Although with the Boy Scouts of America recently said they’re filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the organization made it known in a recent news release that the move to create a “Victims Compensation Trust” will not affect troops in local communities.
“Local councils, which provide programming, financial, facility and administrative support to Scouting units in their communities, have not filed for bankruptcy. They are legally separate, distinct and financially independent from the national organization,” according to the news release.
The local scene
The Boy Scouts of America Troop 94 (Yorktown) and BSA Troop 103 (Williamsburg) did not immediately respond to comment for this story.
In Hampton, Justin Stewart, committee chairman for Cub Scout Pack 151, said the same about the local council’s financial independence: “We really have control over what’s going on in our pack.”
“If we don’t fundraise, if we don’t do things inside of our pack, our program lacks in that aspect,” he said. “So when you talk about in the sense of the BSA and there’s going to be a flow down of all this stuff — we’re a speck on the map.”
Stewart’s Cub Scout pack is one of many groups in the regional Hampton and Newport News areas designated as the Monitor-Merrimac district. And the district is one of five spanning from Gloucester and Mathews County to Suffolk and even Brunswick County, encompassed by The Colonial Virginia Council.
Filing for bankruptcy comes after more than 300 men sued the Boy Scouts of America with claims they were sexually assaulted while they were scouts in the organization. In an open letter to victims, BSA National Chairman Jim Turley encouraged others to come forward and file claims.
Turley also expressed regret on BSA’s policies, saying “measures weren’t always in place or weren’t always enough.”
Safety policies like implementing mandatory background checks for volunteers and staff in the organization have come a long way as “knowledge on sexual abuse prevention has advanced,” Turley wrote.
On a national level, the BSA now requires Youth Protection training for staff every two years though Stewart said locally it’s required annually, noting in his five years with the program, he hasn’t personally heard any accounts of sexual abuse in local troops.
“[Youth Protection] is training that everybody has to go through as a leader. It goes over [topics like] grooming, bullying, the requirement for there to always be two adults, and it talks about the boys always having to be together in a buddy system,” he said.
Stewart said before his pack takes the summer off, they’ll raise funds for awards or gifts like compasses, pocket knives, and survival packs scouts can take with them when they start in the next level of the organization.
Nani Cawthray, committee chairwoman for Pack II in Newport News,, said the group was not affected, adding most of the support comes from the district or council level.
While the cub master did notify parents of the bankruptcy, she said the pack is still moving forward with their programming, including its summer camps.
“Scouting has really worked hard to improve their policies to make sure everyone is protected and safe,” she said, adding leaders are trained and scouts have youth protection with families. “Scouts and leaders are never alone together.”
Other troops and packs did not immediately respond for comment. Some were not interested in commenting or referred a WYDaily to the Boys Scouts of America Colonial Virginia Council in Newport News.
Clinton Hammett, scout executive and CEO of the Boys Scouts of America Colonial Virginia Council, said the local Boy Scout councils are legally and financially separate from the national organization, which is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“Local programs will still continue to go on,” he said. “We’re excited about scouting and to continue our programming.”
The Saturday after the national organization’s announcement, there was a record turnout of more than 500 scouts and leaders at the Council Camporee “Lumberjack” event at Endview Plantation, Hammett said.
“We’re certainly here to stay and are excited about the future of scouting,” he said. “We certainly know scouting is safer today than it ever was.”
WYDaily multimedia reporters Lucretia Cunningham, Julia Marsigliano and Alexa Doiron contributed to this story.