WASHINGTON -- The publication on Thursday of 20 years worth of secret records kept by the Boy Scouts of America reveals a widespread effort by the organization to cover up a scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse against 1,200 Scouts leaders including more than two dozen in South Florida.
The records, known within the Boy Scouts itself as the perversion files, cover the years 1965-1985 and detail the names of the alleged perpetrators, their hometowns and other information, including religion, when it was known.
About 30 of the 70 Florida cases occurred between the early 1960s and mid-1980s in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, according to documents released Thursday.
Half of those cases occurred in Miami-Dade County, including Miami, Opa-locka, Hialeah, Virginia Gardens and North Miami Beach.
The files were results of the organizations own internal investigations into sexual abuse among its leaders and include court documents, newspapers clippings in cases where charges were actually filed and other material.
Not every person whose name was contained within the thousands of pages which the Scouts officially called the Ineligible Volunteer Files ever actually faced charges or was convicted. Some files only reflected concerns about someone.
But they span the nation, involving Boy Scouts organizations and leaders from small towns to bustling cities. Their disclosure also again marks an embarrassing betrayal of public trust by another prominent and respected social institution.
This is like 2002 for the churchs abuse scandal, said Miami attorney Jeff Herman, who since 1997 has handled more than 100 abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami. Thats when it all snowballed and so many victims came forward.
Herman said he currently is working on three South Florida cases involving youths allegedly molested by Scouts leaders.
Like the recent pedophilia scandals involving Penn State University and the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts cases involve trusted members of the community who had access to children they were supposed to mentor and to protect, but who instead exploited that access to groom and to molest the most vulnerable of them.
Attorney Paul Mones, whose Oregon law firm was involved in the lawsuit against the Boy Scouts and which led to the files disclosure, told a news conference on Thursday that they symbolize the anguish of thousands of Scouts. The Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release of the documents.
At the news conference Portland attorney Kelly Clark blasted the Boy Scouts for their continuing legal battles to try to keep the full trove of files secret.
You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children, said Clark, who in 2010 won a landmark lawsuit against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a plaintiff who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s.
In a statement Thursday, Boy Scouts National President Wayne Perry apologized for the abuse and the failure to protect children.
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, the statement said. Where those involved in scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.