JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Boy Scouts of America are urging victims to come forward after the 110-year-old organization filed for bankruptcy protection in the first step toward dealing with a barrage of sexual abuse lawsuits.
The Scouts plan to create a huge compensation fund for potentially thousands of men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders
“It is unfortunate that they bring shame to a vast organization that is really trying to build a positive experience for our children,” said Daisy Davidson, the mother of a Boy Scout.
The bankruptcy filing puts the lawsuits on hold for now. But ultimately the Boy Scouts could be forced to sell off some of their vast property holdings, including campgrounds and hiking trails, to raise money for a victims’ fund that could top $1 billion.
News4Jax spoke to the CEO of the Jacksonville Boy Scouts organization, who said there should be no changes in Northeast Florida because the North Florida Council has not filed for bankruptcy.
Files allege as many as 7,800 abusers and list more than 12,000 victims dating back to the 1920s.
The Los Angeles Times created an online database showing how widespread the cases are. It was last updated in 2013. At the time, it showed more than 250 cases in Florida. Of those cases, 21 were reported in Jacksonville. Some cases were reported in Palatka, Orange Park, Lawtey and St. Augustine.
Cases include a former Columbia County deputy charged with sexual assault on a child in 1990. Another involves an Orange Park school teacher accused of inappropriately touching a child during a camp out in 1987. There are also handwritten letters from Scouts in Nassau County that described being molested in 1976.
Several mothers whose children are involved with the Scouts in Northeast Florida said they are angry and upset over the lawsuits. They said their experiences with the organization have been positive and professional.