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Resources Feb 04, 2013

Young referee in Indiana lobbies to change child labor law

By Charles Boehm

A 13-year-old boy in Indiana is taking aim at a state labor law that’s standing between him and his work as a youth soccer referee — and finding success.

Over the weekend the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal, following up on the work of the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press, reported on Matthew Burkart of Newburgh, Ind. and his efforts to change a state child-labor law that currently prevents him from pursuing a part-time job as a ref.

The law in question bars children under 14 from employment with the exception of golf caddies, newspaper deliverers and farm workers.

About a year ago, right as he was gaining his certification, the Indiana Soccer Association ceased its decades-long practice of employing of 12- and 13-year-old referees after learning that it was violating that stricture.

Frustrated by this development, Burkart petitioned state legislators for a change, on the grounds that youth sports refereeing should fall under the same category as caddying and the other exceptions to the law.

“I was super excited about getting this job,” Matthew wrote. “I was so close. It was like shooting and hitting the crossbar at the last second. So close, yet so far.

“I know child labor can be a terrible thing, but this was my idea, not my dad’s, my mom’s or anyone in my family. I just want to make some money for myself and save it for college.”

Supported by testimony from Burkart and Indiana Soccer president Murray Clark, state senator Vaneta Becker put forward a bill changing the law on Burkart’s behalf which passed the Indiana Senate last week on a 48-0 vote. Coaches from the college soccer programs at Evansville and Notre Dame wrote letters in support of Burkart and the efforts he was making, and he even delivered a petition signed by more than 100 soccer players, coaches and parents — including U.S. Women’s National Team star Lauren Cheney.

So far, it looks like this plucky young man’s activism in search of a soccer career is working.

[ +Read an update from Indiana Soccer on Burkart’s project and the association’s support of it here ]

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