Scouts Removed 1,800 Scoutmasters for Suspected Abuse Over Two Decades
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ The Boy Scouts of America dismissed about 1,800 scoutmasters suspected of molesting boys between 1971 and 1991, but some moved on to other troops and continued to abuse Scouts, organization files show.
Sacramento lawyer Michael Rothschild, who obtained 25,000 pages of Scout documents for a lawsuit, said the organization refuses to acknowledge it is ″a magnet for pedophiles,″ though a Scouts spokesman said it has been a leader in fighting such abuse.
The documents, recently reviewed by The Associated Press, include letters to Scout headquarters from local troops, letters from victims, newspaper clippings and dismissal notices.
In many cases, there is no indication that police or the courts were involved.
The percentage of suspected molesters is small. The Boy Scouts has about 1.15 million adult volunteers and 4.15 million members. About one in 13,000 adult volunteers is barred each year.
In recent years, the organization has used videotapes and printed material to educate youngsters, said Richard Walker, a spokesman at headquarters in Irving, Texas.
Walker said boys are not specifically warned that their own scoutmaster could be a child molester. ″We do tell them it could be anybody,″ he said.
The organization asks applicants about criminal convictions and suggest local troops check references, but doesn’t specifically urge them to perform background checks through law enforcement agencies, Walker said.
When a boy accuses a scoutmaster of molestation, the scoutmaster is fired, Walker said. But Walker said it is difficult to guard against suspected molesters who change their names or move and volunteer elsewhere.
One such case involved Carl L. Bittenbender, convicted and sent to prison in 1985 for molesting Scouts in Virginia. He became a scoutmaster despite a 1981 conviction in Rhode Island for molesting Scouts.
Rothschild obtained the files by order of a Superior Court judge as part of a lawsuit he filed on behalf of an alleged victim of Allen Trueman, a former scoutmaster in nearby Galt.
Trueman was convicted of abusing Scouts in 1989 and is serving a 10-year sentence. The Scouts settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount in 1991.
Letters in the Scout files reflect the pain of victims.
One boy said he left his tent when a troop leader approached him sexually during a camping trip, then walked around in the rain and cold.
A victim who had been molested by a group leader 21 years earlier wrote: ″A person that was to help shape my early development, instead he helped destroy it.″