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Protect Youth Referees

Ohio lawmakers are working on legislation that would make assaulting a referee a crime. To be clear, assault already is a crime in Ohio. But perhaps that’s the problem. Too many choose not to think of referees as fellow citizens when something as monumentally important as organized youth sports is at stake.

According to state Rep. Bill Roemer, R-Richfield, two of every three sports officials quit during their first three years because of spectator abuse. However, because simply behaving with respect and decency, and setting a good example for our children is not incentive enough for people to keep their heads during a sporting event, lawmakers are working on a bill that would make an assault on referees a first-degree misdemeanor with an automatic fine of $1,500 and 40 hours of community service. A second conviction could lead to a felony charge that could include prison time.

“Sports officials deserve to be safe from undue harm on the job, not just for their safety, but for the integrity of sports at large,” Roemer told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Fewer people are volunteering to referee youth sporting events, perhaps because of the abuse they fear they will face. That leaves those who are willing to do the work stretched even thinner.

Lawmakers should move quickly to finalize this legislation.

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