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Boy Scouts to review all allegations of sexual abuse

September 25, 2012 |  9:04 pm

Boy Scouts files

The Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday that it would conduct a comprehensive review of files on suspected sexual predators to ensure that all allegations of abuse in the last 47 years have been reported to law enforcement.

The move would mark the first time in the organization’s century-long history that it thoroughly studied its own confidential files, a blacklist meant to keep predators out of Scouting.

The announcement comes nine days after The Times published an investigation that found officials did not report hundreds of cases of alleged sexual abuse between 1970 and 1991 to law enforcement. The findings were based on a review of 1,600 files entered into evidence in a 1992 court case.

Documents: A paper trail of abuse

For decades, the Boy Scouts have argued that the confidential files contain no information of value to the public or for protecting youth in general against pedophiles.

Asked to explain why the Scouts were now analyzing their files, a Scout spokesman said in an email, “While we believe the files are an inconclusive record, the BSA will undertake a new review and analysis ... to ensure that all good-faith suspicion of abuse [from 1965-present] have been reported to law enforcement.”

In announcing the review Tuesday, the Boy Scouts also released a summary of a more limited study it commissioned that suggested the confidential files had helped protect Scouts from abuse. The analysis covered 1,200 files dating from 1960 to 1995 and was conducted for the Scouts by Janet Warren, a University of Virginia psychiatrist.

Warren concluded the blacklist “functioned well in helping to keep unfit adults out of Scouting.”

Warren testified as an expert witness for the organization in a 2010 civil lawsuit brought by a victim of abuse. The man, now an adult, ultimately was awarded nearly $20 million in a jury verdict against the Scouts.

The Scouts did not respond to a Times request to review the Warren study, but the newspaper obtained a copy of a preliminary 2011 study by Warren from another source. The study looked at Boy Scout files on 829 men who were expelled after they allegedly abused about 1,300 children between 1965 and 1985.

That study found that number of men expelled from Scouting for sexual abuse each year represented a tiny fraction of the more than 1 million adults who volunteered for Scouting. Warren did not address abuse that may not have been reported to Scouting’s national office during those years.

The Times analysis of an overlapping period found that Scout officials routinely failed to report detailed allegations to law enforcement and worked with suspected molesters to keep the information from parents and the press.

In 80% of the cases where the Scouts learned of abuse directly from parents or victims, the files contained no indication that police were notified, The Times found. In more than 100 cases, there was evidence that officials actively sought to conceal alleged abuse.

In an open letter to the Scouting community Tuesday, senior Scouting officials said in part: “In certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate and wrong.” 

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-- Jason Felch

Photo: Boxes full of records from the Boy Scouts of America are seen next to the Boy Scout oath at an attorney's office in Portland, Ore., before a hearing last summer. Credit: Associated Press

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