The Boy Scouts of America did the right thing — finally.
Reversing a longstanding policy, the organization said it would conduct a thorough review of its secret files involving pedophiles.
It announced the change in an open letter to its supporters.
“There have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong,” it says. “For any episode of abuse, and in any instance where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest apologies and sympathies to victims and their families. One instance of abuse is one too many.”
The review of the pedophile files, fortunately, will be done by people outside the Boys Scouts of America. Dr. Janet Warren, a psychiatry professor at the University of Virginia, will lead the study.
“The first thing is that we make sure anything in those files that law enforcement needs to know, we tell them,” says Deron Smith, a BSA spokesman, in the Dallas Morning News.
Media pressure leads to policy reversal
Recently, the Los Angeles Times printed a scathing article on the Boy Scouts’ secret files.
In a review of 1,600 confidential files from 1970 to 1991, the newspaper found that Scouting officials frequently covered up sexual abuse and allowed leaders to resign without stating the true reason.
For instance, a Maryland leader was given six weeks to resign after he admitted that abuse allegations were true, the newspaper reported.
“This gave him an opportunity to withdraw from Scouting in a graceful manner to be determined by him,” a Scouting memo said. “We also reminded [him] that he had agreed to keep the whole matter confidential and we would not talk to anyone in order to give [him] complete ability to voluntarily withdraw.”
Attorneys who represent alleged sexual assault victims praised the organization’s long-overdue decision to uncover the sexual abuse secrets in its past.
As parents, we should applaud the Boys Scouts of America too.
But the organization shouldn’t escape condemnation for waiting so long to face the truth.