Editorial: BSA still has ways to go in tackling molestation problem
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 21:10
The Boy Scouts of America has long been ridiculed for being a magnet for pedophiles. While it’s certainly an overstatement to say that that’s all the Boy Scouts are, the evidence is certainly stacking against them. American attitudes toward pedophilia have changed greatly since 1910 when the organization was founded. At the beginning of the century, pedophilia was a shameful matter to be dealt with privately. But gradually laws went on the books and it was made a criminal offense. In the late 1980s, the Youth Protection program developed into a set of rules regarding the relationship between scouts and adult leaders. The principles set down in Youth Protection training include no one-on-one contact with scouts, appropriate attire, a prohibition on hazing and secret organizations among other specifications dedicated to keeping scouts safe.
Unfortunately, some adults have slipped through the cracks and instances of abuse still pop up from time to time.
To make the situation worse, it has now come to light that the Boy Scouts of America has actually assisted in keeping some instances of abuse quiet to maintain their level of credibility. This happened in April 2010 when the jury ruled that the BSA failed to protect a scout from an assistant scoutmaster who had already confessed to molesting children. The plaintiff received a $20 million settlement and the Boy Scouts of America received a court order.
The order forces the organization to reveal their secret files from 1965 to 1985. A committee (led by Mike Johnson, the Youth Protection Director and former police detective) will review the files and search for cases of child abuse that have gone unreported all these years.
Of course, many of these cases are decades old and may come to nothing except an identified molester. Kelly Clark, a Portland, Ore. attorney, says the secret files in question contain information that the BSA collected on suspected child molesters but information that the Scouts failed to act on in order to protect the boys.
It’s really a shame that it has taken a century for an organization that declares its intent is to build morals and values into its participating scouts to finally act in a moral fashion. The organization wants to emphasize, and it would be unfair to not include, the fact that between 1.4 and 2.1 in 100,000 boys have been molested in the scouts, while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in 1980 that the national average was 70 in 100,000. The problem is that 1.4 to 2.1 is far too many boys facing a situation that could have been avoided.