Covering Kentucky

Jan 30, 2014 5:40 PM

Lawmakers Debate Age Exemption For Teen Referees

That after-game scuffle between an off-duty police officer and a 13-year-old soccer referee was a topic of conversation among lawmakers Thursday. Specifically, whether 13-year-olds or younger kids should be allowed to work as referees. Right now, that is illegal in Kentucky.

Not many 13-year-olds are asked to come to a House committee meeting, but that's where Nathaniel Rase was when lawmakers discussed a bill that would legally allow kids like him to be paid as a referee in Kentucky.

The response was overwhelmingly positive.

Nathaniel is the teen grabbed by off duty Lexington police officer Keith Spears after a girls' soccer game.

In the midst of all the publicity, someone anonymously notified the Labor Cabinet that 13 -year-old Nathaniel was too young to be a referee.

Nathaniel's hometown representative, Ryan Quarles, wants to amend the law so minors can legally work as referees, umpires or officials for youth athletic programs. Right now, it exempts minors who do farm work and grass cutting, and there's even an exemption for 11-year-old golf caddies.

"Over 20 percent of youth refs in Kentucky fall in to that age category 12 to 14," said Rep. Ryan Quarles. .

The only concern from labor officials was they want the starting age to be 12.

"It helps me earn money, learn the sport of soccer and help other people learn the sport of soccer, and not to argue with referees," Rase said.

The bill has an emergency clause in it, so once the age is amended to 12, it can go right to the Governor to sign into law.

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