Special Olympics Sued for Not Protecting a Child

Lawyers for the now 16-year-old severely disabled youth walked into a north Florida courthouse and filed suit against the Special Olympics of Florida.

The suit charges the organization was sloppy when it approved George Tommy Toole to be a volunteer. Toole is now serving a 30-year prison sentence for abusing the boy.

The boy’s attorney is Dean Le Boeuf.

“This organization hasn't stepped up to the plate to ensure that the volunteers that they place with these children have thorough screening and background checks," says Dean.

Toole was allowed to stay alone with the boy in a Tampa hotel room while attending the state competition two years ago.

At a news conference, lawyer Scott Gwartney displayed volunteer forms used by the Special Olympics. In Toole's case, staff initialed that a background check had been completed the same day the application was filled out.

"We don't know what background checks they did, but we know that it's virtually impossible to do a full criminal background check that same day," Gwartney says.

The organization uses the same application Thursday.

Experts say criminal background checks aren't enough. They say organizations like Special Olympics must dig deeper. Special Olympics expressed shock when told they were being sued.

And with summer camp season just around the corner, parents are being urged to ask the right questions, including what are the procedures for checking counselors and their mental state.

Again, experts say criminal checks aren't enough, but that organizations must use personality assessment tests.


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