The Boy Scouts of America have announced they will change their name to Scouting America beginning in February 2025. The announcement has been described as a new inclusive name that is welcoming to everyone who may want to join. Last September, a Netflix documentary, “Scouts Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America,” detailed decades of child sexual abuse that occurred within the ranks of the Boy Scouts organization. 

Membership rates have declined significantly, from 2 million in 2018 to just over a million in 2024. President Roger Krone was named Chief Executive Officer of the Boy Scouts organization last November, just two months after the release of the Netflix documentary. Krone said it is his job to do anything he can to help increase membership rates. 

“The Boy Scouts are all about the brand,” said the Director of Youth Protection for the Boy Scouts, Mike Johnson in the Netflix documentary. “They don’t like anything too negative that’s associated with the brand.”

$2.46 billion settlement was reached that would provide more than 82,000 known victims to receive compensation. A group of 144 victims attempted to put a halt to the bankruptcy case in a supposed attempt to bring liability claims against the organization for overlooking proof of child abuse, allowing thousands more victims to be exploited over decades. The Supreme Court ruled that bankruptcy should continue without an opportunity to bring liability claims against the organization. 

The victims who applied to halt the bankruptcy proceedings have argued that the Supreme Court’s consideration for liability claims against the Sackler family for their role in the opioid crisis should be extended to the case against the Boy Scouts.  

The Alabama Senate passed a bill to change the statute of limitations for claims against the Boy Scouts to 36 years. The average age of reporting an abuse from the Boy Scouts has been age 52. Victims who come forward can apply to be part of the settlement trust and would be able to receive between $3,500 and $2.7 million in compensation. 

Michael Johnson, the Director of Youth Protection, took the position in 2010 after working as a child abuse detective for over two decades. In the Netflix documentary, Johnson details many failures of the organization to protect children despite his best efforts to implement more layers of protection within the system. 

“One of the things they had in their marketing message that used to drive me nuts is the Boy Scouts have a rigorous application and screening process,” Johnson said. “Thats bull s***. That’s not true. It has never been true. Why don’t we at least use a government ID? They refused to do that (for) inconvenience and cost.”

The general counsel for the Boy Scouts at the same time, until 2022, Steve McGowan clashed with Johnson within the organization. In the documentary, McGowan said, “We’re a microcosm of our entire society. If we had a problem, our society had a problem; many other institutions had the problem. We just happened to be the one with the deep pocket right now and the one that’s willing to make the social commitment to try to make it right and to try to apologize to try to do everything we can to keep kids safe, try to compensate for these victims, but then to continue the mission.”

McGowan claims that Johnson championed the Boy Scouts’ safety protocols, but Johnson said every suggestion he had to protect children was shot down by the high-ranking members of the organization, including McGowan. 

Johnson said, “A chief scout executive said ‘Mike, we were told by our lawyers, our risk management people, whoever that don’t contact the parents if there is an allegation of child sexual abuse.’ I insisted on anybody that’s placed on the perversion file or volunteer screening database for anything that has to do with sexual abuse of a child allegation, grooming, whatever, it needs to be reported to law enforcement. He [McGowan] comes into my office very upset, ’the law doesn’t mandate that we report all of these allegations of abuse unless there’s reasonable suspicion that there’s sexual abuse.’”

McGowan claims in the documentary that there is nothing they could have done to protect children from abuse. “The Boy Scouts of America did not abuse these kids, ” McGowan said. “We had some bad people that got in. They’re people, just like school teachers and everybody else. There are bad people, there’s no way to profile them ahead of time. Nobody has a profile of a would be abuser that you can apply as a litmus test to keep someone out.”

Johnson is adamant that none of that is true. He said the Boy Scouts provides a lucrative opportunity for abusers to join the ranks as a scout leader. There is no other organization that provides adults an opportunity to stay alone with children overnight without any supervision. Furthermore, Johnson suggested creating an option for children to report abuse through text message or online chat function anonymously. He said McGowan and Vice President John Mosby both said ‘hell no.’ Instead, they insisted that the children inform their trusted adult, the scout leader. 

Arrests and reports of child sexual abuse continue in 2024, with former and present scouting employees. A current employee was arrested in February for sexual abuse of a 12-year-old outside of the Boy Scout program. 

The Boy Scouts have been attempting to restructure their organization over the last decade. First, they removed the ban on gay children. Then, they removed the ban on gay scoutmasters. Following that, they began allowing trans-identified children and girls into the program. The Boy Scouts have always struggled to have enough volunteers for their programs, which is part of the reason for refusing processes to vet potential abusers from entering the program. In the documentary, they allegedly said they didn’t want to scare anyone away from volunteering. 

The new rebranding effort looks to make Scouting America a welcoming and inclusive place for children and volunteering adults. There has been celebration and anger for the inclusive nature of their recent changes. Still, there is no evidence that the “rigorous” vetting process has changed since Johnson advocated for extra layers of protection for the children. 

Providing opportunities to more groups of children and adults to join a program with a history of abuse may only lead to more opportunities for the victimization of innocent children. The Boy Scouts have a published open letter apologizing for the abuse within their organization. While that letter exists on a website dedicated to bankruptcy restructuring, the official website does not acknowledge the 82,000 victims that have come forward so far. 

Image source, Scouting America logo: blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2024/05/07/what-our-organizations-name-change-means-and-doesnt-mean-to-scouts-and-leaders/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steven Middendorp

Steven Middendorp is an investigative journalist, musician, and teacher. He has been a freelance writer and journalist for over 20 years. More recently, he has focused on issues dealing with corruption and negligence in the judicial system. He is a homesteading hobby farmer who encourages people to grow their own food, eat locally, and care for the land that provides sustenance to the community.

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