PITTSBURGH (KDKA) –The Boy Scouts of America recently released confidential documents about ineligible volunteers.
The organization has been accused of hiding decades of abuse prior to 1994.
Local scouts executive Michael Surbaugh said he can’t change what happened in the past, but the scouts are making sure things operate differently in the future.
There are 29,000 scouts in the Laurel Highlands Council and Surbaugh says scouting is a safe place for young people.
For the first time since the “ineligible volunteers list” was released, the organization’s national office gave Surbaugh the green light to talk Larry Richert and John Shumway on KDKA radio, but not about the specific names on the list.
“Certainly over time, I think our president said it best, mistakes have been made but our intent has always been to be a leader in youth protection, it’s a responsibility we take very seriously,” Surbaugh said.
Surbaugh says the list helped protect scouts from problem volunteers moving troop to troop, until 1993 when youth groups gained access to the national criminal records databank.
“We started requiring criminal background checks for all staff — in 2003 all volunteers had to go through a third-party, comprehensive, criminal background check,” Surbaugh said.
From the time boys join scouts, youth protection begins with videos the boys and their parents watch.
“Here are some situations you might find yourself in, but here is how you avoid potential abuse,” Surbaugh said.
All Boy Scout volunteers go through training and are re-certification every two years, to recognize possible abuse.
And Surbaugh says the scouts have a policy that there must be two leaders with the boys at all times and if there is an accusation.
“We act very proactively that if there is an allegation against a leader we would immediately remove them from working with children,” Surbaugh said. “We don’t allow them to serve one more day and we conduct and investigation after calling the police.”
And the scouts then follow the police lead in handling the situation. The scout leaders of today can’t change how things were handled before 1994, but they are certain they are doing all they can today to protect scouts and the community when issues do arise.