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Boy Scouts Of America Sued Over Sexual Abuse Allegations

Credit Boy Scouts of America

Seventeen former Boy Scouts and two women are suing the Boy Scouts of America for allegedly failing to protect them from sexual abuse in Connecticut when they were children. The Hartford Courant broke the story today; the lawsuit was filed in Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford this October.

According to the 850-page complaint from the plaintiffs, a Ridgefield Scoutmaster named Donald Dennis, who is now dead, abused the former scouts from 1963 to 1975. The complaint also says Dennis abused the two women, who were girls at the time, and forced the girls to watch him assaulting the scouts.

Brooke Goff, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that Boy Scouts of America knew pedophiles had a history of taking leadership roles in the Scouts so they could be closer to children.

"They failed to screen the Boy Scout leaders before they became involved in Boy Scouts," she said. "And they failed to educate."

The complaint says that Boy Scouts of America didn’t warn parents that there was a problem with child abuse in the Scouts. It also says they didn’t perform background checks on scoutmasters, and didn’t set up a safety plan to protect kids from abuse.

In a statement, Boy Scouts of America said they only learned of the abuse allegations against Dennis this month and had never received reports or allegations about him in the past. They said the Boy Scouts now have criminal background checks for potential scoutmasters and policies to prevent abuse.

"Recognizing youth protection requires sustained vigilance," said the statement. "In the more than 40 years since these events took place the Boy Scouts of America has continued to develop and enhance our efforts to protect youth, regularly consulting with experts from law enforcement, child safety, psychology, and other disciplines to ensure its efforts consistently evolve along with the ever-changing awareness of the dangers and challenges facing youth.

"Today, the Boy Scouts of America seeks to prevent child abuse through a comprehensive program of education on the subject, the chartered organization leader selection process, criminal background and other checks, policies and procedures to serve as barriers to abuse and the prompt mandatory reporting of any allegation or suspicion of abuse.”

The former Boy Scouts and the women are also suing the Connecticut Yankee Council and the Fairfield County Council, which were local councils of the national organization when the scouts say they were abused. The Connecticut Yankee Council was not immediately available for comment and the other council is now defunct.