Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court allowed files to be released to the public that includes records of over 1,200 Boy Scout leaders being accused of child molestation from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. After efforts to keep the files concealed, the Scouts were forced to release what they had referred to as “perversion files” after the alleged abuse of Helen Caldwell’s son one year ago sparked interest for further investigation.
The Boy Scouts attempted to justify their lack of action by explaining that this was a file for their black listed leaders. However, this was not entirely true. While some were in fact released and allowed to quietly leave without any record or additional investigation, many sexual offenders were not reported or fired. The broadcast on NPR explains,
“…when a Scoutmaster slept nude with boys and showed them pornography, it was deemed, quote, ‘poor judgment,’ but not enough to kick him out.”
Now I am no expert on the matter, but I would consider “poor judgement” as giving the boys ice cream after 10pm; sleeping naked with ten-year-old boys is just plain sick.
I do understand that sometimes the best approach to a serious scandal is to handle it internally if the integrity of an entire institution is in jeopardy. In such cases, the guilty are generally expelled from the group or organization and some sort of a discretion deal is worked out. However, in this case, not only were 1,200 potential crimes kept out of the public eye, but they were hardly dealt with at all. Numerous accounts were not even kept in the files at all, which is perhaps even more distressing. For example, the Scout leader who was found guilty of molesting Helen Caldwell’s son had no such allegations in the files, even after he had admitted to previous sexual abuse.
The Boy Scout’s national president, Wayne Perry, now admits that the Boy Scouts did “fall short,” and apologized on their behalf. He also pinky promises that they are going to be smarter about it in the future. Thanks Mr. Perry, I’m glad it takes a public scandal to see that not reporting over 1,200 sexual abuse cases is falling a little short. It is not as though the files hadn’t been reviewed and well-known by the Boy Scout council for all these years. Apparently they had even attempted to soften the severity of the content by changing the nickname of the accounts from “perversion files” to “ineligible volunteer files.”
The Boy Scouts mission statement says,
“The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.”
To support their founding beliefs, they disregarded 15,000 pages of child molestation cases for decades and instead focused their efforts on a banning openly gay people from becoming members. If that doesn’t deserve a badge, then I don’t know what does.
By: Lauren Opatowski
(Photo by Dave Blumenkrantz under a Creative Commons license)