Houston - This week's panel Wayne Dolcefino, media consultant; Carmen Roe, Houston attorney Bill King, former mayoral candidate, businessman and columnist, Michele Maples, conservative attorney; Chris Tritico, FOX 26 legal and political analyst; and Antonio Diaz-, writer, educator and radio host react to various news headlines of the past week.
Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy Aubrey Huff uninvited to a championship reunion Female athletes protesting transgender competitors
Boy Scouts seek bankruptcy, urge victims to step forward
The Boy Scouts of America urged victims to come forward Tuesday as the historic, 110-year-old organization filed for bankruptcy protection in the first step toward creating a huge compensation fund for potentially thousands of men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders.
The Scouts resorted to Chapter 11 in hopes of surviving a barrage of lawsuits, many of them made possible by recent changes in state laws to allow people to sue over long-ago sexual abuse.
Bankruptcy will enable the organization to put those cases on hold for now and continue operating. But ultimately the Boy Scouts could be forced to sell some of their vast property holdings, including campgrounds and hiking trails, to raise money for a victims’ fund that could top $1 billion.
The Boy Scouts estimated 1,000 to 5,000 victims will seek compensation.
“The BSA encourages victims to come forward to file a claim as the bankruptcy process moves forward,” the organization said in a statement.
James Kretschmer of Houston, one of those suing, said he was molested by a Scout leader in the mid-1970s in the Spokane, Washington, area. The bankruptcy, he said, “is a shame because at its core and what it was supposed to be, the Boy Scouts is a beautiful organization.”
“But you know, anything can be corrupted,” he added. “And if they’re not going to protect the people that they’ve entrusted with the children, then shut it down and move on.”
More than 12,000 boys have been molested by 7,800 abusers since the 1920s, according to Boy Scout files revealed in court papers.
Evan Smola said two new victims had already called his law office in Chicago on Tuesday morning, bringing the firm’s total to 319.
“The opportunity to tell your story is a cathartic and healing experience,” Smola said. “It’s very painful when they actually do it, but getting it off your chest is a big step.”
It will be up to the court to set a deadline for filing claims. The amount of money each victim will receive is likely to depend on what assets are turned over and how many people come forward.
The filing in Wilmington, Delaware, sets in motion what could be one of the biggest, most complex bankruptcies ever seen, given the Scouts’ 50-state presence. The organization listed assets of $1 billion to $10 billion and liabilities of $500 million to $1 billion.
“We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to harm innocent children,” said Roger Mosby, the Boy Scouts’ president and CEO. “While we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process, with the proposed trust structure, will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining the BSA’s important mission.”
The Boy Scouts are the latest major American institution to face a heavy price over sexual abuse. Roman Catholic dioceses across the country and schools such as Penn State and Michigan State have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.
The bankruptcy represents a painful turn for an organization that has been a pillar of American civic life for generations and a training ground for future leaders. Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout has long been a proud accomplishment that politicians, businessmen, astronauts and others put on their resumes and in their official biographies.
“I’m sad for all the victims who were preyed upon by people entrusted with their care. I’m sad that no amount of money will undo their trauma,” said Jackson Cooper, an Eagle Scout who is now a prosecutor in Louisville, Kentucky. “Whatever consequences come for BSA are no concern of mine. I only hope, if they continue to operate, they build robust systems to protect the young people in their care.”
The Boy Scouts’ finances have been strained in recent years by declining membership and sex-abuse settlements.
The number of youths taking part in scouting has dropped below 2 million, down from a peak of more than 4 million during the 1970s. Its membership rolls took a big hit Jan. 1 when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cut ties and withdrew more than 400,000 scouts in favor of programs of its own.
The financial outlook worsened last year after New York, Arizona, New Jersey and California relaxed their statutes of limitations to make it easier for victims to file claims. Teams of lawyers across the U.S. have been signing up clients by the hundreds to sue the Boy Scouts.
Most of the new cases date to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, before the Boy Scouts adopted mandatory criminal background checks, abuse-prevention training for all staff and volunteers, and a rule that two or more adult leaders must be present during all activities. Many of the lawsuits accuse the group of negligence and cover-ups.
Wayne Perry, a member of the organization’s national board and past president, said Scout families won’t notice any differences as a result of the bankruptcy. He touted the protections now in place for young people.
“Today, we are really, really good. Were we always good? No, nobody was good 50 years ago, 40 years ago, 30 years ago,” Perry said.
Amid the crush of lawsuits, the Scouts recently mortgaged some of their major properties, including their national headquarters in Irving, Texas, and the 140,000-acre Philmont Ranch in New Mexico.
