Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Porn case sparks volunteer worries

The Associated Press

PARMA, Ohio - The case of a soccer coach charged with obtaining child pornography highlights growing concern among parents and others about volunteers who work with children.

Federal authorities say they found child porn when they searched youth soccer coach Andrew Zupko's Parma apartment last spring. A subsequent police investigation found no allegations of improper conduct between Zupko and any of the dozens of players on his Xtreme Soccer Club teams, consisting of boys ages 11 through 14.

In light of Zupko's and other cases, more organizations are starting to ask for background checks and institute prevention programs. Such checks are not mandatory under state law, but organizations can require volunteers to sign releases allowing them.

Zupko, 30, has pleaded innocent to one charge each of receiving child pornography and possessing child pornography. A federal magistrate ordered him jailed until his Sept. 13 trial. If convicted, he faces five to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.

About 40 northeast Ohio youth sports organizations use training programs from the National Alliance for Youth Sports. The programs include information on sexual abuse and appropriate behavior.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office last year received more than 250,000 requests for background checks on people working with children. The number of requests has climbed 5 percent over three years. The checks find an arrest history 7 or 8 percent of the time, said spokeswoman Kim Norris.

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