A lawsuit against Boy Scouts of America (BSA), alleging that the organization was complicit or negligent in the sexual abuse of hundreds of members, could be imminent. Per a recent report published by the Washington Post, a lawyer named Tim Kosnoff currently has roughly 220 clients who say they were victims of misconduct while participating in BSA. The allegations, most of them against BSA troop leaders or other adults involved in the organization, range from “showing lewd photos to scout members to molestation.”
The issue of sexual abuse in BSA is not new. On the contrary, the scandal has been stretched on for years and has frequently earned comparisons to the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal. In 1991, the Washington Times published a five-part investigation into the matter. In 2010, a jury found in favor of Kerry Lewis, a plaintiff who sued BSA over sexual abuse allegations that dated back to the 1980s. Lewis’s abuser, a scout leader named Timur Dykes, had spoken to a BSA coordinator in 1983 and confessed to molesting 17 boys. Regardless of the confession, Dykes was not reported to police and was allowed to continue his work as a scout leader. He later abused Lewis, who was ultimately awarded an $18.5 million verdict.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Times published an investigation of its own, finding that BSA had failed to report hundreds of sexual abuse allegations to police between 1970 and 1991. The Times investigation also included a database of 5,000 individuals who were ousted from BSA for alleged or suspected abuse.
The 220 victims referenced in the Washington Post article are individuals who have come forward since the 2012 L.A. Times investigation. They range in age from 15 to 75. Kosnoff believes that more victims are out there, including among current BSA members. “This is not historical,” the lawyer told the Washington Post.
Kosnoff has been working to find abuse victims with the goal of potentially filing a class action lawsuit against BSA. In December, it came to light that BSA was considering filing for bankruptcy. Among other things, a bankruptcy filing from BSA would effectively freeze any ongoing litigation against the organization, as well as discourage or prevent any future lawsuits. United States Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in part to protect itself against lawsuits related to Larry Nassar. As such, if Kosnoff and his clients wish to file a lawsuit against BSA, they may have a narrow window to do so.
This case highlights the need for thorough background checks in youth-serving organizations. Recently, backgroundchecks.com published a white paper exploring background checks in youth sporting organizations. While BSA is not a sporting organization, many of the points hold true regardless. For instance, the white paper looks at the types of background checks that youth sporting organizations can run to make sure their coaches, refs, or volunteers are thoroughly vetted. It also includes a list of other policies and strategies that youth sports organizations can use to prevent or combat abuse, from prohibiting coaches from being alone with minors to establishing protocols for investigating and reporting any and all allegations. These points apply to youth-serving organizations such as BSA as well.
Click here to read the “Background Checks for Youth-Based Sports Organizations” white paper.
Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_Scouts_of_America_sex_abuse_cases https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-boy-scouts-20120927-story.html