Boy Scout Council in New York Failed to Report Sex Abuse to Police

new-yorkIn 2104, the Hudson Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America knew two adult Scout volunteers had abused two boys, but never reported the cases to police. It looks like the Council violated BSA guidelines for reporting sex abuse, but may not have violated New York’s mandatory reporting laws.

According to the BSA website, Scout volunteers must report claims of sexual abuse “immediately” to local authorities. The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that a Scout was abused by assistant scoutmaster Michael Kelsey on a camping trip in August 2014 and told a different scoutmaster about his abuse in October 2014.

That Scoutmaster did not report the abuse to local police as BSA policy now requires him to do. [Side note: Prior to a sex abuse trial in 2010 in Portland, BSA insisted that is could not mandate that its volunteers report child abuse to police. I was one of the attorneys who represented the victim in that trial and I heard the Boy Scout witnesses testify about this with my own ears. Only after we got a $19.9 million verdict against the BSA in that case was the BSA suddenly able to change its policy and require volunteers to report abuse.]

In New York, according to state police Senior Investigator Timothy Peets, “The Boy Scout organization never reported anything until after they were confronted by the parents of the victims.”

New York law concerning mandatory reporting of sexual abuse is confusing. New York’s law lists nearly 40 professions that must legally report good-faith suspicions of sexual abuse against a minor, but only when abuse happened because of a parent or “other person legally responsible.” Many people who work closely with children, such as youth camp employees, are on that list, but general Scout volunteers are not.

“Boy Scout leaders are not deemed to be a mandatory reporter, although an overnight summer camp director is,” Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady said. “Given the responsibilities and obligations that each has with regard to children under their control, to say that one is a mandatory reporter and the other isn’t is, in my opinion, a distinction without a difference.”

So it looks like the Boy Scouts didn’t violate New York law, but they definitely violated their own policies by not reporting a clear case of sex abuse. When that Scout told a trusted Scoutmaster in October 2014 that another adult Scout volunteer had sexually molested him two months earlier, that Scoutmaster should have immediately called the police. It was Scout policy. It was also the right thing to do.


Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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