Following the celebration of it’s 110th anniversary of foundation, the Boy Scouts of America, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it faced nearly 300 lawsuits from former scouts who were allegedly sexually abused during their time in the organization. In a time where the “Me-Too” movement has emerged, as well as sexual abuse controversies among Roman Catholic Dioceses and U.S. Gymnastics, current leadership of the Boy Scouts is working to help the victims that suffered under its programs.
By filing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Boy Scouts of America are able to reorganize finances and help to pay debtors, which in this case, are former scouts that faced sexual abuse. According to USA Today, the Boy Scouts have paid nearly $150 million between 2017 and 2019 in settlements to victims of abuse and it is estimated that they may face an additional 1,000 cases. With the readjustment of statute-of-limitations laws throughout many states, victims are able to come forward with legal actions over instances that occured in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s. By filing for bankruptcy, the Boy Scouts hope they will be able to both help and support the victims, while troop operations continue. Leaders hope that they will be able to rebound and function as a more stable organization once they finish compensating the victims.
“It is good that they seem motivated to help the victims,” said former Boy Scout Merrick Larbig. “I think they want to be transparent as possible in their support of the victims and through their process of compensation.”
Formed in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America brought boys from all different types of backgrounds to learning various survival skills, good ethics, community building, and comradery. Their exploits have been portrayed by famous artists such as Norman Rockwell and their explorations, camping, and badge earning are synonymous with the American culture. According to NBC News, around 100 million Americans have taken part in Boy Scout activities with current membership numbering around 2.4 million.
For many of these cases that are being moved forward, boys were abused in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s as the Wall Street Journal has reported, “About 90% of the claims are from incidents that occured over 30 years ago, before the Boy Scouts modernized its child-safety policies.” Therefore, predators faced little obstacles in becoming Boy Scout leaders which put the safety and well-being of many scouts in jeopardy. According to the Washington Post, 12,889 victims and 7,819 predators were identified by an investigation that searched through documents spanning from 1946 to 2016. It was not until 1987, when the Boy Scouts adopted child-safety policies such as not allowing an adult to be left alone with a child. By 2008, the Boy Scouts required all volunteers to undergo a vetting process that included a criminal background check.
The Boy Scouts also face potential economic decline as insurance companies, who used to handle these sexual abuse claims, dropped out at the wave of incoming complaints, while changes in statute-of-limitations laws. The Boy Scouts have also faced a decline in membership with the many members of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leaving the ranks. Additionally, according to the Washington Post, “Youth membership has declined more than 26 percent in the past decade.” These changes, in addition to the sexual abuse lawsuits have made the Boy Scouts succeptible to bankruptcy.
“I do not think these lawsuits will affect scouting on a local level,” said junior Jonathon Wiklihem. “National protocols may change at the bureaucratic level, but I think local operations will remain the same.”
Ultimately, Boy Scout troops operate separately from the main leadership structure and likely will continue with a sense of normalcy as this controversy continues. Though these lawsuits will impact the Boy Scouts on a business level, the explorations and adventures of millions of children. Scouting provides a great avenue for children to learn and grow as leaders, while also being instilled with strong morals and sense of adventure. It is tragic that predators were able to take advantage of programs offered by the Boy Scouts and hurt and deeply impact the lives of innocent children. The Boy Scouts are working to help the victims they were unable to protect as they work to bring up the next generations of scouts.