Boy Scouts of America seeks to reverse order to release sex abuse files

The Boy Scouts of America is seeking to reverse a Santa Barbara judge’s order to release 20 years’ worth of confidential files detailing allegations of sexual abuse by troop leaders and others within its ranks.

Lawyers for a former Scout, who was 13 when a volunteer leader sexually abused him in late 2007, contend the files will expose a “culture of hidden sexual abuse” in the organization and its failure to warn boys and their parents about “pedophilic wolves.”

The negligence suit alleges that a local Scout executive tried to talk the boy’s mother out of reporting the crime to police and cites that as an example of a longstanding effort to conceal widespread abuse in Scouting.

The Scouts deny the allegations and say the so-called ineligible volunteer files are intended to keep suspected molesters and others accused of wrongdoing out of Scouting. They contend the records must remain confidential to protect the privacy of victims and those who report suspected abuse. Also, they say, many of the allegations are unproven.

“The confidentiality of the files encourages prompt reporting of questionable behavior, removes the fear of retaliation and ensures reporters, victims and their families the privacy they deserve,” spokesman Deron Smith said Thursday.

In a writ filed this week with the California 2nd District Court of Appeal, the Scouts seek to reverse a ruling by Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Donna Geck, who in January ordered all files dating to 1991 turned over to the boy’s lawyers but not made public. She has since set a May 9 deadline to do that.

Timothy Hale, the family’s lawyer, said the Scouts’ effort to quash Geck’s order has less to do with privacy rights than with protecting the image of one of the nation’s oldest youth organizations.

“The writ is really about one thing: preserving BSA’s child-endangering policy of secrecy,” he said.