Waxahachie-University football game said they were under the impression checks are done because they must give permission for a check when applying to be a member. One referee said he knew of a fellow official who was stripped of his membership because something came up on his background check.

According to the application available on the organization’s Web site, potential members must sign a statement certifying that “I have not (1) been convicted of a state or federal misdemeanor or felony offense, (2) been arrested on a pending state or federal misdemeanor or felony, or (3) received deferred adjudication or other deferred sentencing for a state or federal misdemeanor or felony offense.”

It goes on to say, “TASO may verify all or part of the information in this application.”

TASO is solely funded on membership dues, which are $25 per sport for a new member and $50 per sport for officials annually after the first year.

Officials, on the other hand, are paid by the schools they are officiating.

E-mail Tommy at tom.brown@waxahachiedailylight.com