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Lawsuits. Possible bankruptcy. Declining members. Is there a future for the Boy Scouts?



Parents clutched shiny new folders and shuffled 7-year-olds through crowded, brick-walled hallways. Past the booth with the spirit-wear sale and sign-up forms for the PTA stood Julie Bostian, tan uniform tucked into army-green shorts, ready to recruit. “You guys thinking about Scouts?” she said to a mother and her son. I can’t do Mondays,” one mother said apologetically. “Football,” said another, shaking her head while walking past.

“Just come in to visit,” said Bostian, 53. “See if it works out.” Here at back-to-school night at Lewistown Elementary School in Thurmont, Md., a rural town at the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains, Bostian was building a pipeline for a local Boy Scout troop she continues to support long after her sons, now in their 20s, have aged out of the program.

As the new school year begins, Bostian and Scout leaders across the country are vying for the future of an organization facing unprecedented threats from several corners. Looming over the Boy Scouts are lawsuits that threaten to tarnish its image, reports of a potential bankruptcy and a struggle to define what it means to be a Scout today. Most recently, a group of lawyers claimed to have uncovered hundreds of previously unreported cases of sexual abuse at the nearly 110-year-old organization.

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