Last week, the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy. This was not unexpected. Speculation about bankruptcy had been running rampant for over a year now.
It was done in direct response to New York’s Child Victims Act and similar laws in other states which allow for a temporary lookback for victims of abuse whose claims previously would have been denied by the statute of limitations. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against churches, schools, clubs and the BSA for transgressions alleged to have been done by leaders and mentors decades ago.
The CVA and its companions are good, as they allow anyone who was abused as a youth in any organization or by any individual to find closure or, in legalese, be made whole after surviving evil and holding dark secrets that are nearly impossible to overcome and/or share as a youth and an adult. Most times, it takes decades to open up about it and these lookbacks recognize that.
The path of bankruptcy isn’t the BSA abandoning its responsibility to anyone who was hurt. Instead, it allows the BSA to reach settlements with these parties in an equitable fashion, otherwise potentially large awards in the first rounds of lawsuits would have decimated BSA finances and prevented monetary awards for those who brought lawsuits later in the cycle. The management of finances and settlements ensures that all who deserve something get something and the BSA can continue its mission.
Since early-2019 and especially now following the actual filing, I’ve been asked about what bankruptcy and financial reorganization of the BSA means for Scouting; after all, I have long been a champion of Scouting in this column and in the community, having been a scout for 8 years and a volunteer in the organization for the past 26.
First and foremost, take comfort in knowing local Scouting is financially sound and protected.
The Iroquois Trail Council (which serves eastern Niagara and the GLOW counties) is, like all councils, a corporation separate from the BSA and it maintains its own 501(c)3 status. Business decisions made on bankruptcy by the BSA will not impact the assets of the Iroquois Trail Council – including our camps and donations made to local programs by families, donors and community partners like the United Way. The Council is not on the hook for assisting with the BSA’s reorganization.
It is important to note that the Iroquois Trail Council is governed by local volunteers who provide strong oversight on budget development, fundraising, spending and investment. During the past decade, the Council has routinely balanced its budget, been creative with its staffing model, made substantial capital improvements to Camp Dittmer and Camp Sam Wood, acquired a new centrally-located headquarters in Oakfield and ensured the future of local Scouting through growth in its endowment fund. The Council is also debt-free and has no pending litigation.
Secondly, know that Scouting is safe.
At first glance, driven by headlines on smartphones and hot takes on social media, some would wonder why they’d ever want to put their children in Scouting for fear that they might be abused, thinking that the spate of lawsuits are recent in nature. They aren’t; 90% of those filed against the BSA date back 30 years plus. We can’t let a few bad apples spoil the barrel, nor can we believe that protections aren’t afforded. A system is in place to keep out troubled souls and identify and eliminate adults and youth who may put others at risk. As long as I’ve been in Scouting, there have been detailed and effective Youth Protection Training for all participants, double supervisory control and background checks.
Lastly, know that Scouting is just as meaningful now as it was when the BSA was founded 110 years ago.
My Eagle Scout certificate is beside me in my office every day, a reminder of who I am and who I will be because of Scouting. The organization and its principled lessons and experiences gave me a deeper understanding of service, leadership, teamwork and humanity and it has helped me greatly at home, work, and in the community. I and my fellow volunteers want to make sure more boys and girls are given such positive experiences in their lives in hopes of making them the very best citizens, spouses and parents they can be. God knows we need that in today’s world.
Please know that all of us in Scouting cannot and will not let financial restructuring by the national organization distract us from our goals. Scouting will continue to be a guiding light for many children for many decades more -- even amidst the occasional storm that might shake its very foundation.
From the 24 February 2020 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News