Ruling: BSA Abuse Files to Be Made Public

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The Boy Scouts of America’s “confidential files” on people banned for alleged child molesting must be made public, an Oregon judge ruled last month.

Several news organizations prevailed in a court petition to release 1,247 such files that were submitted as part of a civil trial this spring. The files helped draw national attention to the case, in which a jury awarded more than $20 million to former Scout Kerry Lewis, who had been abused repeatedly by a Scout leader, with most of the money to come from the BSA.

Judge John Wittmayer of Multnomah County (Portland) said that the information, about 20,000 pages collected by Boy Scout executives between 1965 and 1985, could take months to be released, because the Boy Scouts of America plans to appeal. If and when they are released, the names of victims and those who reported the abuse are to be censored, the judge said.

The files include news clips, internal Scout memos, police reports and letters that describe the alleged abuse incidents and how the allegations were handled. In the mid-1980s, about 200 of the BSA’s files on alleged molesters were made public through a civil trial in Virginia, with identifying information redacted.

The news organizations, including The Associated Press, The New York Times, the Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting, argued that Oregon’s constitution mandates that material produced as evidence in court is public.

In a memo to professional Scout executives around the country, BSA Assistant Chief Scout Executive James J. Terry said, “Inappropriate behavior is more likely to be reported when confidentiality can be assured” and that “victims should choose for themselves whether or not to share their stories publicly.”

Also last month, BSA ordered all of its volunteers to go through training about sex abuse. For details, see “Boy Scouts Makes Volunteers Learn About Sex Abuse” at http://www.youthtoday.org.