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The Boy Scouts of America is reportedly considering bankruptcy in the face of a growing number of child sex abuse lawsuits being pursued nationwide, which allege the organization covered up problems involving volunteers and troop leaders for decades.
Over the past few months, officials of the organization have suggested they may need to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to handle the expected influx of claims filed in New York, New Jersey and other states that have opened windows for child sexual abuse claims that were previously barred by the statute of limitations.
In a statement made to a number of news agencies, the organization indicated it is looking at all available options for a potential financial restructuring.
“The Boy Scouts of America is working with experts and exploring all options available so we can live up to our social and moral responsibility to fairly compensate victims who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting, while also ensuring that we carry out our mission to serve youth, families and local communities through our programs,” the statement read. “No decisions have been made and we continue to fully meet our financial obligations to our vendors, creditors, and other stakeholders.”
Observers say that if the group does move forward with bankruptcy, potential claimants will have a limited amount of time to file lawsuits over sexual abuse before the group is protected from future litigation.
The group has mortgaged some of its larger properties and, in October, increased its annual membership fees in order to maintain its programs and to bolster its insurance protection. In the meantime, the claims against the Boy Scouts and its employees and volunteers continue.
According to a report published in the New York Daily News on December 14, the first federal claim is expected to be filed in Washington, D.C. next month, which will involve about a dozen plaintiffs who allege they were abused as children through the Boy Scouts. The claim will include charges that the organization failed to provide a safe environment, which may get around child sex abuse statutes of limitations in some states.
According to allegations raised in complaints already filed, Boy Scouts of America buried information about known threats to children by keeping secret “perversion files” on those considered to be sexual predators who had worked with the organization.
Plaintiffs maintain those files were maintained in New Jersey for some time, indicating that between 1944 and 2016, there were 7,819 perpetrators who were either troop leaders or volunteers, believed to have abused at least 12,254 victims.
The Boy Scouts has confirmed the existence of the files, indicating they were used to ensure the group never knowingly allowed a sexual predator access to youths in its organization. However, the growing litigation over prior failures to protect children may now threaten the future of the organization, which was founded in 1910.
In addition, earlier this month a former Boy Scouts assistant chaplain, James Glawson, was indicted by a grand jury in Washington state. The charges include 16 counts of first-degree sexual assault and one charge of possession of child pornography.
Most of the charges involve assaults allegedly involving five former Boy Scouts from between January 1981 and January 1987.