Boy Scouts policy keeping parents in the dark?
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - James McCullars, a former Boy Scout volunteer accused of running an international porn ring out of Huntsville, was indicted last year and his trial is scheduled for May 19.
Since the story broke in December, concerned parents have contacted WAFF, saying they would have never known about McCullars arrest if it weren't for our reports.
WAFF wanted to know what the notification policies are for the Boy Scouts of America when it comes to sex offense and past practices in a situation like this.
McCullars faces charges of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and conspiring to distribute and receive child pornography in Alabama, Indiana and far as Lebanon.
Court documents claim McCullars created online chat rooms where he and 10 other men would discuss their sexual interest in young boys. They could also view and trade large amounts of child porn. To join, members would have to submit pictures first to ensure they weren't law enforcement.
Investigators said this went on from 2000 and continued until April of 2012.
The criminal complaint states McCullars went by the alias "DJ" online. Off the internet, McCullars was a Boy Scout volunteer who worked at the Huntsville Scout Shop.
Before getting laid off in 2009, McCullars worked as the Director of Computer and Network Services at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
The criminal complaint goes on to say McCullars told other members of this online child porn ring that he "camped with boys and molested them." It also said he shared pictures and videos of himself.
It's scary stuff for any parent to hear - so what does the Boy Scouts of America have to say about the allegations and their policies when it comes to notifying parents about a volunteer accused of such crimes?
A regional scout executive refused to do an on camera interview with WAFF and would not address abuse allegations and sent Boy Scout policies on youth protection through text messages and pointed us directly to their website. He refused to answer specific questions on parental notification in the McCullars case.
After WAFF'S visit to Boy Scout Regional Headquarters in Birmingham, we did get more information by email from Scout Executive J.T. Dabbs.
"We have received no indication that the scouts who came into contact with this individual were treated inappropriately in any way and no youth or parents have come forward with any allegations," said Dabbs. "Upon learning of these allegations, we immediately revoked this individual's membership in 2012 and he has been permanently banned from the scouting program. Since this time, we have not received any reports or complaints of abuse."
Dabbs added McCullars' primary responsibilities were administrative, and his day-to-day focus was not on leading scouts.
WAFF brought photos to Dabbs attention. In the pictures McCullars posted on his public Facebook page from the 2010 Boy Scout Jamboree, he's seen working inside the trading post and around scouts who were trading badges.
Dabbs responded saying, "In regards to the Jamboree, he was not one of our Jamboree leaders who traveled and worked with our youth. He served on the program staff which was administered by the national office, so I cannot verify who he may or may not have come in contact with."
The national office administered the event, but no one there could or would verify if McCullars came in contact with scouts.
"Our policies require that adults whether employees or volunteers lending a hand at a Jamboree use 'Two-Deep Leadership,' said the National Office Dir. of Communications, Deron Smith. "This policy requires that two registered adult leaders be present at all scouting activities, and that no one-on-one contact is permitted outside of view of other adults and youth."
Boy Scout officials stressed that youth protection is of paramount importance and policies like "Two-Deep Leadership" and criminal background checks are just two ways they ensure safety. On top of that, officials verified an applicant is not listed in the ineligible volunteer files.
The file lists those who have worked with scouts before with less than admirable results. These are people who have been accused of child abuse or convicted abusers who've been blacklisted from ever volunteering again.
McCullars has been added to the file since his arrest, but the organization refused to release an updated copy.
WAFF's request isn't the only one to be turned down. Up until 2010, the very existence of these files was a well kept secret.
Against their wishes, 14,000 pages of the organization's confidential files also known as the "perversion files" were made public.
The fight to have them released took Oregon Attorney, Gilion Dumas, to that state's Supreme Court in a case where a 13-year-old was sexually abused by his scout master.
Based on facts of the case, the court only released files from 1965 to 1985, but the Boy Scouts perversion files date back to at least 1920.
In those files, Dumas said you'll find where some alleged abusers were allowed to resign quietly, while others were merely put on membership probation only to end up violating children again. She believes the release of those files is the biggest breakthrough in child safety in the last few decades.
"Those files constitute the largest single body of knowledge of how pedophiles operate, how they're drawn to where the children are, how they pick the children to be their victims and that was an enormous untapped resource because the Boy Scouts had never made those files public," said Dumas. "The Boy Scouts don't tell troops about the file system, they don't tell families about them, don't tell scouts that these files exist."
Dumas said the system is still flawed because it takes a paid employee at the state or national level to report it. She admits the organization has made efforts to better mandate child safety training, but says more has to be done.
Child abuse safety is just the tip of the iceberg at the 30th Annual Symposium on child abuse at the Von Braun Center where more than a thousand child protection professionals and advocates addressed abuse prevention.
Sex abuse expert, Angela Williams is the Founder of Voice Today, a non-profit dedicated to breaking the cycle of child abuse. Sadly, her expertise comes from experience.
"I lost my entire childhood," said Williams. "My sexual abuse started at age 3 and I was abused until 17 and that ended in a suicide attempt."
Just like in her situation, most offenders know their victims.
"Ninety-three percent of the time, the child knows, loves and trusts the perpetrator," said Williams.
Now she spreads the word about prevention, especially in for an organization like the Boy Scouts.
"It has to be more important, the safety of a child than the safety of an organization," said Williams.
"He is shocked by the accusations and looks forward to his trial to clear his name," said James McCullars' attorney, Kenneth Riggins.
You can read the "Perversion Files" on this website: http://www.kellyclarkattorney.com/files/.
Copyright 2014 WAFF. All rights reserved.