Excerpted from 10tv WBNS By Bryant Somerville
Mike and Emily Jennings want to be clear: they are for background checks. They think all volunteers should be thoroughly and frequently vetted, no question.
However, the new checks for Boy Scouts of America, they say, are too invasive.
In an effort to have more up-to-date background checks on volunteers, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in October announced changes that will begin in January that will require a background check every five years.
“We love scouting,” Emily said. “And, I think we want to be involved in scouting. We absolutely want the scouts to be safe, but we want to do it well.”
The Jennings have been in scouting the last two years with their son and daughter.
The Simon Kenton Council, which serves BSA in 19 counties in central and southern Ohio, says all currently registered volunteers are being asked to sign an authorization form permitting BSA to recheck backgrounds beginning in 2020.
Those who do not return the document will not be renewed.
“I’m fine with that,” Emily said of the background checks. “I applaud that. I think that’s a wonderful thing. The problem was in the fine print of it.”
By signing, volunteers are agreeing for BSA to obtain a consumer report to check things like a criminal background and driving background. The Jennings are in agreement with that.
Other information that can be collected, though, like character, general reputation, personal characteristics and mode of living, they say is too much.
There’s also concern BSA could check personal financial reports.
“It doesn’t specifically say that they will go after your financial records, but they could,” Emily said.
And, if it did, who would have access to it and would it be shared?
The authorization form, if signed, gives consent to BSA to share the information with current or prospective clients, customers or others with a “need to know” business reason.
Sources close to BSA say the information will be used solely for criminal background checks and will not include credit checks or inquiries about living conditions or personal reputations.
Jeff Moe, the scout executive with Simon Kenton Council, says information would only be shared internally.
“The authorization to share information merely allows our national organization to share the results with local councils,” Moe said. “The BSA does not sell private information of its members.”
BSA says federal and state laws dictate what is stated in the disclosure forms required from volunteers. Because of that, the Jennings are prepared to walk away from the organization they love.
“That’s the way it was presented,” Mike said. “It was an ultimatum; sign this document or we can’t renew your charter. As a volunteer, I need to have some protection of my privacy and I need to know what my data’s being used for, where it’s being stored, who can access it and there’s nothing spelled out in that [authorization] document that gives me that comfort level.”
Boy Scouts of America sent this statement to 10TV regarding the authorization form and background checks:
“Background checks are being conducted for one reason and one reason only: to help protect children. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has a multi-layered process in place for youth protection, including periodic criminal background checks for all registered volunteers. Federal and state laws dictate what is stated in the disclosure forms required from volunteers. The BSA will only use these signed authorization forms for approval to obtain a criminal background check; it will be not be used for any other purposes. We are grateful for the cooperation of our volunteers and their commitment to make Scouting the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.”
The Girl Scouts released this statement regarding background checks:
“At Girl Scouts, the safety and well-being of our girls is our top priority. Therefore, Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland Council requires all potential volunteers to complete a successful application and background check prior to becoming a volunteer with our organization. This includes a criminal record check as well as a check of sexual offender registries.
Volunteers are required to renew and obtain a clean background check every three years to remain in active service.
Background check information obtained, including reasons why a volunteer applicant may not be appointed is kept confidential.”