VIGILANCE REPORT: Officials with Boy Scouts of America have poorly protected the nearly 3 million kids in their care from sex abuse, but they insist that will change as of today, in part because of a media investigation into coverups and denials that would make the Catholic Church blush.
“Videos intended to alert youth about potential abuse don’t warn that Scout leaders could be molesters, despite an 80-year record of just such scenarios,” the Oregonian newspaper found in an intense and extensive investigation.
“None of them – not one of them – ever mentioned a Boy Scout, showed a Boy Scout or had a Boy Scout scenario,” Paul Mones, a Portland attorney who has represented abuse victims for 30 years, told the Oregonian for its impressive series of reports.
What’s more, the Oregonian reports, few of the 1.2 million adults volunteering in Scouts have been required to take available training.
The BSA has thousands of members in nearly 100 troops from Allendale to Wayne, with plenty in-between — Bergenfield, Teaneck, Ridgefield Park, Highland Park, Waldwick, Passaic, Clifton, Wayne and Kearny, among dozens of others.
The Scouts should be proudly celebrating a century of service to America’s youth.Instead, administrators are sharing the shame of the Catholic Church for turning a blind eye to unspeakable crimes.
In fact, a Portland jury that found the Scouts liable — to the tune of $18.5 million — for allowing a convicted sex abuser of young boys to remain with the outfit sent a letter to officials there that they “must do a better job” of protecting our children.
“They never said once that ‘We have a problem,’” Margaret Ormsbee, one of the jurors, told the Oregonian. “It felt to jurors that maybe they weren’t taking this seriously.”
A Seattle lawyer who won access to Scout files allowed the Oregonian to tap into his database for its report. Reporters studied the files, then conducted countless interviews.
Among the findings:
*BSA officials didn’t begin criminal background checks on its volunteers until 2003, despite hard evidence that shows the practice helps keep predators away. All who came before were grandfathered in. “Finally, in 2008, the Scouts required checks on everyone renewing their annual registration as a Scout volunteer,” the newspaper says.
*Despite having a trove of confidential “ineligible volunteer files,” the Scouts “ignored their own experts’ advice to study and learn” from them. They have collected such records since about 1920, documenting the name and conduct of every Scout leader banned for child abuse nationwide — some of whom managed to work their way back into the ranks.
In response, the organization told the Oregonian: “What struck everyone was that the Scouts simply weren’t using their information,” said Orsmbee, the Portland juror. “It was really disturbing.”
“The Boy Scouts of America has been a pioneer in building multiple layers of safeguards into its programs so that local Scout troop can be as safe a place as possible,” the Scouts countered in a statement to The Oregonian.
Only trouble is: “Scout documents and sworn testimony by Scout executives show precious little of it mandated, and none of it audited,” the newspaper wrote.
“This should be mandatory training for every volunteer and not just registered volunteers,” Ormsbee, the juror, told the Oregonian. “There are far more unregistered volunteers. This should be required for any adult who’s going to be around Scouts.”
The Scouts have since said that, as of today, “youth protection training will be mandatory for every adult volunteer and it must be taken every two years.”
That include a flier for parents that advises parent to: “Tell your children that an adult whom they know and trust, perhaps someone in a position of authority [like a babysitter, an uncle, a teacher, or even a policeman] might try to do something like this.”
Kristen Anderson of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said her organization recommends annual record checks. “Congress created the center as a pilot project to give youth organizations one place to turn for centralized checks,” the newspaper writes. “Many of the country’s largest youth organizations signed on. The Boy Scouts didn’t.”
The Scouts could use the files, including their own, to detect potential harm before it occurs.
“Are they single? Are they married? How do they groom their victims? Are they younger? Older?” Orsmbee said.
Ormsbee told the Oregonian that jurors were “disturbed by episodes when the Scouts discovered but didn’t reject a suspected or proven abuser.”
“In several instances, abusers were put on probation instead of being banned,” the newspaper wrote.
Now where have we heard that before?
“We’re wondering why they were not kicked out,” Ormsbee said.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Vicki Polin of the Awareness Center for her assistance on this and other stories.]