September 18, 2012 — A Los Angeles Times investigation of files obtained from the Boy Scouts of America revealed evidence that officials failed to stop hundreds of alleged child molesters over two decades, and often failed to notify parents and the police. The journalists reviewed 1,600 documents from 1970 until 1991. Hundreds more documents will soon become public, by order of the Oregon Supreme Court following a 2010 lawsuit that resulted in a $20 million judgement against the Boy Scouts.
Most of the 1,600 cases were reported to authorities. However, 500 cases were not reported to authorities — instead, Scout leaders learned about the molestation from children, parents, anonymous tips, or other staff. In most of the cases that were not reported to authorities, Boy Scout officials report the abuse.
According to the Times,
“In about 400 of those cases — 80% — there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it.”
The Times reports the case of William Lazzarechi, an assistant Scout leader who was caught forcing a 12 year-old boy to perform oral sex in 1971. Mr. Lazzarechi admitted the act, and was expelled from Scouting, but there is no evidence that police were notified. The 12 year-old boy was counseled by the troop’s Catholic priest, who recommended against notifying the boy’s parents. The priest, Rev. Edmond C. Micarelli, was blacklisted in 1990 after allegedly raping two young boys. The priest was also implicated in a 2002 settlement involving 36 alleged sexual abuse victims and ten other priests.
The files describe many other cases where the Boy Scouts did not report alleged abusers to police. Some Scouting officials have defended their actions as sparing the children embarrassment, and also protecting the innocently accused or anonymous tipsters. However, failing to report child molesters to police may have allowed the abusers to continue molesting children.
The Boy Scouts have made changes since the early 1990s. They now require background checks for staff. In 2008, those requirements were extended to volunteers within the organization. They also now require child abuse training.
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