MOOSIC, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Boy Scouts of America has finally made a move many expected in the face of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits.
The more than century-old organization has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Millions of children have grown up through Boy Scouts of America. As Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains, many now wonder what are the short and long term implications of the organization’s bankruptcy filing.
Boy Scout gear for her son was on her shopping list but the future of Boy Scouts of America was on Angela Niles’ mind.
“You’re concerned for the organization as a whole because we’ve had such a positive experience with it. We don’t want anything bad to happen,” said the Greentown woman.
But happen it has. Facing roughly 300 lawsuits claiming sexual abuse, Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on Tuesday. The action is seen as a way to create a victims’ compensation trust to make payments to abuse survivors.
“The BSA has always wanted to fairly compensate any victims of abuse that happen in our program and at the same time be able to continue the mission of scouting,” said Mark Barbernitz who is Executive Director for Northeastern Pennsylvania Council, Boy Scouts of America.
Some 4,000 boys and girls participate in the NEPA Council of BSA including 12-year-old Chase Niles. Mrs. Niles said, “He loves it and it’s amazing the things that he learns from it and experiences and takes away from it.”
Mr. Barbernitz said despite the national, non-profit organization’s request for Chapter 11 relief, locally nothing really changes.
“Boys and girls will continue to go to their Cub Scout program, their scout’s BSA meetings weekly, go on camping trips, go to our camps that they support,” he said.
Mr. Barbernitz is confidant in more than just the short term future. He believes the Boy Scouts of America is here for the long haul and that it has not outgrown its purpose.
The council he oversees and other chapters like it are legally separate groups and not filing for bankruptcy. When asked what be the impact on her family if Boy Scouts of America were to disappear Mrs. Niles said, “Chase, my son, would be devastated. This is a big part of his life.”
Just this month, BSA celebrated its 110th anniversary. Filing for bankruptcy and what led to that filing mark a very dark chapter in its long history.
Boy Scouts of America had been exploring filing for bankruptcy since 2018 when the organization hired a law firm. As for preventing future abuse, the non-profit requires youth protection training each year and background checks of its roughly one million volunteers.