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Hundreds of Alleged Abusers Infiltrated Boy Scouts, Files Show

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Between 1971 and 1991, the Boy Scouts of America dismissed about 1,800 Scoutmasters and other volunteers suspected of child abuse, confidential files indicate.

Although adult volunteers suspected of molestation were dismissed from the organization, the files also reveal, they sometimes went to another Scouting group and abused again.

The 35,000 pages of documents were released by the B.S.A. last year under court order, but were only recently brought to public knowledge by the Associated Press.

The files make clear that the Scouts, like other youth-serving groups, have been infiltrated over the years by alleged abusers.

Youth organizations are a "magnet for pedophiles,'' said Michael Rothschild, a Sacramento, Calif., lawyer who obtained the files.

The records include dismissal notices, letters from victims, police reports, and newspaper clippings.

The figure of 1,800 alleged abusers represents a small fraction of the 1.15 million adult volunteers in Scouting, officials of the organization emphasize. There are 4.2 million Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts nationwide.

"We feel that kids are safer in Scouting than they are anywhere else,'' said Richard Walker, the national Boy Scout spokesman.

But Patrick Boyle, a journalist who is writing a book about sex abuse in the Boy Scouts and has reviewed the files, noted that the number of alleged molesters represents a somewhat larger proportion of the 50,000 to 100,000 adults who have regular, direct contact each year with children involved in Scouting.

Reference Checks Urged

The files, designed to maintain a list of ineligible volunteers, represent all of the abusers who came to the attention of the Scouts' national office during the 20-year period, Mr. Walker said.

But the papers also suggest, Mr. Rothschild noted, that abusers sometimes "fell through the cracks.''

Currently, the Boy Scouts do not require a criminal-background check for volunteers since the data can be unreliable, Mr. Walker said.

Instead, he explained, the B.S.A. encourages local councils, which recruit volunteers, to "rigorously and zealously'' check references.

If an accusation of child abuse comes up against a leader, Mr. Walker said, the leader is immediately suspended and child-protection agencies are notified.

In addition, the organization mandates that more than one adult be present around any Scouts, and requires parents of members to review with them a 28-page handbook on child abuse and neglect.

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