One of the things a Boy Scout must learn by heart is the Scout Law, a list of 12 precepts to live by.

A scout, the law asserts in its first point, is “trustworthy.” Unfortunately, the organization itself failed that test for a long period in its past.

A story by the Los Angeles Times reveals that from 1970 to 1991, the Boy Scouts of America did not notify authorities or parents of hundreds of cases of suspected child molestation. The Times’ findings were based on 1,600 confidential files that were part of a blacklist of adults barred from participation in the organization.

In a 1982 case, a Michigan camp director said he didn’t report repeated abuse allegations involving a staff member because the director’s higher-ups wanted to protect the individual’s reputation, as well as that of the Scout organization.

In a 1987 Washington case, one district official complained to the national office that his superior refused to blacklist a former scoutmaster with a molestation conviction. The reason? He had “done so much for camp and is a nice guy.”

In recent years, however, the Boy Scouts have cracked down on potential abusers more aggressively.

Under the Youth Protection policy, names are added to the blacklist, officially known as the Ineligible Volunteer Files, “whether or not the allegations are proven.”

In the late 1980s, a “two-deep leadership” policy went into effect, requiring at least two adults for all activities and barring adults from being alone with a scout.

Kansas City writer Diana Reese explained in The Washington Post how the policy works. She spent several days this summer at the H. Roe Bartle Scout camp near Osceola, Mo. Reese wrote that she and the other adults “follow the BSA rules, even when it’s a hassle — such as having to have two adults wake up in the middle of the night to administer eye drops when a Scout has pink eye.”

The rule not only protects boys, it protects adults from unfounded accusations.

Policies have been further toughened in recent years. Adults must pass a national criminal background check and complete an online “youth protection” course that outlines the proper policies as well as how to recognize signs of abuse. In 2010, adult leaders were required to report abuse suspicions directly to local authorities, whether or not it’s required by state law.

More eye-opening cases from what many call the scouts’ “perversion files” may come to light.

In recent years, however, the organization has done a good job protecting boys and reducing opportunities for potential molesters. Reports of past problems serve as reminders that scout leaders can’t afford to diminish their vigilance.

Editorial by the Kansas City Star

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