Question: What are these files?
Answer: These documents were written and collected nationwide since the early days of Scouting (1920’s). They contain information on individuals who have been dismissed from Scouting. The files are kept to keep dismissed people from re-entering Scouting. The files predate today’s technology and databases that are used. It was only in 2007 that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending youth-serving organizations keep these types of files as a best practice for protecting youth.
Q: Why were they confidential?
A: The files were confidential to protect the identity of any victims and encourage prompt reporting. Scouting’s proactive response in protecting children includes immediate dismissal of a volunteer when there’s an allegation of misconduct, rather than waiting for proof of guilt. The files may contain names of individuals who were wrongly accused. If a dismissed volunteer was charged or convicted, the criminal records are available to the public.
Q: Why were they released now?
A: Files from 1965 to 1985 were introduced into evidence in a court case in Oregon. The Associated Press, New York Times and other media companies filed a lawsuit stating the files were public records since they were evidence in the court case. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in their favor. Attorneys who sued the BSA in Oregon released the files, posting them on their website following a press conference on October 18.
Q: Has law enforcement been involved in all of these cases?
A: BSA policies always required Scouting to follow state laws in reporting abuse. The policy was updated in recent years to require all abuse to be reported to authorities, superseding state reporting requirements. A professional third‐party review of the files found that police were involved in at least two‐thirds of the cases. In early October, the BSA announced it would review the files to ensure that any case that needed to be reported to law enforcement will be done so retroactively.
Q: What is different today?
A: Contemporary Scouting and society as a whole treat abuse very differently in today's world. The public’s awareness and attitude has drastically changed. Today, all reports of abuse are immediately reported to law enforcement. Scouting’s policies, procedures and programs have been updated to reflect best practices in prevention and detection of abuse. This includes teaching young people to recognize, resist and report abuse. We will continue to review our programs and policies and focus on maintaining or enhancing our methods.
Q: What are the policies and procedures?
A: Here’s an overview of our youth protection system:
- Prospective leaders go through a thorough screening process by parents and organizations which charter or sponsor the Scout units.
- All volunteers submit to a criminal background check.
- Youth protection training is required for all volunteers and must be renewed every two years.
- One of the first requirements for all new youth members is that they have a face-to‐face discussion with their parents about abuse prevention.
- Training is provided for youth members using video scenarios and discussions to teach them to the three “R’s” of youth protection – to “Recognize, Resist, and Report” any kind of abuse.
- Operational barriers to abuse include requirements that two adults and two youth members are always present at a Scouting activity. There are separate sleeping, changing and showering facilities.
- Scouting volunteers are prohibited from one-on-one contact with a Scout (who is not a family member) outside of official Scouting events. There is no one-on-one counseling or contact during Scout functions that takes place outside the view of other Scouts and leaders.
- Parents are provided with reporting procedures.
- All aspects of the Scouting program are open to observation by parents and leaders.
Q: How many files are from our council?
A: From 1959 to 1985, there were approximately 20 volunteers dismissed from the program. There were more than 300,000 registered volunteer leaders who served our programs during that time. Even one case of abuse is too many.
Q: What would you say about safety to a parent who is considering signing up their child for Scouting?
A: Scouting becomes a partner with parents in ensuring the safety of their children. Scouting is a safe place for young people, with policies and procedures to prevent, detect and deter any kind of abuse. Leadership involvement, parent engagement, youth and adult training, and conversations on abuse prevention involving parents and children help create a safer community for young people. This is an example of Scouting teaching young people the skills they need to be prepared for a range of challenges and opportunities that lie ahead throughout their lifetime.