LETTER: Article mischaracterized Boy Scout background checks

Ronald Gardner
Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America photo illustration

Nothing is more important to the Boy Scouts of America than the safety of children in our programs. Your Jan. 16 Spotlight PA article mischaracterized the New Birth of Freedom Council’s management of adult leader background checks and state-mandated clearances.

The BSA implemented mandatory adult leader background checks seven years before Pennsylvania required background checks under the Child Protective Services Law. For our volunteers, the requirements of Pennsylvania's Act 15 are in addition to these safeguards we’ve had in place for years.

Our council’s policy states that at the unit level, it is the responsibility of the unit committee chair and chartered organization representative to ensure compliance is handled before anyone can begin volunteering. The decentralized nature of Scouting throughout our six-county service area necessitates this, and we work closely with units to ensure volunteers are in compliance with state law.

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We have standard procedures and a support staff for managing over 7,000 Pennsylvania clearances. Our staff routinely sends out clearance confirmation certificates to volunteers and issues reminders to individuals whose clearances are nearing expiration. We currently have no backlog in processing clearances that have been submitted.

One of our units has asserted that several of their adult leader applications were misplaced by the council, and we’re working to resolve this matter. We are also aware that a leader within the same troop did not renew one of his required clearances before participating in a Scouting activity. We emailed this individual one month prior to the clearance’s expiration to remind him that it needed to be updated, and his clearance has been obtained.

The safety of children in our Scouting programs has been and will continue to be paramount for our Council. Compliance with the legal requirements of the commonwealth is the responsibility of all citizens.

— Ronald Gardner is a Scout executive and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America's New Birth of Freedom Council.