So-called “perversion files” kept by the Boy Scouts of America indicate at least 75 adults with ties to Boy Scout Troops and units in Iowa were expelled from the organization on suspicions of child sexual abuse. One allegation in Iowa dates back to 1958, with the most recent incidents reported in Knoxville and Anamosa in 2004. Robert Hopper is the executive director of the Mid-Iowa Council of the Boys Scouts in America based in Des Moines. He says the files were kept to “keep information on people who should not be in a program for kids.”
“In my 34 years of working for the Boy Scouts I’ve been trained to be very aggressive about this,” Hopper says. “When these situations arise we go through the protocols to make sure that those individuals are not in our program and we do our very best to block them from ever being in our program again.” According to Hopper, these paper records were crucial. “Say that Mr. Smith would move away from Iowa and want to be in a youth program in Oklahoma,” Hopper says. “Well, before electronics we needed those files to help us try to compare and make sure that didn’t occur.”
Scouts keep electronic membership records today, and conduct background checks on troop leaders. “When we encounter people who should not be around kids, we make sure they’re blocked from our program,” Hopper says. The Boy Scouts were founded in 1910 and within the organization’s first decade scout leader began collecting data on alleged cases of child molestation. The files were part of a case in Oregon courts and that state’s Supreme Court ordered their release to the public. In more than a third of the cases, the allegations of abuse were not reported to police. The president of Boy Scouts of America yesterday said the organization was “profoundly sorry” for failing to protect all of its members.
The executive director the Mid-Iowa Council of the Boy Scouts says a series of “natural barriers” were put in place several years ago to prevent abuse, like requiring two leaders for every scouting unit. “We should and we have focused on this very intently,” Hopper says. “We have thousands of great leaders, thousands of great kids and families who are in our program and are just doing a wonderful job for kids.” According to the regional office, there are 30-thousand active Boy Scouts today in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.