I have been working with the Boy Scouts of America for 36 years and now serve as the Scout Executive of the South Florida Council.
Through my work with BSA, I’ve seen firsthand how children benefit from the variety of experiences and opportunities that are made possible through scouting. I also know that, as a parent, our most important duty is keeping our children safe.
BSA has recently received a lot of media attention, and I want to address those issues and assure readers that BSA takes its role in protecting youth members very seriously.
It is important to note that recent media reports have focused on some partial records from many years ago that were used in our application and screening process. The sole reason these files exist has been to protect youth by keeping out individuals deemed to be inappropriate leaders. Those records were not intended to be a complete history of each case. Rather, they were essentially a list of people who didn’t meet our leadership standards because of known or suspected abuse or other inappropriate conduct.
These files are not — and have never been — secret. They have been reported extensively in the media going back to The New York Times in 1935 and included in books on scouting throughout our history.
These files are known to our volunteers, because joining the organization requires they be cross-checked against it. While not secret, the files are confidential because experts agree that confidentiality is a key component of effective government and private-sector reporting programs.
Recently BSA released the results of an internal review of the ineligible volunteer files conducted by Dr. Janet Warren, a professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia. The report shows that in some instances BSA failed to defend scouts from those who would do them harm, but that as part of BSA’s broader Youth Protection program, the ineligible volunteer files functions to help protect scouts.
We fully recognize the responsibility it has when parents entrust the development and safety of their children to scouting which is why BSA policies have consistently evolved along with increased knowledge and best practices. The BSA now requires background checks for all volunteers and staff, comprehensive training programs and strict safety policies. Today, BSA has been recognized by numerous experts as a leader in combating child sexual abuse among youth-serving organizations.
I’m proud to work with the South Florida Council and am thankful to be a part of an organization that works across three counties to deliver programs that foster character development, citizenship and the moral, mental and physical fitness of young people. I also have confidence in the Boy Scouts of America’s dedication to youth protection.
John Anthony, scout executive, South Florida Council, Boy Scouts
of America, Miami Lakes