Monday, November 14, 2011

A Trusted Charity Fails at Penn State. It Is Not The Only One

by Gary Snyder

We have been bombarded by stories about the happenings on the Penn State University Campus. The horrific tales are beyond belief. But there is a subtext that few people know about and it involves a charity.

This incident only scratches the surface.

We know about Joe Paterno. We know about the Nittany Lion. Recently we have been introduced to Jerry Sandusky, the former veteran defensive coordinator of the revered football team. Sandusky is accused with sexually abusing untold numbers of young boys.

For decades Sandusky had been associated with a charity, The Second Mile, he started it in 1977. It was this organization that elevated Sandusky to national prominence. It was his forum to help at-risk youth. But in 1998, he publicly admitted showering with an 11-year old boy. He admitted hugging the boy but others suggest a different accounting of the incident. The charity was notified.

In 2002, the Pennsylvania Attorney General alleges that that Penn State University notified The Second Mile that Sandusky was banned from bring children onto campus because of another incident. Sandusky continued to be involved with the program until November of 2008. During that time the agency paid Sandusky an annual consultant fee amounting to a total of $456,000 starting in 2001 for the next 8 years even though the organization knew that Sandusky was under investigation in 2008.

Only after being confronted with allegations against him from an adolescent male, in 2010, did Sandusky step down. The Grand Jury charges note that Second Mile program children were the victims. The long standing CEO of Second Mile has resigned.

Many institutions failed the children and their families. This is not first time.
We all are familiar what was going on in the Catholic Church. But few realize that a very similar circumstance continue to surface in another trusted charity.
For years Nonprofit Imperative has followed the inability of the Boy Scouts of American to protect its scouts. It seems that the latest chapter of its problems is beginning to close. Earlier last year a jury faulted the Scouts for failing to protect the young boys from a convicted pedophile and assistant Scoutmaster.

The Scouts never required criminal background checks on all applicants to be Scout leaders. Six men who were molested by the Scout leader, as children, have settled their cases with the Boy Scouts of America. The settlement prevents the attorneys and the men from talking about how much money each received in compensation for abuse that happened in the 1980s. The amount, however, likely reaches into the multiple millions of dollars, considering the Boy Scouts of America also have agreed to pay the state $2.25 million in punitive damages as part of the settlement. The men, who are now in their 30s or early 40s, were all members of the same Southeast Portland troop.

Key to the case were so-called red-flag files that the Boy Scouts of America have fought to keep out of the public eye. The Judge allowed them to be used during trial. The files amounted to 20,000 pages of information collected by Boy Scout executives from 1965 to 1985 on 1,247 Scouting volunteers who were suspected of molesting boys or other unbefitting behavior. Fourteen other clients are suing the Boy Scouts for sexual abuse, two of those men are alleged victims of that same scoutmaster, but say they were abused while in a different troop.

It took over 80 years for the Texas-based organization to make youth-protection training mandatory for all registered volunteers. This only took place six weeks after the verdict in this case. A sex abuse prevention program was put into place decades ago, but had never been evaluated or analyzed to determine its effectiveness. The implementation of the program is after 6,000 to 18,000 children who had been abused in a 20-year period, experts suggest. Estimates also suggest that's a fraction - maybe 10 to 20 percent - of the true number of victims because most sexual abuse isn't reported.

Because the Boy Scouts have settled some lawsuits out of court, it is difficult to say where the total awards imposed by the Portland jury rank with those of the past. In a 1987 sex abuse case, an Oregon jury awarded more than $4 million to the victim, including $2 million in punitive damages against the Scouts that were thrown out when the case was appealed. A jury in San Bernardino, Calif., awarded $3.75 million to three sex abuse victims in 1991. From 1984 through 1992, the Scouts were sued at least 60 times for alleged sex abuse with settlements and judgments totaling more than $16 million.

This has been its biggest challenge in its 100th anniversary year. Is it ironic that the Boy Scouts of America fought all the way to the Supreme Court to exclude an assistant scoutmaster from a leadership position who professed and practiced a homosexual lifestyle and never checked the records for a convicted pedophile? Presumably, the litigation cost the organization millions of dollars.

Three terrible scenarios in which trusted leaders used their position to take advantage of our youth. The consequences are incalculable. The hurt around the nation is palpable.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, ,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more • Nonprofits: On the Brink (iUniverse, 2006)
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