Bill aims to increase penalties for assault, battery against sports officials in KS

Published: Feb. 17, 2020 at 6:41 PM CST
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A new bill introduced in the Kansas House of Representatives aims to increase penalties for assault and battery against a sports official.

A hearing for the bill happens this week. In part, the bill seeks to address an issue in the state where since 2010, Kansas has seen a decline in registered officials in every high school sport.

"We're to the point where we're having to schedule varsity games on Thursdays and Saturdays due to the lack of the number of officials," Kansas sports official Jason Gordon says.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association says one of the reasons for the shortage in game officials is unsportsmanlike conduct.

"When recruiting new officials, one of the comments frequently made is, 'officials don't get the respect they should and I don't want to be yelled at for doing the best I can,'" says KSHSAA Assistant Executive Director Fran Martin. "Whether it is coming from players, parents or coaches, that kind of negativity doesn't endear people to want to become an official."

The proposed bill in Topeka could change that, state lawmakers say.

"Hopefully this'll help officials calm the nerves of fans that are out of line or coaches that are out of line, because people would be held accountable now," Gordon says.

He says he'd like to see more young people become officials.

"You get to stick around the games you love, that you grew up playing, that you had a love for," he says.

The bill aiming to protect referees in Kansas has its hearing Wednesday in the committee for federal and state affairs.