Colorado’s mandatory child abuse reporting law extended to youth sports organizations

On March 22, 2013, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Colorado Senate Bill No. 12, Child Abuse Reporting Youth Sports Organizations, into law. The new law expands the list of persons required by Colorado law to report suspected child abuse or neglect to include directors, coaches, assistant coaches or any other persons employed in the athletic program of a private sports organization or program. The law applies only to persons receiving compensation for their services, not to unpaid volunteers.

Persons required to report suspected abuse or neglect

Employees of private sports organizations join a long list of other types of employees already covered under Colorado's mandatory child abuse reporting law, including physicians, dentists, registered or licensed practical nurses, hospital personnel engaged in the admission, care or treatment of patients, public or private school officials or employees, social workers, psychologists and other mental health professionals, and members of the clergy.

"Reasonable cause" to know or suspect abuse or neglect

The requirement to report, or cause a report to be made, is triggered when a person engaged in an occupation covered under the law has "reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect." C.R.S. § 19-3-304. Reports should be made to the appropriate county department or local law enforcement agency.

Penalties for violations of the law

Any person who violates the reporting requirements of the law, or knowingly makes a false report of abuse or neglect, to a county department or local law enforcement agency is guilty of a class three misdemeanor and liable for damages proximately caused thereby. Under Colorado criminal law, the minimum penalty for a class three misdemeanor is a $50 fine, and the maximum penalty is six months in prison, a $750 fine or both.

Allegations of child abuse or neglect must be taken seriously

Allegations of abuse or neglect of a child, whether or not substantiated, must be taken seriously and responded to quickly and intelligently. Allegations of abuse, especially allegations of sexual abuse of a child, can negatively and seriously affect a person's freedom, personal relationships and professional reputation. A criminal defense attorney, especially when hired early, can build a strong defense to the charges and take steps to protect an accused person's personal and professional interests.