Former Boy Scout youth protection official says group is still ‘not safe for kids’

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Former Boy Scout youth protection official says group is still 'not safe for kids'

A former Boy Scouts of America official that was tasked with shielding kids from sex abuse says the organization is still dangerous to children, and not committed to reform.

Michael Johnson urged Congress to look into the BSA’s efforts to cover-up abuse during a tearful speech at the National Press Club Tuesday.

In a letter to lawmakers last week, he claimed there remains a “high risk of child sexual abuse that exists within Scouts BSA,” and listed a dozen steps the group should take to become more transparent, including releasing its so-called secret perversion files.

“The Boy Scouts of America is not safe for kids. It is safer, but it is not safe for kids,” Johnson said.

“We failed you. I failed you,” an emotional Johnson told survivors in between tears.

 The Cushman Watt Scout Center, headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America for the Los Angeles Area Council
The Boy Scouts of America is facing 82,000 claims of sexual abuse from former members.
REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo

Johnson was hired in 2010 as the organization’s first youth protection director. He said in recent years BSA brass became less receptive to reforms, even as the organization faced more than 80,000 claims by abuse victims.

“All of the sudden, I wasn’t able to make the changes that were needed, and there were excuses and omissions…. I felt, naively, that I could make change within the organization, and there were some successes, but it wasn’t nearly enough,” Johnson said.

“I’m fed up with people telling me in that organization what to say, how to say it, and what to believe.”

The former official said he was fired in December as part of a financial restructuring plan, and did not sign non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements in exchange for severance.

Michael Johnson
“We failed you. I failed you,” Johnson told abuse survivors.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

A BSA spokesperson denied the group tried to silence Johnson, and thanked him for his decade of work protecting children.

“We are disappointed to hear Mr. Johnson’s characterization of the program he spearheaded and the concerns he raised, especially given his past public support for the robust measures the BSA instituted at his recommendation,” a statement read.

Most of the sex abuse claims leveled against the Boy Scouts happened prior to 1990, before BSA conducted criminal background checks on scoutmasters and required two adults to be present during events.

Johnson claimed known offenders have continued to still slip through the system due to a lack of proper screening.

Boy Scouts of America uniforms
Most of the sex abuse claims leveled against the Boy Scouts happened prior to 1990 before the organization conducted criminal background checks on scoutmasters.
Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News via AP, File

The organization is facing 82,000 claims of sexual abuse from former members in connection with its bankruptcy reorganization plan. The Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice, which represents most of the accusers, has secured nearly $2 billion in settlements from BSA and its partners.

Plaintiffs will begin voting to approve a new BSA bankruptcy plan later this week before ballots are tabulated in January.

With AP wires

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