Thursday, July 12, 2001

Church may do criminal checks

Abuse cases spur talk of changes by archdiocese

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Two recent criminal cases charging inappropriate actions with children by volunteer coaches has Cincinnati Archdiocese officials considering changes to the way it screens volunteers.

        A spokesman for the archdiocese said Wednesday that officials could expand volunteer screening procedures to include criminal background checks.

        The changes, if approved, would then become part of a five-year revision of the Archbishop's Decree on Child Protection.

    A 32-year-old Covedale woman who was a volunteer boys soccer coach and coordinator for St. Antoninus School was ordered jailed Wednesday after a judge determined she violated the terms of her probation.
    Lisa C. Dunaway, convicted earlier this year of stalking a 15-year-old player on her soccer team, will be sentenced by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Mark R. Schweikert July 25.
    She faces up to 18 months in prison.
    Ms. Dunaway, who was originally sentenced to five years probation and 10 days in jail, was released from jail June 14. She was also ordered to stay away from the boy, his family and any other children except her own.
    She was arrested June 22 after the mother of her victim reported three incidents in which she and another relative had contact with Ms. Dunaway.
    Ms. Dunaway testified Wednesday that she had not had any intentional contact with the family.
        Officials are considering the change in response to two recent cases:

        • Former volunteer boys soccer coach Lisa Dunaway, 32, of Covedale, was convicted of stalking a 15-year-old player.

        • Former girls basketball coach Tom Rohrkasse, 37, of Villa Hills, Ky., faces charges of sexual misconduct with one or more of his former players.

        Both Ms. Dunaway and Mr. Rohrkasse worked as volunteer coaches at St. Antoninus School in Covedale. Both have been dismissed.

        Created in 1993, the decree regulates employee and volunteer interaction with children, and requires training and screening practices for volunteers and employees.

        Its last revision went into effect in 1998, said Dan Andriacco, a spokesman for the archdiocese. Another revision is planned for 2003, he added.

        Archdiocese officials have yet to begin brainstorming ways of toughening the current policy, but are expected to start later this year, he said, adding that the new policy should be issued next year and take effect in 2003.

        The mother of the boy Ms. Dunaway was convicted of stalking said Wednesday that the archdiocese is moving too slow.

        “Right now, it feels like the archdiocese has hung out a sign that says to all child molesters: Come volunteer here,” she said. The woman is not being named because it would identify her teen-age son.

        Mr. Andriacco said the archdiocese uses an internal registry that covers both employees and volunteers. The registry identifies people who have had substantiated allegations made against them for any kind of child abuse.

        “The way it works is that if someone seeks either employment or to volunteer, we run their name through this registry. If nothing shows up, we proceed, but if they are on that list they will not be hired or allowed to volunteer,” he said.

        “The difficulty is in trying to find a way to regulate behavior that is outside school,” he said.

        In March, Ohio lawmakers approved a plan giving public schools the option of doing criminal checks on volunteers and requiring them to notify those volunteers that they may have to undergo a records check.

        Last year, Kentucky began requiring state criminal records checks of adult volunteers who have regular contact with or who supervise children at a school or on school-sponsored trips.

        Parents of at least five teen-age girls have received restraining orders against Mr. Rohrkasse for allegedly offering the girls alcohol during an annual party he held for the basketball team.

        According to court records, they accuse him of encouraging the girls to drink and then engaged in sexual misconduct with one or more of the girls.

        Mr. Rohrkasse is scheduled to return to court Aug. 6 before Hamilton County Magistrate Richard Bernat.

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