Order lets Boy Scouts keep new abuse files private
DALLAS (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America will not immediately have to turn over 27 years of so-called "perversion files" the group keeps on sexual abuse complaints against adults involved in the organization, a Texas appeal court has ruled.
A former scout who says he was sexually assaulted by a now-imprisoned former scoutmaster has filed suit in San Antonio against the national Boy Scouts and the local group in San Antonio. His attorneys want the Boy Scouts of America to turn over internal files on scout leaders dating from 1985 to last year.
State District Judge Martha Tanner ruled in August that the Scouts would have to release those files to the teenager's attorneys. The 4th Texas Court of Appeals on Thursday granted the Scouts' request to stay that portion of her order.
The public release in October of files dating from 1959 to 1985 revealed a cover-up of decades of sexual abuse, as Scout leadership sought to shield scoutmasters and other adult leaders from criminal charges. The national Scouts organization, based in the Dallas suburb of Irving, has said it now requires any suspicion of abuse to be reported to law enforcement.
Attorneys for the former scout are expected to file a response to the appeals court sometime next week.
Paul Mones, a Portland, Ore., attorney who is one of the lawyers representing the teen, said on Friday that he didn't know what the more recent files might contain.
"We do know, as does the rest of the United States, what's contained in 1959 to 1985," Mones said. "So over the last 27 years, obviously that's something that we believe ... will be important."
Kelly Clark, who worked with Mones on a successful $20 million lawsuit against the Scouts in Portland, said he thought the newer files could show whether or not the national Scouts group had kept its promise to enact measures that better protect children.
Among other measures, the Scouts now prohibit one-on-one activities between adult and youth, require criminal background checks and include an insert for parents about child protection in the handbook issued to new scouts.
Adults also are told to report any suspected child abuse to authorities, even if doing so would not be required by state law.
Clark said he wanted to know if the number of reported abuse incidents had declined in the last few decades.
"If we find out that the numbers are still significant, to me, that adds fuel to the fire," Clark said Friday.
Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement that the files are maintained "solely to help our organization remove and keep out individuals deemed to be unfit leaders."
"The BSA believes confidentiality of the Files helps to encourage prompt reporting of abuse," Smith said.
The teen's lawsuit, filed last year, accuses the national and San Antonio Scouts of not doing enough to keep him safe.
The teen alleges he was abused for two years by a former assistant scoutmaster, James Hiatt, who is serving multiple 60-year sentences for four counts of aggravated sexual assault with a child and five counts of indecency with a child. The Associated Press typically does not identify victims of sexual assault.
In the organization's petition to the appeals court, lawyers for the Boy Scouts say their "ineligible volunteer files" are "confidential and part of an ongoing internal system used ... to allow for background checks for the protection of Scouts."