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Local Boy Scouts council not impacted by national organization bankruptcy, abuse allegations

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com
A young man wears his Boy Scouts uniform while working on a project at Ft. Benjamin Harrison State Park, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.

In the face of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits and thousands of alleged abuse victims, the Boy Scouts of America made the decision to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy earlier this year.

The Arbuckle Area Council, however, has stated that this will not affect local Scouting programs. The local council currently serves over 3,100 youths and 600 adult volunteers in nine south central Oklahoma counties, including Carter County.

Brett Matherly, Scout Executive and CEO for Arbuckle Area Council, said there have been no claims of abuse in the nine county area that the council serves at this time.

“We can speak for the last ten years, that under the current leadership, and during this time there have been no instances of adult sexual abuse reported,” Matherly wrote in a February statement regarding the bankruptcy filing. “We have zero-tolerance for this behavior and any instance of sexual misconduct is vigorously investigated and prosecuted based on facts.”

The National BSA organization filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2020 after an onslaught of individual lawsuits — many made possible by recent changes in state laws to allow victims to sue over sexual abuse from several decades back — were filed against the Boy Scouts.

According to court records, more than 12,000 boys have allegedly been molested by 7,800 scoutmasters or other leaders since the 1920s. Most of the more recent cases date to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, before the Boy Scouts adopted youth protection policies such as mandatory criminal background checks for all leaders, mandatory reporting and required training in youth protection.

“Since 2000, we’ve developed youth protection training that all registered leaders have to be trained through or they can’t be a leader,” Matherly said. “It’s simple things like you have to have two adults at every meeting or it can’t happen, and making people aware of any type of risk that kids may be put at.”

Scouts, volunteers and staff are trained to recognize and report misconduct. Under this program, any instance of suspected abuse is to be directly reported to law enforcement.

The Arbuckle Area Council plans to continue its policies and procedures, and the program is continually being updated. “I hesitate to say there won’t be any changes because we’re always looking for how we can do better to protect the kids,” Matherly said.

The National BSA organization has stated that it “believes victims” and “encourages them to come forward." “We are heartbroken and outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting,” the BSA wrote in a statement on its website

The Boy Scouts reportedly plan to use the Chapter 11 process to create a compensation fund for the thousands of victims who were allegedly molested as children decades ago. Local councils like Arbuckle Area Council run day-to-day operations for local troops, but are legally independent, separate and distinct from the national organization.

Matherly said only 1% of the Arbuckle Area Council’s annual budget accounts for fees that go to the National BSA office. “We do not receive any direct funding sources from the national office. Our funding streams come from the local community and Scouting families,” Matherly said. No local council assets will be directly affected by the Chapter 11 filing because the local councils are not filing entities.

The bankruptcy filing will have no impact on programming for youth. Cub Packs and Scouts BSA Troops will still function as normal and summer and winter camps at Camp Simpson, the Council Scout Camp located north of Tishomingo, will go on.

“We are building character and we are growing young men and women into responsible adults through our local programs,” Matherly said. “As the Arbuckle Area Council, we take a rigorous approach to anything we do to make sure our Scouts are safe. Nothing is more important to us than taking care of the boys and girls that are in our program.”

The judge presiding over the BSA's bankruptcy filing approved an injunction halting child sexual abuse lawsuits against the organization’s 261 local councils until November 16 — which is also the deadline for victims of child sexual abuse to file claims in the bankruptcy case.

Survivors of abuse are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement to make a report, and also contact the BSA at (866) 907-BSA1 or restructuring@scouting.org. Anyone with questions for the local Arbuckle Area Council can call (580) 223-0831 or visit the council’s website at https://www.arbucklebsa.org.

“We’re open to discuss with anybody. We’re very proud of what we’ve done here locally and we have wonderful facilities and Camp Simpson,” Matherly said. “Scouting is going to be around, we plan on being around for years to come.”