September 18, 2012 — Journalists from the Los Angeles Times are reporting that documents obtained from the Boy Scouts of America reveal that the organization failed to stop hundreds of child molesters over at least two decades. They also frequently failed to notify parents or the police. About 1,600 files were reviewed, documenting abuse from 1970 until 1991. Soon, hundreds of additional documents will be made public, by order of the Oregon Supreme Court. The Scouts have been unsuccessful in their attempt to keep the documents under seal.
The journalists found that most of the 1,600 cases were reported to police. However, about 500 cases were first reported to Scout officials — usually by children, parents, staff, or parents. Of these, most were never reported to authorities.
The Times reporters wrote,
“In about 400 of those cases — 80% — there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it.”
One such cases involved William Lazzarechi, an assistant Boy Scout leader. In 1971, Mr. Lazzarechi was caught behind a tent, forcing a 12 year-old boy to perform oral sexual acts. Mr. Lazzarechi admitted his actions and he was removed from the Boy Scout troops. Nothing in the file indicates that police were notified. The boy was then counseled by the troop’s Catholic priest, Rev. Edmond C. Micarelli. The priest recommended against notifying the child’s parents about the incident. In 1990, the priest was accused of raping two young Boy Scouts. In 2002, he was implicated in a massive litigation against the Archdiocese, which involved 36 children who named 10 priests as abusers.
Many other files describe cases where children were abused, but the Boy Scouts did not report the abuse to authorities or parents. Some within the agency have defended their actions, saying that they wanted to protect the children embarrassment, protect falsely accused, and protect anonymous tipsters. Failing to report abuse to authorities may have allowed the abuse to continue.
Since the early 1990s, the Boy Scouts of America have made changes intended to protect children. Staff are required to undergo background checks. Those requirements were extended to volunteer staff in 2008. Training is also required to identify child abuse.
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