scouts-l Mail Archive for November of 1999: 20/20 program
Jim Miller Sr. (jjmsr@LSFCU.ORG
Mon Nov 08 1999 - 10:28:35 CST
Since the subject was brought up here by someone else, I thought I would
repost my comments regarding the 20/20 program which aired last Friday
night. I had originally posted these to the Embers list in the Bowline
family of lists.
Well, somebody has to bring it up eventually, so I might as well. I
presume many of you saw the 20/20 piece on Friday night about the
child-abusing former scout leader. I made a point of watching it after
returning from or regular Friday night troop meeting. I was sitting
there in my uniform, and felt very strange each time they put an image
on this screen of this beast impersonating a scout leader. For those of
you who didn't see it, this man abused the boys in his charge for twenty
years. He was actually charged at one point by one of the boys, and
brought to trial. The other boys in the troop, who had also been abused
it seems, came to his defense, and either testified on his behalf or
kept quiet. He was acquitted, and the boy who brought the charges was
treated as a pariah in town. According to a very brief mention in the
show, the BSA at that point removed the man from the program. He went
out and formed his own group, and the other parents in town allowed
their sons to continue under the leadership of this man outside the BSA.
Well, in watching this a number of things occurred to me. First, this
man seemed to run the whole troop by himself - no two deep leadership,
no parent involvement. Second, the BSA acted quickly to remove this man
from the program when the charges were first levied. The question that
arose in my mind was why did the parents allow their sons to continue
with this man if there was even the slightest doubt about the safety of
their sons, or why didn't they at least get involved and go on the
camping trips with the group? I personally can't come up with any
answers to this.
There was one boy interviewed on the show from prison, where he is
serving a life sentence for killing his parents and sister. He claimed
that he had done so because his mother had begun to suspect that
something was going on in the group. He went to the leader and told him
this and was told that if there was a problem he caused that he should
eliminate it. He therefore eliminated his family and never brought up
anything about the leader in his own defense at the time of his trial.
Now, he is claiming he was a rape victim at the hands of this man which
distorted his judgement. Why didn't people begin to question things
when this horrendous murder happened in this small town?
My 12 year old walked into the room while I was watching this and
puttered around trying to look like he wasn't listening. I pointed out
the show to him and reminded him that this was a scout leader they were
talking about and that he should never allow anyone, even a leader he
respects to do anything with him that he feels "funny" about. Will that
help? I don't know. This man was names as "Citizen of the Year" by the
local chamber of commerce. His father was a local judge. I wouldn't
have suspected him. We need the youth protection program desperately if
there are people like this out there.
This man was finally caught when one of the boys he abused became afraid
that he was about to start doing the same thing to his younger brothers.
This young man had testified on the leaders behalf years earlier at the
first trial and helped get him off.
I feel little or no comfort from the fact that the BSA acted promptly in
removing this man from the program, because it didn't stop him. But
what else could have been done?
All of this disturbs me. It also disturbs me greatly that 20/20, and
especially Barbara Walters repeatedly called this man a Boy Scout leader
even after reporting that he had been removed from the program and had
started his own group. Why is it necessary for the media to place the
blame on the organization rather than on the parents that let this
Are there lessons we can learn from this? One is that YPT is CRITCAL!!!
As hard as it is, we must take reports from boys seriously. As parents
we have to watch the danger signs and err on the side of caution.
There more there, but I can't put my finger on it, so I'm putting it up
for discussion here in the group.
Jim Miller, Sr.
ASTA # 3105