Boy Scouts strive to protect kids

By MARK GRIFFIN May 04, 2010 07:48 am

As I meet with people throughout our council, I have been asked why I, or we, did not respond to the editorials and stories about the recent verdict against the Boy Scouts in Portland.

At the court’s direction, we have been, and continue to be, restricted in communications about this case. Because this matter continues, the Judge has asked that the Boy Scouts of America refrain from comment on the specific allegations.

However, I must comment and respond to the mischaracterization in a recent editorial (in a different publication) that we are not concerned about protecting youth.

As a movement Scouting does care very deeply about the safety of our members and all youth, and always has. Abuse is a huge problem in our society. According to Childhelp.org there are 3.2 million reported abuse cases in the United States every year. We are one of only a few agencies that has a rigorous, nationwide system of background checks of every registered volunteer leader and employee — conducted through an independent service — which attempts to keep out of the program those individuals who should not be leading youth.

Because that is not enough, and we do genuinely care about all children and not just our 4 million current members, abuse education is part of every youth handbook and part of every adult leader training course. Parents and leaders are taught to recognize abuse and children who are being abused wherever it occurs in our community. Youths are taught to “recognize, resist, and report” whenever they come upon an abusive situation in their lives. In Scouting meetings and activities this training and our enforced policy of “two-deep leadership” is designed to eliminate opportunities for intentional and unintentional abuse and to keep our kids safe as they conduct Scouting activities.

Lists that are maintained by the National Council, especially prior to the availability of nationwide background checks and the sharing of data by law enforcement agencies, were not “secret.” Almost everyone in Scouting involved in any aspect of registration of leaders knew they were there. The contents were kept confidential however to protect innocent victims. Until very recently in our country there was little or no sharing of information among the states and among law enforcement agencies. A person could commit an illegal act in or out of Scouting — that might be assault, might be abuse, might be embezzlement, or whatever disqualified him or her from a leadership role in Scouting — and then move to another state. His or her record did not follow, and there was no system to let the new community know. In an effort to prevent an individual who was deemed ineligible in one community from becoming a Scout leader in the new community, adult registrations were compared to that list by our national registration service. If there was a match, the local council would be called to see if it was the same person. If it was, that registration was denied. By the way, in 31 years as a BSA employee, including eight years on the national BSA staff, I have never heard the list called “perversion files.” It was always called the “confidential list” or the “ineligible volunteer file.”

Over 100 years of our existence, being a Boy Scout has had a positive effect on the lives of more than 100 million young people. Parents across the nation and their sons attend Cub Scout and Boy Scout meetings run by more than 1 million community volunteer leaders who do what they do because they really do care about these, and all, young people.

I urge you to take a look at http://scouting.org/Training/YouthProtection.aspx and see what we are doing.

Mark Griffin is Council Executive for the Boy Scouts of America’s Blue Mountain Council, based in the Tri Cities, Wash., www.bmcbsa.org.