Lists released Thursday of approximately 6,000 adults expelled from the Boy Scouts of America between 1947 and 2005 for alleged acts of sexual misconduct with children include more than 50 cases in Oklahoma and three in the local Cimarron Council.
The lists are taken from the BSA’s national “Ineligible Volunteer” files, which have been maintained for more than 80 years to document adult staff and volunteers who should be barred from Scouting because they “do not meet BSA’s membership standards because of known or suspected abuse or other inappropriate conduct either inside or outside of Scouting.”
The BSA national organization has long fought to keep the records closed. In a press release issued Wednesday in advance of the bulk of the existing records being made public, BSA headquarters said the lists have been kept confidential “because the BSA believes that confidentiality encourages prompt reporting of abuse.”
Others contend the BSA organization concealed the records over the years to cover up abuse, in some cases protecting the offenders and putting more children at risk.
A Portland, Ore., attorney released about 1,200 files Thursday from a 2010 Oregon lawsuit, Lewis vs. Boy Scouts of America. A jury awarded Lewis $1.4 million in general damages and $18.5 million in punitive damages, according to records from the law firm that represented Lewis, O’Donnell Clark and Crew LLP.
The judge in the case ordered the so-called “perversion files” made public, a decision later affirmed by the Oregon Supreme Court.
The records from the lawsuit are from 1965 to 1985, and include 10 Oklahoma cases.
Along with the 1,200 files released Thursday, the Los Angeles Times also has compiled a database of an additional 1,900 files from 1970 to 1991 produced as evidence in a 1992 California lawsuit, and summary information for about 3,100 files from 1947 to 2005.
In its press release Wednesday, the BSA stated law enforcement was involved in nearly two-thirds of the incidents described in the Lewis vs. BSA files, and 58 percent “included information known to the public.”
LA Times reporters Jason Felch and Kim Christensen noted no criminal charges were filed in many of the incidents described in their database.
The Times focused on 1,600 files from 1970 to 1991, and “found that Scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign — and helped many cover their tracks.
“In the majority of cases, the Scouts learned of alleged abuse after it had been reported to authorities,” they wrote. “But in more than 500 instances, the Scouts learned about it from boys, parents, staff members or anonymous tips.”
The Times also reported in 80 percent of those 500 cases, there was no record of BSA reporting the allegations to police, and in “more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it.”
The Times database and the files from the Lewis lawsuit combined include 52 incidents at Oklahoma BSA units, including one from Enid in 1993 and two from Cleo Springs in 1992.
The majority of the cases in Oklahoma were provided as “summary information,” meaning the detailed files have not been released. The underlying documents for the Enid and Cleo Springs cases were not available, and it is unknown whether the allegations involved in those case files were substantiated or disproved.
Of the 10 Oklahoma incidents for which documents were available, court records do not show convictions on sexual misconduct-related charges for any of the subjects involved.
The records available indicate law enforcement was involved in or became involved in investigations concerning all 10 of the subjects, though the available records make no mention of BSA officials initiating any of the police involvement.
Several of the subjects involved had previous arrests for, or allegations of sexual misconduct with children before they began volunteering with Scouting, according to the BSA records.
One of the subjects, who was documented on a BSA Ineligible Volunteer form in 1974, also was a special education teacher for a public school system in Washita County. The BSA records show Scouting officials met with the school and the parents involved, and the subject resigned from the school system. But, the records make no mention of police being notified.
That subject went on to face two felony counts of lewd molestation and one count of sodomy in Custer County in 1995. He was acquitted in a jury trial.
In another case file, BSA officials document receiving allegations an adult volunteer had molested at least four boys. The record notes the parents of one of the boys had filed criminal charges in the matter, but makes no mention of BSA officials forwarding to law enforcement the information they had pertaining to the other three boys.
In a subsequent letter, BSA officials politely asked the alleged offender to “sever any relations that you may have with the Boy Scouts of America.”
In a handwritten note in another file, a BSA official notes criminal proceedings being conducted against a former BSA volunteer were “held in closed chambers of judge,” and were “being handled discreetly.”
Failure to protect
BSA National President Wayne Perry acknowledged in his Wednesday press release the Volunteer Ineligibility system had, in some cases, failed to protect children.
“There have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate or wrong,” Perry said. “Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.”
Perry noted the Ineligible Volunteer files were Scouting’s way of keeping track of those who shouldn’t be allowed to volunteer before the days of computer databases, national background checks and online file sharing.
Perry said Scouting has come a long way since the incidents described in the released files, and now is a “leader among youth-serving organizations in preventing child abuse.”
Emphasis on protection
Bobby Schultz, Scout Executive for Cimarron Council of Boy Scouts of America, said Scouting officials at all levels now “have a strong emphasis on youth protection training.”
“All of our adult leaders are required to go through youth protection training, and all adult leaders have background checks,” Schultz said. “It is a big focus for us.”
Scouts of all ages also receive age-appropriate training on identifying and reporting inappropriate behavior, including physical, mental and sexual abuse, along with other issues such as hazing and bullying.
The first 23 pages of both the Cub Scout and Boy Scout handbooks now are dedicated to a parents’ guide on “How to Protect Your Children from Child Abuse.”
Schultz said the training for Scouts, their parents and adult volunteers is part of Scouting’s “multi-tiered protection plan for kids.”
Scouting now requires at least two adults accompany Scouts on any trip or event, a requirement Schultz said protects the children from the possibility of abuse, and also protects volunteers from the potential for unfounded allegations.
And, perhaps the most significant change since the days detailed in the files recently released, Scouting now requires allegations and suspicions of abuse be taken directly to law enforcement, side-stepping the BSA structure that in some cases at least appeared to conceal abuse and abusers.
“We’ve always worked directly with law enforcement,” Schultz said, “but our leaders and parents are now required to report to local authorities if there are even suspicions of youth safety violations.”
BSA’s views on past abuse, and its efforts to prevent and address it in the future, are reflected in a note to parents now included with each Boy Scout Handbook.
“Child abuse is a serious problem in our society, and unfortunately, it can occur anywhere, even in Scouting,” the note reads. “Youth Safety is Scouting’s No. 1 concern.”