You may have heard media coverage discussing the Boy Scouts of America’s Volunteer Screening Database and our organization’s Youth Protection efforts. The safety of children in our Scouting programs is our top priority. As an organization, we have an important duty and an incredible opportunity to focus on keeping children safe, supported, and protected.
Our Volunteer Screening Database, previously known as “Ineligible Volunteer Files,” is at the forefront of youth protection procedures. While it has often been misunderstood and criticized, time and time again it has successfully prevented potential predators from re-joining our organization and gaining access to youth – which is precisely why we have been maintaining these records since the 1920s.
The database system is one of the approaches most often recommended by experts, including the Centers for Disease Control, to keep kids safe and is a collection of information on individuals who, due to past inappropriate behavior or suspicion of inappropriate behavior, are prohibited from participating in BSA programs.
How the Volunteer Screening Database (VSD) works:
- Individuals are added to the Volunteer Screening Database based on violations of our policies, or suspected violations of our policies. They don’t need to have been convicted to be added to the VSD. We have a very low threshold for removing someone from our scouting programs. Again – this is because our priority is to protect kids, first and foremost, above all else. We believe victims and routinely remove individuals based on only allegations of inappropriate behavior.
- When an individual is added to the VSD, they are removed entirely from any Scouting program. They are also prohibited from re-joining anywhere.
- Every instance of suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement. Once the individual has been removed from Scouting and has been reported to law enforcement, the BSA has no other avenue for further investigation or public disclosure.
Our goals for protecting children go beyond our organization– we seek to be part of the solution both in and out of Scouting.
The BSA fully supports and advocates for the creation of a national registry overseen by a governmental entity, similar to the national sex offender registry, of those who are suspected of child abuse or inappropriate behavior with a child, and thus allowing all youth serving organizations to share and access such information. We have advocated to Congress for enhanced youth protection policies, initiatives, and efforts. Specifically, BSA has recommended to Congress the following programs and ideas that independent experts agree will keep children safe, including:
- Establishing and funding a system where volunteers can register/be cleared through a common screening process for all states and organizations, with an affordable process for conducting background checks and periodically renewing the clearance to reduce the risk that potential abusers can gain access to children by moving across state lines or to other youth serving organizations;
- Enabling youth-serving organizations to share information about individuals who have been removed from their programs for alleged inappropriate conduct – even if the individuals have not been arrested or convicted – to keep potential abusers out of these organizations;
- Strengthening mandatory reporting laws; and,
- Requiring that sex abuse offenders serve full sentences.
We are optimistic about these efforts because we know that they will make a difference – we have seen firsthand the impact they’ve had on our own organization’s steps to protect children.
For more information on BSA’s Youth Protection efforts, please visit Scouting.org/YouthProtection.