Protecting Our Youth in Scouting
To the Pacific Skyline Council Scouting Community:
Much has been written recently about the Boy Scouts of America's longstanding practice of keeping a list of individuals who are deemed unfit for membership, known as the Ineligible Volunteer files ("IV files"), and a few individuals from local Scouting units who were found in those files. The media has dubbed these the "Perversion Files", and many articles miss key points on the issue of protecting youth from abuse in Scouting. As President of the Pacific Skyline Council, I want to correct the misinformation about the disclosure of these files, reassure you that Scouting is doing everything we can to protect the youth in our programs, and provide you with detailed information and resources that you can use to learn more on this critically important topic.
The IV files were started and are being continued to help BSA remove and keep out individuals whose actions are inconsistent with the standards of Scouting, and whose fitness to participate is in doubt - regardless of whether such individuals might wait or move across town or across the country, to later attempt to reenter Scouting. Though not a perfect mechanism, the files have long been, and remain, a valuable extra step taken by Scouting in screening adults for membership, which few national organizations undertake - even today. Some criticize the confidentiality of the files, asserting these "secret files" somehow protect abusers. Nothing could be further from the truth. BSA's confidential reporting system recognizes that not every report of suspected abuse is legally actionable or can be publicly disclosed and in some cases may not be totally true; but we want to encourage reporting so as to aid in keeping questionable individuals out of Scouting programs. Scouting uses the confidential IV files to remove individuals from Scouting more quickly and effectively than we could if the IV files were publicly available or did not exist at all.
There has never been any intent to shield or protect abusers within Scouting, through secrecy or otherwise. In fact, whenever suspicions of abuse become known to local Scouting leaders, BSA policy unambiguously requires reporting to law enforcement or child protective services, and, in California, our professional Scouters are mandated reporters. Moreover, most IV files reflect information already publicly known. Of the 1,247 nationwide Ineligible Volunteer Files recently released (covering the period of 1959 to 1985), the police, courts and public were already aware of most information contained in the files. (You can find further information on the IV files here)
Most importantly, you might ask: Are our children safe in Scouting? As leaders and parents, we can emphatically say "Yes!" We are working hard to ensure that our Scouts are safe in all Scouting activities, and there is evidence to support our conclusion that our programs are working better than ever. A University of Virginia study of some 1600 BSA Ineligible Volunteer files was conducted by Dr. Janet Warren, who found the incidence of abuse in Scouting programs was very low [2 per 100,000 vs. 70 per 100,000 in the general population]. She concluded youth were significantly safer in Scouting programs than elsewhere in their communities. (You can read more about this study and Dr. Warren's analysis and conclusions here.)
We want everyone to understand how, during the past 20 years, the Boy Scouts have developed a series of specific procedural safeguards for protecting Scouts. Scouting screens all adults and leaders during membership registration, including a national criminal background check through LexisNexis, a reputable independent company under contract to BSA, and screening against the IV files, BSA's national database of Ineligible Volunteers. Further, all registered adults and leaders are required to take BSA's Youth Protection Training at least every 2 years as a requirement to maintain membership in our annual registration process for each unit. We also strongly encourage all parents and guardians of our Scouts to learn more about our programs and efforts, and to take BSA's online Youth Protection Training course, so that they can rest assured our Scouts are safe, and help maintain vigilance in adhering to BSA youth protection guidelines. (Further information on BSA's Youth Protection Programs can be found here. BSA's Youth Protection Training can be directly accessed here.)
Additionally, BSA provides information on Scouting programs and protections in each membership application, as well as separate booklets on the subject of abuse provided to each child and parent in the Scouting program as inserts to Scouting Handbooks, and encourages discussions at home about protecting children from abuse. Parents are also welcome at all Scouting activities. Scouting's "Two-Deep Leadership" approach requires at least 2 adults for all activities (at least one of whom needs to be registered and thus screened), resulting in an expectation that no youth is ever isolated or alone with any adult (other than the Scout's parent) during any Scouting activity. Scouting also trains adults and youth alike to recognize, resist, and report any suspected abuse and to prevent bullying and hazing, including cyber bullying. Each Boy Scout Council has a Professional Scout Executive who can answer questions and take reports of any suspected instances of abuse or improper conduct during any Scouting activity. In California, our professional Scouting leaders have mandatory reporting obligations to law enforcement or child protective services. (You can find further useful information and resources regarding BSA's youth protection policies, resources, and practices here, or here.)
While Scouting cannot erase mistakes in the past, BSA has become a national leader and role model of youth protection, and our policies and procedures are widely studied and implemented by other organizations. Both BSA and the Pacific Skyline Council will continue working to improve our policies and training in order to further improve the safety of our Scouts and build confidence in our programs. If you have further questions, suggestions for improvement, or questionable circumstances to report, please contact our new Scout Executive Brian Curtis (after November 1, 2012) at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may contact me directly at GPickett@hopkinscarley.com.
Thank you for your attention and your support of our Scouts.
Garth Pickett, Council President
Pacific Skyline Council, BSA