Scouts president apologizes to victims, cites reforms to prevent pedophilia
Faced with the release of thousands of documents linked to the Boy Scouts' “Perversion Files,” the organization's officials rushed to reassure the public on Thursday that Scouting never has been safer for America's youths.
In a written statement, Scouts President Wayne Perry insisted that internal reforms have made Scouting “a leader among youth-serving organizations in preventing child abuse.”
The Scouts now require criminal background checks for volunteers and staffers, comprehensive training programs targeting child abuse and the mandated reporting of suspected molesters by the organization to law enforcement, Perry added.
Regulations now forbid any adult leader from being alone with a boy and the Scouts' manual contains a candid discussion about the problem for parents.
That wasn't always the case either nationally or across Western Pennsylvania, said Paul Mones, an attorney at the Portland, Oregon law firm of O'Donnell, Clark and Crew that won a nearly $20 million judgment against the Scouts in a 2010 molestation lawsuit.
That case triggered yesterday's release of nearly 1,200 files tied to suspected pedophiles compiled by the Scouts from the late 1950s to the early 1990s.
“We did this so that parents could understand the problem,” Mones told the newspaper. “You have the best proof in Pennsylvania about what we're talking about because of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State. The guys who seem to be models in their communities also can prey on children.”
David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, and other experts the Trib contacted agree that scouting is no more prone to pedophilia than other institutions. They said families must play an active role in protecting children from abuse, looking for changes in their childrens' behavior and other signals.
“Parents, don't pull your kids out of Scouting,” Finkelhor said.
Carl Prine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7826.