by Paul Bowers
According to files released by the Boy Scouts of America and reporting by the Los Angeles Times, there were 40 cases of suspected child molestation in South Carolina Boy Scout troops between 1947 and January 2005. Two of the cases were in Charleston.
The Charleston cases occurred in 1966 with Unit 66 and in 1988 with Unit 4. Legare Clement, scout executive with the Boy Scouts of America Coastal Carolina Council, says he is unable to comment on the specific cases, which occurred before he started working with the program in 1991.
The national Boy Scouts released records today that indicate about 5,000 men and a few women were expelled from the organization on suspicion of sexual abuse. According to the Los Angeles Times, which has a searchable database of incidents on its website, the Boy Scouts "failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters to police," hid some allegations from the public, and purged an unknown number of molestation files from their records in the early 1990s.
Clement says the Coastal Carolina Council has received a few reports of abuse by adult leaders in the time since he joined the organization, and while they were all reported to authorities — sheriff's offices, police departments, and the Departments of Social Services, depending on the case — none resulted in leaders being removed or arrested.
The Boy Scouts have been using a program called Youth Protection since the late 1980s, sending troop leaders to special training every two years and running extensive background checks on all adult volunteers. "We train the youth also so they can know what to expect on a scouting function and know when something doesn't seem right," Clement says. Under the Scouts' "two-deep" leadership policy, at least two adults must be present for all scouting activities.
Wayne Perry, national president of the Boy Scouts, issued the following statement today:
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. Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.
While it is difficult to understand or explain individuals’ actions from many decades ago, today Scouting is a leader among youth-serving organizations in preventing child abuse. The BSA requires background checks; administers comprehensive training programs for volunteers, staff, youth, and parents; and mandates reporting of even suspected abuse. We have continuously enhanced our multitiered policies and procedures to ensure we are in line with and, where possible, ahead of society’s knowledge of abuse and best practices for prevention. The BSA’s standards and relentless focus on Youth Protection have been recognized and praised by experts in child protection, including Victor Vieth, a former prosecutor who heads the National Child Protection Training Center.
Experts have found that the BSA’s system of ineligible volunteer files functions well to help protect Scouts by denying entry to potentially dangerous individuals, and Scouting believes they play an important role in our comprehensive Youth Protection system.