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Sheldon Kennedy and a Canadian Tragedy Revisited: A Comparative Look at U.S. and Canadian Jurisprudence on Youth Sports Organizations’ Civil Liability for Child Sexual Exploitation

Posted by on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 in Notes, Vol. 39 No. 4, Volume 39, Volumes.

National Hockey League player Sheldon Kennedy’s 1997 revelation that his award-winning junior hockey coach had molested him for years created a national outcry in Canada. It resulted in the appointment of a special commission and declarations from the United States and Canada that this must never happen again. However, Kennedy was not alone; child sexual exploitation occurs at the hands of youth coaches across geographic and class boundaries and across individual and team sports.

Youth sports organizations, including schools, have approached the human and legal issues presented by child sexual exploitation in numerous ways. This Note analyzes the differences between—and strengths and weaknesses of—U.S. and Canadian courts’ respective treatment of these organizations’ actions both before and after sexual abuse is discovered. It also examines the degree to which youth sports organizations in both nations have acted to prevent future problems, specifically as compared to the recommendations of the commission formed in response to Kennedy’s story. The Author concludes the Canadian judicial standard for youth sports organizations’ liability ultimately is superior to the standard employed by U.S. courts.

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