An Open Letter to the Scouting Community
As you know, in recent months, the Boy Scouts of America’s Youth Protection policies and procedures have come under intense media scrutiny. The specific focus of this examination has been the BSA’s longstanding practice of keeping a list of individuals who are deemed to be unfit for membership, known as the ineligible volunteer files (IV files).
In 2010, a set of IV files from the years 1965 to 1985 was introduced into evidence in a State of Oregon court case. Subsequently, media sued for the release of the files and the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s order to release the files to the public. As we have disclosed previously, we expect plaintiff’s counsel to release those files publicly in the near future, which likely will drive increased media attention. In addition, media has recently examined a similar set of IV files from 1970–1991. These were produced in 1991 during litigation in California, and thus include a majority of the files that will be released in Oregon (1965–1985).
We wanted to let you know we are making available the results of an independent review of the files that were produced in litigation in Portland, Oregon, and the files will soon be released publicly by plaintiff’s counsel, and we are initiating an additional review of the IV files.
The review was conducted for the BSA by Dr. Janet Warren, a professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia. Among other qualifications and professional credentials, Dr. Warren is the University of Virginia’s liaison to the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit and sits on the Research Advisory Board of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
Dr. Warren’s report shows that, as part of our broader Youth Protection program, the BSA’s system of ineligible volunteer files functions to help protect Scouts. However, we also know that in some instances we failed to defend Scouts from those who would do them harm. 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. For any episode of abuse, and in any instance where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest apologies and sympathies to victims and their families. One instance of abuse is one too many.
We have provided both Dr. Warren’s executive summary as well as the full report. Together, the documents will give a view of the IV files being released, the kinds of information contained in the files, and her opinions regarding the effectiveness of the IV file system, which has been used by the BSA for most of the last century as part of its Youth Protection efforts to keep out adults who are unfit for Scouting.
Based on Dr. Warren’s report and the BSA’s review, following are key findings about the BSA’s IV files and Youth Protection policies and procedures:
- The review and analysis indicate that while it was not perfect and mistakes clearly occurred, the BSA’s IV file system has functioned well in keeping many unfit adults out of Scouting.
- The files document a good-faith effort by men and women associated with Scouting to identify and keep out unfit adult volunteers.
- Many of the files show men attempting to re-enter the Scouting program, often many years later, often in a geographically different location, and properly being denied re-entry because their name was in the IV files.
- While some people have attempted to categorize these files as a treasure trove of information about pedophiles and their actions, that simply is not the case. Despite the important role in identifying unfit adults for involvement in Scouting, the IV files tell us precisely what researchers already knew and have known for many years: There has never been a profile of a child sexual offender.
- Scouting provided a significant protective function for youth when compared to reported rates of abuse in other youth-serving organizations and activities, and even within the family itself.
- The files broadly refute the notion that these were secret files of hidden abuse. The files show a significant amount of public knowledge of the offenders and their unlawful acts. For example, more than 60 percent of the files being made available to the public include some kind of public information. These data indicate that more often than not, the police, the courts, and the public were aware of inappropriate sexual behavior having been attributed to these individuals.
We are providing Dr. Warren’s report to the media, as well.
Lastly, as previously disclose, in 2010 Scouting mandated that all good-faith suspicions of abuse must be reported to law enforcement authorities, and Scouting has always required its members to follow their local state laws concerning reporting of abuse. While we believe the files are an inconclusive record, the BSA will undertake a similar review and analysis of the IV files created from 1965 to present and ensure that all good-faith suspicion of abuse has been reported to law enforcement.
Thank you for all that you do for Scouting, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions.
Wayne Perry, National President
Tico Perez, National Commissioner
Wayne Brock, Chief Scout Executive