Fingerprints required for Arizona high school referees

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PHOENIX - Long before your high school athlete hits the court, many school districts, like Phoenix Union, have coaches' backgrounds and fingerprints on file.

"We have a process where we want to screen our people. We want to make sure that we have the best people and the people that are qualified to be with our kids," said Reynaldo Peru, athletic director at Betty Fairfax High School. 

He's happy to learn that soon referees will have to submit both. 

"I think anytime you bring outside people on to your campus, we want to ensure that the people that we have, you know the safest environment for their children," Peru said.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association or AIA provides those officials to high school games. They already were subject to background checks, but they'll have to submit fingerprints starting July 1.

"We've always been exploring opportunities to improve our background checks we do for all of our officials," said Chuck Schmidt with the AIA.

This finger printing comes after Surprise police arrested a former softball umpire last September. Edward Lee Hartley, 67, is set to go to trial this Wednesday on 15 counts including prostitution with a minor. He allegedly had past sex crime charges that never showed in the background check.

"Was the Hartley case something that probably advanced that cause? Certainly it did, and we'll move forward from there," said Schmidt.

The new requirements haven't had many critics. Most think adding another layer of safety for their kids on the field can't hurt.