Know the Facts: BSA Ineligible Volunteer Files
The Boy Scouts of America refuses to compromise on the safety of our youth. As part of our comprehensive screening and youth protection efforts, prompt reporting of inappropriate conduct with youth is required of all Scout leaders. The BSA records such allegations in the Ineligible Volunteer Files—whether or not the adults involved were Scout leaders or the youth involved were Scouts. By being proactive and acting upon many kinds of information—including tips and hearsay that cannot be proven in a court of law—the BSA has successfully kept dangerous or potentially dangerous individuals, as well as inappropriate role models, out of our organization.
Scouts are safer because of the Ineligible Volunteer Files. Recent efforts have sought to make the files public and suggest that the BSA is trying to hide something by maintaining their confidentiality. That is far from the truth. The following provides additional information about how they help protect our members, and why their confidentiality is important.
- The Ineligible Volunteer Files are an important part of the BSA’s comprehensive focus on youth protection.
Youth protection is of paramount importance to the BSA. Accordingly, the BSA developed a three-pronged youth protection program, including local and national screening of adult volunteers, education and training, and clear policies to protect youth members. The Ineligible Volunteer Files are used as part of the national registration process that follows a leader’s selection by the local chartered organization, prior to granting membership.
- The use of the files at the time of application is a long-standing and well-documented process.
While the records maintained by the BSA are confidential, their existence is a well-known component of Scouting’s registration process. Their use has been referenced as far back as the 1930s in books, Scout publications, and news articles.
- The files provide an added layer of protection to criminal background checks.
Today, any adult who wants to join Scouting must pass a criminal background check, but the BSA began collecting information on those ineligible to be volunteers well before computers and other electronic databases were available. The process that exists today is much the same as it was then and has proven to be effective in keeping potentially dangerous or inappropriate individuals out of Scouting. It is actually very simple: The Ineligible Volunteer Files links a name with information that led the BSA to determine that the individual was not suitable to lead youth. As part of the membership application process, the names of adult applicants approved by local chartered organizations are cross-referenced with the names included in the Ineligible Volunteer Files. If the individual appears in the files, he or she is not permitted to join Scouting.
- Files are updated any time a determination is made that an individual should not serve.
Scouting policies require prompt reporting of any inappropriate conduct with youth, whether in a Scout unit or in the larger community. Whenever the BSA receives such a report from the local community, the national organization creates a record, whether or not the adults were Scout leaders and whether or not the youth involved were Scouts. In some instances, the allegations cannot be proven to the degree required by a criminal court, but the person is still banned from Scouting. Centralizing this information helps the BSA act more quickly (on suspicion alone in some instances) to identify and keep out persons who have been determined to be ineligible to serve as volunteer leaders.
- The sole purpose of the files is to prevent those deemed ineligible from registering as Scout leaders.
The Ineligible Volunteer Files maintained by the BSA have always served solely as a barrier to entry preventing those who are ineligible to serve as Scout leaders from joining or rejoining Scouting. Suggesting that they would provide any greater insight from a research perspective reflects a misunderstanding of the purpose and content of the files. The BSA believes—and independent, third-party experts have confirmed—there is nothing in the files that would further the research field or help develop a profile to prevent abuse.
- The confidentiality of the Ineligible Volunteer Files encourages prompt reporting.
BSA members are instructed to report any suspicion of abuse to local authorities and Scout executives, but BSA has always believed that victims and their families have the right to choose for themselves whether to share their stories publicly. People are more likely to come forward to report real or perceived misconduct if they can do so confidentially.