The Scouts began keeping the files shortly after their creation in 1910, when pedophilia was largely a crime dealt with privately —not publicly. The organization argues that the files helped them track offenders and protect children. But some of the files released in 1991, detailing cases from 1971 to 1991, showed repeated instances of Scouts leaders failing to disclose sex abuse to authorities, even when they had a confession.
A lawsuit culminated in April 2010 with the jury ruling the BSA had failed to protect the plaintiff from a pedophile assistant Scoutmaster in the 1980s, even though that man had previously admitted molesting Scouts. The jury awarded $20 million to the plaintiff.
Files kept before 1971 remained secret, until a judge ruled — and the Oregon Supreme Court agreed — that they should be released. Attorneys are now redacting the addresses and other identifying material from the files, which stretch from 1965 to 1985.
The release means that alleged abusers, and the names of Scout leaders who failed to report them, will be made public soon in tens of thousands of pages of confidential documents – one of the largest troves of the files the BSA has ever been forced to produce. A psychiatrist who reviewed the files, Dr. Jennifer Warren, found that police were involved in about two-thirds of the cases from 1965-1985.
Kelly Clark, a Portland attorney who won a landmark 2010 lawsuit against the Boy Scouts, says the documents show that even though the Scouts have been collecting the files nearly since the Boy Scouts' founding in 1910, the organization failed to use them to protect boys from pedophiles.
"What's significant is that the Boy Scouts could have these files for so long and not learn from them," Clark said.
Last week, the Scouts made public an internal report they compiled on the files by Warren, the psychiatrist who served as an expert witness for the Scouts in the 2010 Portland lawsuit. As part of the report, they emphasized the files' success in preventing pedophiles from entering Scouting ranks, but acknowledged the organization's failure to stop some abusers.