The Boy Scouts of America face scathing and widespread allegations that it failed to report child molesters and covered up sexual abuse after an investigation by the Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper said it reviewed 1,600 confidential files from 1970 to 1991 and found that Boy Scout officials "frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign -- and helped many cover their tracks."
"For this to occur to the Boy Scouts is just a crushing blow to their reputation and to probably the willingness of parents to sign up their young boys for Boy Scouts of America," said Clint David, a Dallas attorney who has no ties to the Irving-based Boy Scouts of America.
The Los Angeles Times said it reviewed the BSA's "perversion files," an internal blacklist of alleged child molesters.
The newspaper reported that while the BSA learned about most cases after they were reported, the group learned about more than 500 instances of alleged abuse "from boys, parents staff members or anonymous tips."
There is no record that the BSA reported the alleged abuse to authorities in about 400 of those cases, the newspaper reported. And BSA officials "actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it" in about 100 cases.
David said that statute of limitations may have run out for some of the victims. He also said that the organization's failure to report abuse may not have been illegal.
"A big problem with a lot of this is, back when this abuse happened in the '70s and '80s, is many state laws did not require organizations like the Boy Scouts to report anything to the police," he said.
The BSA put new youth safety barriers in place in 2010. It requires anyone with suspicions of abuse to report it directly to police.
David said it's a step in the right direction.
"So, what the Boy Scouts are obviously trying to do is create a system where people are encouraged to come forward," he said.
In a statement released to NBC 5, the BSA said in part: "The Boy Scouts of America believe that one instance of abuse is far too many. We regret there have been times when, despite the BSA's best efforts to protect children, scouts were abused and for that we are very sorry, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the victims."