Scouts Change Their Story in Testimony to Congress and Admit They Let Those Accused of Sexual Abuse Return to Scouting

The leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have retracted earlier testimony they provided Congress concerning the problem of sexual abuse in Scouting. Initially, the Scouts told Congress that they didn’t allow men accused of sexual abuse to return as Scout volunteers. BSA has reversed that position and acknowledged that it has allowed back in some child molesters.

In a new letter to Congress, Michael B. Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive, said he was “incorrect” in an earlier letter denying that leaders suspected of abuse were allowed to return to Scouting.

“When I sent my response to your November 20, 2018 letter, I believed in good faith, and with deeply felt conviction, that BSA would never have knowingly allowed a sexual predator to work with youth,” he wrote in a May 28 letter to California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who is leading a probe into Boy Scout abuse claims.

Since then, however, Boy Scouts’ “Ineligible Volunteer Files” have been in the news again. These are files BSA created on volunteers and paid employees accused of sexually molesting children since at least the 1920s. 7,819 files currently exist. We know from representing victims of sex abuse in Scouting that BSA has destroyed most of the older files, although the exact number is not known.

Recently, BSA’s own child abuse consultant publicly acknowledged that 7,819 “IV Files” exist now, dating back several decades. She estimates that these files show that 12,254 children were allegedly abused by Scout leaders. For many reasons, including that most boys never report abuse, her estimate is way off. The number of children sexually abused in Scouting is more likely over 100,000.

In his new letter, Surbaugh clarified that Boy Scouts often let volunteers back into Scouting after kicking them out when they were accused of sexual abuse: “Since [November 20, 2018], I have learned that my response was incorrect,” he wrote in a letter confirmed by the Boy Scouts of America. The letter continues:

I have reviewed information that now makes clear to me that decades ago BSA did, in at least some instances, allow individuals to return to Scouting even after credible accusations of sexual abuse. I am devastated that this ever occurred. On behalf of BSA, I sincerely apologize to the individuals affected by this practice.

Yes, BSA’s own records show that the organization did, in fact, allow child molesters to return to Scouting after they had been kicked out for abusing children. Sometimes this happened because of sloppy record keeping or poor oversight by BSA and its local Councils. Sometimes this happened because the Scouts had only put the perpetrator on “probation” and then let him back in after two years without further complaint. Also, BSA’s official policy allowed men kicked out for abusing children to continue to participate fully in Scout activities with their own sons or stepsons.

BSA’s Ineligible Volunteer Files show just how child molesters targeted Boy Scouts to gain access to children and how BSA failed to protect the children in its organization from this known danger. Allowing some of these child abusers to return to Scouting after they were kicked out is only one of the ugly secrets hidden in the files.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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