by Bill Hethcock
The Irving-based Boy Scouts of America was ordered April 23 to pay $18.5 million in punitive damages after an Oregon jury found the organization liable for the sexual abuse of a 12-year-old boy more than 25 years ago.
The Boy Scouts declined to discuss specifics of the case. On Monday morning, Deron Smith, the organization’s national spokesman, said it’s too soon to say whether the verdict will result in changes to scout policies or practices. He said the organization plans to appeal.
Smith issued the following prepared remarks:
"The Boy Scouts of America continues to be deeply saddened by what happened to the plaintiff in this case more than 25 years ago. … The Boy Scouts of America has always stood against child abuse of any kind and is always looking for ways to improve its youth protection strategies. The BSA has zero tolerance in Scouting for any action that does not uphold the BSA’s dedication to building good character in a safe environment."
The Oregon lawsuit drew attention to files the Scouts keep which document claims of sexual abuse by troop leaders and volunteers. The records have been maintained for more than 70 years at the Scouts’ headquarters in Irving.
In the Oregon case, six men sued the Boy Scouts over allegations of sexual abuse. Attorneys for the plaintiffs said that when his clients were boys during the 1980s, the Boy Scouts of America knew that at least one of them had been abused by a former assistant scoutmaster.