Scout Abuse Files Keep Making News

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Be prepared to read a lot about sex abuse in the Boy Scouts over the next few months.

The pending release of more than 1,000 files that the Boy Scouts of America maintained about people that it banned for alleged sexual misconduct has several news outlets (including Youth Today) looking at how the organization has handled the problem. However, most of those files have been analyzed and written about before.

So what’s new? The Los Angeles Times weighed in on Sunday with a story saying that in the 1970s and ‘80s, Scout officials often failed to report abuse allegations to legal authorities and even worked to conceal abuse by letting molesters go free. The same thing has been reported several times over the past 20 years in newspapers, television programs and a book, based on the same files. The Times did some new data crunching, saying that in more than 100 cases, officials “actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed suspects to hide it.” 

Here are some examples from the book, Scouts Honor, published in 1992: 

The Confidential Files reveal dozens of cases where leaders accused of molesting Scouts were let go with no charges, as long as they resigned from Scouting. … 

* When a New York Scoutmaster was accused of fondling boys in 1977, troop leaders lucked out because the county sheriff was a volunteer with the Scout council. The sheriff gave the Scoutmaster two options: " 1. resign from the Boy Scouts of America or 2. If he did not resign, the case would be investigated further." The man chose option one.

* That same year, an explorer advisor in Illinois admitted abusing a Scout and agreed to resign "in return for no further legal action on the part of the council." 

* In Texas, where a man confessed to molesting boys in his Cub pack, the district attorney happened to be a former professional Scouter. The molester "agreed to resign from all positions dealing with boys in exchange for his lack of prosecution." 

* Tennessee Scout officials talked one victim's parents out of contacting police or the local human services agency, promising that they would "handle the situation" with the assistant Scoutmaster themselves. The man promised "it would never happen again if they'd let him go." Months later he molested another boy and was arrested.

Here’s a rundown of the files that are at the heart of these reports: 

Soon after its launch in 1910, the BSA established a “Red Flag List” to keep track of volunteers whom it banned for inappropriate behavior. That list evolved into the “Ineligible Volunteer File” or the “Confidential Files.” The most common offenses were sexual activity with children. 

Several sets of those files, spanning different years, have been produced under court order for lawsuits by abuse victims against the BSA:

Infant C v. BSA (Fairfax County, Va., 1989) -- 231 files, covering 1975 through 1984. Those files were public in that the plaintiff’s attorney allowed reporters or lawyers to view and copy them. 

Doe v. Trueman (Sacramento County, Calif., 1992) – 1878 files, covering 1971 through November 1991. Those files were public in that the plaintiff’s attorney allowed reporters or lawyers to view and copy them. These are the basis of most analyses of abuse in Scouting.           

Doe v. BSA (Portland, Ore., 2010) – More than 1,000 files, covering 1965 to 1985. Portland courts declared that these are public files, and ordered the plaintiff’s attorney to make them publicly available with certain identifying information (such as the names of victims) redacted. Electronic versions of these files are expected to be available by the end of the year.