Reference Checks


 According to a recent story from Fox News, the latest scandal, which involves the Boy Scouts of America, has revealed that more than 1,200 accused child molesters have worked with boys involved in Scouting for years.  Quoting from the story, “The Scouts kept so-called perversion files dating back to the 1920s, though 20,000 pages of documents released [recently] covered only from 1965 to 1985.  The files included men both inside and outside the organization who were suspected of abusing boys.”
 For years, according to the story, a variety of authorities, including police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors, and local Boy Scout leaders shielded scoutmasters and others accused of molesting children.  Laura Ahearn, Executive Director of Parents for Megan’s Law and Crime Victims Center, said that “the blame ultimately rests with the organization that protected suspects, instead of kids.   It’s due process vs. protecting kids….”

 Many of those whose names were in the files for decades are now dead, and the Statute of Limitations is a likely bar to prosecution.  What’s so disturbing to me is that the Boy Scouts kept records of alleged child abusers and did nothing about it.  One of the “safeguards” the Scouts have put in place is a background check, but that’s hardly sufficient when the safety of children is at stake.  What’s really needed is a thorough reference check to help insure that any adult who wants to become involved in Scouting, as a Scoutmaster or as a volunteer, does not have any inclination that would lead one to suspect that adult of child abuse.

 As disgraceful as this whole situation is, it highlights, once again, the need to protect vulnerable populations from those who would do them harm.  A background check is better than nothing, but the potential risk of harm to those least able to protect themselves strongly suggests that a higher standard of screening should be applied, namely a thorough background and reference check.

 What makes the Boy Scout situation so egregious is that the leadership of the organization knew about the abuse and did nothing about it.  So, in this instance, even if a background check and a reference check had been done, the abuse would still have continued unabated because the top leadership in Scouting covered it up for decades.

 Responsible leadership is obviously part of the solution.  But so is taking appropriate action before the fact to keep potential child abusers away from children in the first place!