Baton Rouge, La. -- Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, presented a bill (HB 184) to legislators that will prohibit the harassment of a school or recreation athletic contest official. The bill passed in both the house and senate and was signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards on June 17, 2019. HB 184 now known as Act No. 355 will go into effect on August 1, 2019.
In a recent study, more than 75 percent of officials quit because of “adult behavior”. Rep. Cameron Henry said, “This bill isn’t to prevent a parent to express concerns about a call they feel is wrong or invalid. We understand a parent will always protect their child and express concern if they feel their kid has been robbed of a play or an opportunity to win the game. The problem begins when the concern turns into a threat of violence and could jeopardize the safety of the officials or others”.
According to the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), over 80 percent of young officials quit after just two years because of harassment. Currently, there are more officials over the age of 60 than under the age of 30 and there aren’t enough young ones to replace them. The shortage of officials is becoming severe enough in some areas that athletic events are being postponed or cancelled. If there are no officials, there are no games.
The President of the Louisiana High School Officials Association (LHSOA), Paul LaRosa, said “The LHSOA believes new legislation, which deals with inappropriate behavior at sporting events where our officials work, is an important step in restoring a positive atmosphere for players, fans and other participants."
Research shows that high school sports help instill a sense of pride in school and community, teach life lessons, teamwork, discipline etc. to student-athletes. LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said, “The LHSAA is in complete support of HB 184. We want officials to feel safe and not threatened in any regular season, post season or championship game. We want to be proactive not reactive. This bill is a positive step towards protecting our officials and keeping our sporting events safe for all”.