While scouting has had a long history in America, the Boy Scouts as an organization has been beleaguered by hundreds of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse.
A new lawsuit was filed in January of this year which could allow scouts to file sex abuse claims even if the statute of limitations has expired in their states. Hundreds of allegations could turn into thousands.
As a result, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) as filed for bankruptcy protection while it figures out a way to work out a potentially huge compensation plan for victims.
It’s not, however, the end of scouting.
Local councils are not filing for bankruptcy, as they are legally separate and distinct organizations, and will continue to function.
The BSA petition, filed in Delaware bankruptcy court, halts the hundreds of lawsuits the organization is facing. BSA said they made the move to fairly compensate victims harmed, and will work to set up a Victims Compensation Trust up during the bankruptcy process, to provide "equitable compensation to victims.”
BSA has even set up a separate website to address the questions surrounding the restructuring. Key points include:
We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward.
We are heartbroken and outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting.
Our plan is to use this Chapter 11 process to create a Trust that will provide equitable compensation to victims.
The safety of the children in our programs is the BSA’s absolute top priority.
That’s precisely why we’ve developed some of the strongest, expert-informed youth protection policies found in any youth-serving organization.
Approximately 90 percent of pending and asserted abuse claims against the BSA relate to abuse that occurred more than 30 years ago.
Nonetheless, the organization has not yet been able to put those problems behind it. Membership continues to decline.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced it will be pulling more than 400,000 young people out of the BSA and moving them into its own global youth program. For decades the Mormon church was the largest sponsor of Boy Scout Troops. This move will reduce total youth membership to its lowest point since the World War II era. At its peak in the 1970s, more than 4 million boys were Scouts. After the church pullout, the total will fall below 2 million.
The BSA has issued an Open Letter to Victims signed by the National Chair of the Boy Scouts of America, which it’s planning to run as a full-page ad in USA Today. You can read it here.
At least for the short term, scouting will continue.