NEW YORK (NY)
June 20, 2019
Under financial pressure from sex-abuse litigation, the Boy Scouts of America are seeking to bolster their abuse-prevention efforts with a new awareness program featuring cartoon-style videos that will be provided to more than 1.2 million Cub Scouts across the nation.
Targeted at children from kindergarten to sixth grade, the series of six videos aims to teach children how to recognize potentially abusive behavior and what to do if confronted by it.
The initiative, being announced Thursday, comes as the Boy Scouts face a potentially huge wave of abuse-related lawsuits after several states enacted laws this year making it easier for victims of long-ago abuse to file claims. The Boy Scouts acknowledge that the litigation poses a financial threat and have not ruled out seeking bankruptcy protection.
The bulk of the newly surfacing abuse cases date to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s; the BSA says there were only five known abuse victims in 2018 out of 2.2 million youth members. The BSA credits the change to an array of prevention policies adopted since the mid-1980s, including mandatory criminal background checks and abuse-prevention training for all staff and volunteers, and a rule that two or more adult leaders be present with youth at all times during scouting activities.
The Boy Scouts’ youth protection director, former police investigator Mike Johnson, decided to add the videos to the prevention program after vetting them with parents of Cub Scout-age children and with children themselves.
“Parents told me they’re having these conversations with their kids, and they felt the videos would help them have a better, richer conversation,” Johnson said. “The kids are engaged. … There’s some heavy topics discussed in a child-specific way.”
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