The Free Press, Mankato, MN


December 2, 2012

Boy Scouts resisted background checks on leaders


The Boy Scouts were in a unique position to know how easily child molesters could slip into youth groups. Its files showed that at least 300 were caught in the Scouts from 1970 to 1991, according to the Times analysis. But the organization had never studied the files and wouldn’t do so for many years.

The National Child Protection Act passed with limits on liability and costs that the Boy Scouts had requested. The Scouts then led a coalition of youth groups, including the YMCA and the Girl Scouts, that fought against mandates for fingerprint checks in Florida, Pennsylvania and other states.

In 1994, Scouting required background checks for employees — but not volunteers. A spokesman explained that screening volunteers might cost as much as $41 million. “We don’t have close to that,” he said.

That year, Scouting had income of $486 million, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and was the second-largest recipient of private support among youth groups nationwide.

Nine years later, the Scouts switched course. In April 2003, as the child sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church was making headlines, Scouting began requiring criminal background checks for new volunteers.

In a press release, the organization said the “state of the art” screenings would complement its “nationally recognized” youth protection program.

But the new policy did not cover volunteers already in the organization.

It would be four more years before the Scouts mandated criminal checks for all volunteers.

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