Seven former Boy Scouts have sued the Boy Scouts of America in federal courts in Washington state alleging the organization failed to protect them from sexual abuse by Scout leaders in the 1970s and ’80s.
One case was filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in Spokane on behalf of a Monroe, Wash., man identified as Boy 7, who alleges he was abused at Camp Cowles on Diamond Lake in Pend Oreille County in 1974.
Lawsuits on behalf of six other men, whose identities also have not been disclosed, were filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.
In each of those cases, the perpetrator was named. But Boy 7, who was about 9 years old at the time of his alleged abuse, could not identify his abuser, who was known to him as “camp doctor.”
The plaintiffs’ Seattle attorney, Tim Kosnoff, who has successfully sued several Roman Catholic dioceses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Jesuit Province of the Pacific Northwest, said the lawsuits filed this week will be followed by 27 additional cases against the Boy Scouts of America in 11 states.
The lawsuits argue that the national youth development organization has known for decades that Scouting poses a high risk of sex abuse by adult leaders, and accuse it of failing to develop and enforce practices to protect children.
“BSA officials continue to put Scouts at risk,” Kosnoff said. “It is time to stop ‘playing ostrich’ with the problem.”
Tim McCandless, CEO of the Boy Scouts’ Inland Northwest Council, said he could not discuss pending litigation, but “the abuse of anyone, especially children, is abhorrent and intolerable – especially to the Boy Scouts of America, for whom the protection and safety of youth is of paramount importance.”
McCandless said the Boy Scouts of America “extends its sympathies to any victims and their families and upholds its steadfast commitment to the continued advancement of youth protection efforts.”
This month, federal judges in Seattle and Spokane dismissed “without prejudice” earlier complaints filed on behalf of the former Boy Scouts on the grounds the allegations were overbroad, but allowed attorneys to file amended complaints this week narrowing the scope of the allegations.
The lawsuits cite internal records that show the Boy Scouts of America knew shortly after the organization’s founding in 1910 that it was vulnerable to infiltration by pedophiles and kept records on “ineligible volunteers.”
Though the Boy Scouts of America destroyed thousands of the files in the 1970s, the complaints allege, 6,000 such records survived.
Kosnoff says the records show the Boy Scouts of America readmitted known pedophiles as volunteers, some of whom remained in good standing with the organization despite criminal convictions for sex crimes.
McCandless said that in the 40 years since the events alleged in the lawsuits occurred, “awareness of the sexual abuse of children has increased, resulting in greater education and preventative measures within all aspects of society.”
The Boy Scouts of America, he said, has been on the forefront of these efforts.