I was indirectly asked if another Jerry Sandusky could be part of our Pack at Monday’s meeting. It is a valid point, and I want to address it.
It is unfortunate, but youth organizations, like Scouting, are a magnet for people who prey on children. Scouting had its own Penn State style public disgrace in the early 1990s. After decades of trying to deal with the problem in a way that respected the abuser’s privacy, Scouting took a turn for the better and implemented their Youth Protection program. The Washington Times called it one of the best sex abuse education programs in the country.
You are a key part of this program. At the front of every boy’s handbook is a parent’s guide to help you have an age-appropriate discussion with your son about what is and isn’t appropriate. It empowers him to recognize and stop any potential abuse at the earliest stage and to not be afraid to tell someone they trust about what happened to him.
Reviewing this information with your son is a requirement for their Bobcat badge. However, if you haven’t reviewed this information with him in a while, it is a good idea to take a few minutes and go over it with him now. Part of Cub Scouting’s mission is to strengthen the bonds in a family. Should your son ever be approached by a Jerry Sandusky, make sure that he knows that you are the person he can talk to openly and honestly.
For myself and the other registered leaders, it is drilled into our heads that safety of the boys is our top priority. Before anyone can register as a leader with the Cradle of Liberty Council, they must consent to a criminal background check, provide character references and complete the BSA’s Youth Protection Training program. This goes beyond the national requirements of the BSA. To make sure Youth Protection Training is current, every leader must retake it every other year.
I will not go into the full program here, but the BSA’s site has an overview of the program. If you are more interested, you can create an account at myscouting.org and take Youth Protection Training yourself. It takes about 40 minutes start to finish. The BSA encourages everyone involved to take Youth Protection Training to understand the background behind the rules that are in place, and to be actively involved in the boys’ safety.
Should any one of our leaders witness or be told about an abuse of any kind, we are trained to first report it to the authorities (Delaware County Youth Services Emergency Hotline: 610-892-8400, Pennsylvania State Child Abuse Hotline: 800-932-0313 or 911), and then report it up our chain of command. Accused abusers are forbidden from attending any Scouting events until their name is cleared.
Leaders who are aware of an incident and do not report it are treated as complicit in the abuse. When they are discovered, they are suspended as leaders, banned from attending Scouting events, and may also be reported to the local authorities.
I am leading this Pack because I want my two boys to get all of the benefits of Cub Scouting. To enjoy those benefits, they need a safe and vibrant community of their peers where they can have fun while they learn and grow. Abuse of any kind will poison our community and cannot be tolerated.
So help keep our program free from a Jerry Sandusky. Review the BSA’s Youth Protection Guidelines for yourself. Go through the materials in your son’s handbook with him. It won’t be an easy conversation now, but he will thank you in the future. If he is ever approached by a Jerry Sandusky, he knows the warning signs to watch for, he has the confidence to say no, and he has the tools to keep that person from harming anyone else. He can thank you for that. As a convicted child abuser told the Washington Times, “My message to parents is to care, truly care by being involved in all aspects of their children’s lives and people with my problem will never have an opportunity to abuse their children.”