December 3, 2012
Boy Scouts' Pedophile Scandal
The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that its analysis of Boy Scouts of America's "perversion" files indicates that for many years the organization resisted implementing background checks and other measures to weed out pedophiles and actively lobbied against state legislation that would have required them to do so. BSA did not require criminal background checks for all volunteers until 2008.
I find this story troubling and interesting for multiple reasons. First, I am the parent of a fifteen-year-old boy who is active in scouting. (Earlier this year I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper decrying BSA's ban on participation by gay adults and children. One galling aspect of BSA's ban is that it unjustifiably conflates sexual orientation with being a pedophile.)
Second, from the perspective of a Nonprofit Law teacher, I find it confounding that such a large organization with access to legal counsel did not adopt better risk management practices. In the Community Development Law Clinic that I supervise we routinely get requests to help nonprofits manage risk. Our standard response is that there are three legs to the stool: insurance, waivers, and policies and procedures that reduce risk. Any organization that pairs adults and children should, at a minimum, do background checks and have policies in place that prevent adults and children from any one-on-one activities.
According to the LA Times article, it was not until after the Catholic Church pedophile scandal that BSA got serious about adopting its own risk reduction policies and procedures. By then it was too late for many, many children.
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