One unanswered question is whether the Boy Scouts’ 261 local councils — and their campgrounds and other assets — will be dragged into the case, even though the Boy Scouts said the councils are legally separate entities and they were not part of the bankruptcy filing.
Mike Pfau, a Seattle-based attorney whose firm is representing scores of men nationwide, said the plaintiffs may go after the local councils’ property holdings, too.
“We believe the real property held by the local councils may be worth significantly more than the Boy Scouts’ assets,” he said. He said one question will be whether the Boy Scouts transferred property to their local councils to try to put it out of the reach of those suing.
Perry said he hopes the court remembers that the Boy Scouts are teaching leadership and life skills to children. “You have to take into account the balancing of the victims, but (also) the fact that the kids today who are joining Scouting had nothing to with those bad behaviors of criminal acts of perpetrators who are long gone,” he said.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys trace the Boy Scouts’ fall to 2010, when a jury awarded a former Scout nearly $20 million in a lawsuit in Portland, Oregon. The trial led the Oregon Supreme Court to release 20,000 pages of confidential Boy Scout files on 1,200 people after The Associated Press and other news organizations fought for their disclosure.
Until last spring, the organization had insisted it never knowingly allowed a predator to work with youths. But in May, the AP reported that attorneys for abuse victims had identified multiple cases in which known predators were allowed to return to leadership posts. The next day, the Boy Scouts acknowledged the truth.
Girls sue to block participation of transgender athletes
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The families of three female high school runners filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block transgender athletes in Connecticut from participating in girls sports.
Selina Soule, a senior at Glastonbury High School, Chelsea Mitchell, a senior at Canton High School and Alanna Smith, a sophomore at Danbury High School are represented by the conservative nonprofit organization Alliance Defending Freedom. They argue that allowing athletes with male anatomy to compete has deprived them of track titles and scholarship opportunities.
“Mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts,” said Smith, who is the daughter of former Major League pitcher Lee Smith. “That biological unfairness doesn’t go away because of what someone believes about gender identity. All girls deserve the chance to compete on a level playing field.”
The lawsuit was filed against the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the boards of education in Bloomfield, Cromwell, Glastonbury, Canton and Danbury.
“Forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics,” attorney Christiana Holcomb said. “Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”
The lawsuit follows a Title IX complaint filed last June by the girls’ families and the Alliance Defending Freedom with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which is investigating the policy.
The lawsuit centers on two transgender sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who have frequently outperformed their cisgender competitors.
The two seniors have combined to win 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races since 2017, according to the lawsuit.
The three plaintiffs have competed directly against them, almost always losing to Miller and usually behind Yearwood. Mitchell finished third in the 2019 state championship in the girls 55-meter indoor track competition behind Miller and Yearwood.
“Our dream is not to come in second or third place, but to win fair and square,” Mitchell said. “All we’re asking for is a fair chance.”
Yearwood, a senior at Cromwell High School, and Miller, a senior at Bloomfield High School, issued statements vehemently defending their right to run in girls events.
“I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life and I no longer want to remain silent,” Miller said. “I am a girl and I am a runner. I participate in athletics just like my peers to excel, find community, and meaning in my life. It is both unfair and painful that my victories have to be attacked and my hard work ignored.”
Yearwood said she also is a girl and has been hurt by the efforts to “tear down my successes.”
“I will never stop being me!” she said in her statement. “I will never stop running! I hope that the next generation of trans youth doesn’t have to fight the fights that I have. I hope they can be celebrated when they succeed not demonized. For the next generation, I run for you!”
The American Civil Liberties Union said it will represent the transgender teens and defend the Connecticut policy in court. Attorney Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said transgender girls also are protected by Title IX.
“The idea that the law only protects the individuals with XX chromosomes as compared to individuals with XY chromosomes is found nowhere in the legislative history of Title IX, in any implementing regulation or in any other aspect of the interpretation of Title IX over the last 50 years by the courts,” he said.
The attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom is asking the court to prevent the transgender girls from competing while the lawsuit moves forward. No hearing date on that request had been scheduled Wednesday, the day before the state’s indoor track championships begin.
Connecticut is one of 17 states that allowed transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions in 2019, according to Transathlete.com, which tracks state policies in high school sports across the country. Eight states had restrictions that make it difficult for transgender athletes to compete while in school, such requiring athletes to compete under the gender on their birth certificate, or allowing them to participate only after going through sex reassignment procedures or hormone therapies, according to Transathlete.
Yearwood and Miller have said they are still in the process of transitioning but have declined to provide details.