Ex-boy scout denounces efforts to protect children | Delaware News

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By RANDALL CHASE, Associated Press

DOVER, Del. (AP) – The former Boy Scouts of America director of youth protection said on Tuesday the organization is not doing enough to protect children from sexual abuse and is still trying to maintain a veil of secrecy over decades past abuse.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Michael Johnson urged Congress to investigate BSA’s efforts to cover up decades of past abuse, as well as the dangers he says the organization still poses to children. .

“The Boy Scouts of America are not safe for children. It’s safer, but it’s not safe for children, ”he said.

“We failed you. I failed you, ”Johnson added tearfully in remarks aimed at survivors of abuse.

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Johnson was fired in December in what the Boy Scouts described as a financial restructuring. He refused to sign nondisclosure and nondisclosure agreements in exchange for severance pay.

“I’m sick of people in this organization telling me what to say, how to say it and what to believe,” said Johnson, who was hired in 2010 as BSA’s first director of youth protection.

A Boy Scouts spokesperson said there was no attempt to buy Johnson’s silence and the terms of severance pay were the same as other eligible employees who were made redundant.

When asked why he decided to move forward now, Johnson said he had started to feel in recent years that the Boy Scouts were becoming less receptive to needed reforms.

“Suddenly I couldn’t make the necessary changes, and there were excuses and omissions … I naively felt that I could make changes within the organization, and there were there have been successes, but it was not enough, ”he said.

Johnson’s decision to speak out comes amid a key point in the Boy Scouts of American bankruptcy case, as ballots are handed out to tens of thousands of men who say they were assaulted during their childhood by Scout leaders and others to vote on approval of the reorganization of the BSA. plan.

The Boy Scouts, based in Irving, Texas, filed for bankruptcy protection in Delaware in February 2020, seeking to end hundreds of individual lawsuits and create a fund for the men who say they have been sexually abused in childhood. Although the organization faced 275 lawsuits at the time, it faced more than 82,000 sexual abuse claims in the bankruptcy case.

In an article published in August 2019, just six months before filing for bankruptcy, Johnson championed the Boy Scouts’ efforts to protect children from sexual abuse.

“Contrary to many inaccurate reports, our youth protection policies are consistent – and sometimes even ahead – of society’s knowledge of abuse and best practices to prevent abuse,” he wrote. “We actively share and continually improve these policies through our mandatory youth protection training, our ongoing collaborations with groups such as the Centers for Disease Control and organizations serving youth, and continued engagement with survivors of the disease. ‘abuse and the best experts in this field. “

“The child safety policies and procedures we use are among the most advanced and comprehensive of any organization serving young people today,” he added.

The Boy Scouts released a statement on Tuesday expressing their appreciation for Johnson’s dedication to youth safety and the effect it has had on the organization.

“We are disappointed to hear Mr Johnson’s characterization of the program he led and the concerns he has raised, especially given his past public support for the robust measures the BSA instituted on his recommendation.” , indicates the press release.

“Today Scouting is safer than ever,” the statement added, citing many policies that have been implemented in recent years.

“While any case of abuse is one too many, it is important to know that the vast majority of claims in the BSA Chapter 11 case predate our modern child protection policies. More specifically, 85% or more of the complaints allege a first case of abuse before 1990, and 50% or more of the complaints allege a first case of abuse before 1974. ”

In an Oct. 6 letter to Congress, Johnson urged lawmakers to begin investigations and hearings into the “high risk of child sexual abuse that exists within BSA Scouts.”

BSA Scouts is the traditional scouting experience for children in fifth grade through high school, according to the BSA website.

In the letter, Johnson touted several improvements in youth protection policies during his tenure, but nonetheless described them as “a drop in the bucket” better suited to “low risk” organizations, not organizations. “High risk” such as Boy Scouts.

“Throughout my time at BSA Scouts, I have witnessed decisions made which showed that the top priority of the organization was not the safety of children, but the preservation of the reputation and brand of the organization. ‘institution and its main sponsoring organizations,’ Johnson wrote.

As an example, Johnson said more than half of reported incidents of sexual abuse among Boy Scouts were perpetrated by other young people, which he blamed on lack of adult supervision and the large slice of scouting. age at many events.

He also said the BSA lacked proper screening and reference check procedures for volunteers and adult leaders, and known offenders still volunteer and still have access to children due to the lack of accountability of the organizations. sponsorship of troupes such as churches and civic groups.

Johnson proposed a dozen “action steps” in his letter to Congress, including a review of the BSA’s federal charter and an independent task force to study sexual abuse between young people. He also called for the public disclosure of information regarding decades-old “ineligible volunteer files” or “perversion files”, listing Scout leaders and volunteers suspected or convicted of child abuse.

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