Sex Offenders Reffed NYC High School Games: Report

By Jillian Scharr
|  Tuesday, Jun 1, 2010  |  Updated 5:30 PM EDT
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Numerous convicted felons, including two convicted sex offenders, have been hired to referee NYC public high school sports games in the last decade, according to a published report.

Both sex offenders were fired after the Public School Athletic League learned of their criminal records, said the NYC Department of Education in an emailed statement. After that, PSAL began fingerprinting and conducting more extensive background checks.

But , "no one at the PSAL reported these discoveries," according to a report filed by the Office of Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) Richard Condon about the sex offenders.

In fact, one of the two, Andre Thomas, arrested in 2006 for having sex with underage girls, was nevertheless kept on the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) list of eligible referees for a year after his arrest, the New York Post revealed.

Because fingerprinting and criminal background checks were not required for the PSAL, Thomas was only recognized when an employee recognized him from the state's sex-offender registry while he was reffing a high school girls' basketball game, the Post reported.

The SCI itself never made its official report public either.  The Post acquired the report through a Freedom of Information Act request to the SCI office.

Later, the SCI also released the report to NBCNewYork, but has had no further comment on why the report was never made public.  Condon learned about the hiring oversights in late 2007, according to the Post, and the SCI report is dated June 2009.

The critical concerns, though, are: why background checks were not conducted up until 2008, and why the report was not released — either by PSAL or the SCI — until now.

The Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act, passed by the state legislature in 2000, required public schools to fingerprint sports officials. 

New York City, however already had background check regulation and thus "the State Legislature exempted the PSAL and other school leagues from fingerprinting.

 But as a result of these two incidents, the PSAL instituted fingerprinting and all current referees and officials have been fingerprinted," The NYC Department of Education said in an emailed statement.

According to the SCI's report, many of the officials in question had applied for jobs in other branches of the Department of Education, but had been rejected because of their criminal record. 

But, the report observed, "these determinations were not communicated to the PSAL."

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