The Boy Scouts Go Broke: Is There a Future for the Organization?

Image licensed under the Creative Commons license

Image licensed under the Creative Commons license

Hannah Ortiz, Scarlet Staff

On Tuesday, February 18, the Boy Scouts of America declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware. The BSA cited compensating its sexual abuse victims and maintaining its remaining chapters as the reasons behind the filing.

The bankruptcy comes after about 1,700 victims claimed that they were sexually abused by BSA employees and volunteers. Because some states have recently changed their statutes of limitations, more BSA members have been able to come forward about the incidents. Over 90% of the sexual abuse claims made against the BSA are about incidents that took place over 30 years ago.

There is no denying that the BSA has provided Scouts with great opportunities and created tight-knit communities. The Boy Scouts of America’s “Why Scouting?” page reads, “Scouting helps youth develop academic skills, self-confidence, ethics, leadership skills, and citizenship skills that influence their adult lives.” Proud Scouts will be the first to attest to this. Scout achievements have and will continue to provide growing young men with a sense of confidence and pride.

In the 20th century, scouting was a hallmark of American culture. It allowed youth to venture out of their comfort zone and form communities that they wouldn’t have formed otherwise. But these sexual abuse allegations have transformed the BSA into something darker than what it was once. A shadow hangs over the BSA; former and current Scouts now defend an organization that was once a source of harm. It is no surprise that donations and memberships are dwindling.

The Boy Scouts will never be the same. They should focus on compensating their victims, especially as failing to do this would oppose everything they stand for. The BSA can continue to exist in America, but it needs to reform its current chapters if it has any hope of surviving.

Charles Griesky, vice president of the Staten Island Council Boy Scouts of America, stated about the bankruptcy: “This is about the pedophiles and the insurance we have to pay because of these pedophiles and the fact that the Scouts knew about many of them for years.” While Griesky mourns the changes surrounding the Scouts, he recognizes that this environment permitted and protected sexual abuse. The Boy Scouts have also been in the center of many controversies, like anti-LGBT policies that prohibited gay scouts or volunteers.

In order for the Boy Scouts to return, the entire organization would have to be disbanded first. Griesky said it himself — Scouts’ employees protected pedophiles. How many pedophiles still exist in the BSA, offending or non-offending? Why would parents believe that their children are protected now?

Just as pedophiles may still exist in the organization, victims may exist, too. Being a survivor of sexual assault carries a negative stigma and a sense of shame for many people, especially for men. How many men are scared to come forward, worried that there is a lack of proof for their cases? How many men were assaulted by BSA leaders who are deceased? How many men were assaulted by BSA leaders who will never be charged?

These questions can never be answered. For years, the BSA has allowed pedophilia to pervade its organization. While this is not the fault of all BSA members, a sense of trust has been lost. The BSA is not inherently bad. The organization is right to focus on compensating its victims, but the current chapters can only operate if they are reformed. 

The BSA has a legacy and it currently has a future. But if serious changes are not made to its operation and legal policies, its future will darken until it fades into nothingness.