In the long list of goals set forth by the Boy Scouts of America, preparing the nation’s youth for their future is perhaps the most important. However, recent transgressions committed sexual predators have made the organization reevaluate their priorities. Subsequently, safeguards that were put in place to prevent sexual predators from gaining access to the children have been breached on numerous occasions. Reports that were recently made public have revealed repeat child abuse by the same sexual predator.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. They provide an opportunity for young people to build their character, train them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develop personal fitness. For nearly a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. They know that helping the youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.
In accordance with their storied tradition, the BSA pride themselves on their ability to protect the children they serve. The organization places the greatest importance on creating the most secure environment possible for their members. To maintain such an environment, the BSA has developed numerous procedural and leadership selection policies. Accordingly, the BSA works closely with their chartered organizations to help recruit the best possible leaders for their units.
The BSA currently relies on a confidential blacklist known as the “perversion files” as a crucial line of defense against sexual predators. Scouting officials have acknowledged that this list has prevented hundreds of sexual deviants from entering the ranks of the BSA. They’ve fought hard in court to keep the records from public view, saying confidentiality was needed to protect victims, witnesses and anyone falsely accused. “It is a fact that Scouts are safer because the barrier created by these files is real,” Scouts Chief Executive Robert Mazzuca said in video posted on the organization’s website in June.
Unfortunately, however, there are those who have been able to breach the black list on multiple occasions. A Los Angeles Times review of more than 1,200 files dating from 1970 to 1991 found more than 125 cases across the country in which men allegedly continued to molest Scouts after the organization was first presented with detailed allegations of abusive behavior.
The files revealed situations in which known predators found their way back into the program by falsifying personal information or skirting the registration process. However, others were permitted to jump from troop to troop because a series of clerical errors, computer glitches or the Scouts’ failure to check the blacklist. Perhaps the most disturbing, however, are those cases of abuse that were never filed in the first place, permitting offenders to stay with the organization until new allegations surfaced.
The files acknowledge at least 50 instances in which an abuser was expelled, only to discover later that they had reentered the program and were accused of molesting again.
One such case involves a scout master who was expelled for his sexual transgressions with a 14-year-old boy in 1970. Following his convictions, the scout master joined two more troops in Illinois between 1971 and 1988. He later admitted to molesting more than 100 boys, was convicted of the sexual assault of a Scout in 1989 and was sentenced to 100 years in prison, according to his file and court records.
According to Bill Dworin, a retired Los Angeles police expert on child sexual abuse, “basically, there were no controls.” Dworin had reviewed hundreds of the files as a witness for an Oregon man abused by his troop leader in the 1980s. In 2010 sexual abuse lawsuit, the plaintiff in the case Dworin was reviewing, Kerry Lewis, won a nearly $20-million jury verdict against the Scouts.
Sexual transgressions, like those previously mentioned, have been kept on file since at least 1919. The list, later dubbed the “perversion files,” has since been computerized and now keeps track of the men and women who fail to meet Scouting’s moral standards.
Only those with the proper standing are permitted to view the files, which are kept in 15 locked cabinets at Scout headquarters in Irving, Texas. However, recent years have witnessed hundreds of the files that have been admitted as evidence, usually under seal, in lawsuits by former Scouts alleging a pattern of abuse in the organization. Many of the files will soon be made public as a result of an Oregon Supreme Court decision. The court, in response to a petition by the Oregonian, the Associated Press, the New York Times and other media organizations, ordered the release of 1,247 files from 1965 to 1984 that had been admitted as evidence, under seal, in the 2010 lawsuit.
In anticipation of their release, BSA representatives have recently begun to review the files in order to gain a better perspective on what is to come. Of the 829 files that were reviewed, representatives acknowledged 175 that prevented men who’d been banned for alleged abuse from reentering the program.
In continuing with their efforts to prevent sexual abuse amongst the ranks of the BSA, the files serve as an extra security. However, recent decades have seen numerous protective measures added to the files. In 1988, for instance, Scouting did away with probation; its policy now is to expel anyone suspected in “good faith” of abuse. In 2008, criminal background checks were required on all volunteers, and in 2010 the organization required all suspected abuse to be reported to law enforcement. While the extent to which these measures have succeeded is impossible to gauge, they continue to fight in court against the release of more recent files.
According to BSA representatives, “The Boy Scouts of America believes even a single instance of abuse is unacceptable, and we regret there have been times when the BSA’s best efforts to protect children were insufficient. For that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims…. We are committed to the ongoing enhancement of our program, in line with evolving best practices for protecting youth.”
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