Important GSWNY Update 5-30-2020

To the Families of GSWNY,

We write to you today to inform you that North Tonawanda police arrested a troop co-leader and his wife who was a troop helper and they were arraigned in Niagara County Court late Friday on charges of sexually abusing two young children, ages eight and nine, according to a media report. At this point, though we immediately contacted police officials for details, we do not know who these victims are, or if they are involved in Girl Scouts, or not.

Nonetheless, we know you join all of us at the Girl Scouts of Western New York in voicing our concern for the two children and we want them to have the best-possible care and support.

This is hugely distressing to all of us at GSWNY, as it assuredly is for you as well. You are aware of the rules and regulations we emphasize involving adult-scout interactions. The father, Marty Walton, passed our thorough background check in October 2016 and, after the normal three-year coverage period, again in October 2019. We are unaware of when police say the children’s abuse took place, nor are we aware of how the reported abuse came to police attention.

Your first priority, and ours, of course, is the safety of our girls, and we take allegations like this very seriously. Given all we’ve seen in recent years about teachers, priests and youth leaders, we strive in everything we do to make sure our girls are protected. Indeed, while it does not lessen this case’s impact, this is the first such allegation in GSWNY history. This is profoundly upsetting, as we know it is to all of you. But while we sincerely apologize on behalf of Girl Scouts that Girl Scout volunteers are allegedly involved, we also pledge to you that we will be transparent and will cooperate and collaborate with law enforcement to the fullest extent necessary.  We trust that you will do the same.

In addition, we are reviewing all our rules and procedures, which are standard for and supported by Girl Scouting nationally. After that review, we will tighten and modify those rules, as needed. If changes need to be made, we will inform you and explain those modifications. We are also in consultation with our national Girl Scouting leaders and drawing on their experience in this area.
 
We did not learn of these charges until yesterday evening from a media report. We immediately discharged Mr. Walton as a troop co-leader, and his wife, Shani, from her role as helper in the troop. Their daughter has been involved with Girl Scouts of Western New York since 2016.

We will continue to keep you informed as we learn more about this case, which goes against everything we teach and stand for. If you have questions, please call Morgan Williams-Bryant, Chief Impact Officer at 716-935-6034, or email. Please also feel free to email me as well. We ask that you direct any media inquiries to Callie Johnson, EVP of Marketing at 716-935-6023 or email.

We hope too that you and your family remain safe and healthy during this difficult time of COVID-19.

Yours in Girl Scouting,
Alison Wilcox
CEO, Girl Scouts of Western New York
 

Press Release:

Girl Scouts of Western New York Statement on Arrests
First time that allegations of this nature involve a GSWNY troop co-leader

DEPEW, NY (May 30, 2020) – The Girl Scouts of Western New York today issued the following information and statement, attributable to GSWNY CEO Alison Wilcox. It follows media reports saying North Tonawanda police charged a troop co-leader, and his volunteer wife, with sexually abusing two children. This will be the GSWNY’s only comment at this time.

By way of relevant background, please know this is the first time that a GSWNY volunteer has been involved in allegations such as these.

Also, our rules state that there are always at least two approved, unrelated, adult volunteers, at least one of whom is a female, with any girl or group of girls following prescribed adult-to-girl ratios. These include co-leaders, chaperones, and troop drivers, all of whom must pass a background check every three years. The father/troop co-leader in this case passed background checks in October 2016, and again in October 2019.

GSWNY has about 15,000 Girl Scouts, and more than 6,000 adult volunteers across its nine counties of operation. There have been no in-person Girl Scout meetings or sanctioned activities since March 15, due to COVID-19.

“First, we at the Girl Scouts of Western New York want to voice our concern for the two children and we want them to have the best-possible care and support. Though we immediately contacted police officials for details, we do not yet know whether the victims are involved in Girl Scouts. Nonetheless, we would reinforce that there is nothing more important to Girl Scouts than the safety and well-being of all children, and we take all such allegations very seriously.”

“This is hugely distressing to all of us at GSWNY. We constantly emphasize the rules and regulations involving adult-Girl Scout interactions, safety and well-being. The troop co-leader passed thorough background checks in 2016 and again in October 2019. We are unaware of when police say the children’s abuse took place, nor are we aware yet of how the reported abuse came to police attention, or on what evidence they brought charges. Both adults in this case were immediately removed Friday from all GSWNY activities. We are conducting a rigorous internal investigation, reviewing our regulations, and will cooperate fully with law enforcement.  We ask for privacy for the victims and their families at this difficult time.”

For further background: https://www.gswny.org/en/for-volunteers/volunteer-resources.html https://www.gswny.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gswny/documents/Volunteer%20Essentials%202019-2020%20GSWNY.pdf https://www.gswny.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gswny/documents/safety_activity_checkpoints_2019_edition_7.1.2019.pdf

About Girl Scouts of Western New York

Girl Scouts of Western New York (GSWNY) serves nearly 15,000 girls and over 6,000 adult volunteers across the GSWNY jurisdiction, including Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties. The council’s administrative service centers are located in Batavia, Buffalo, Jamestown, Lockport, Niagara Falls, and Rochester. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. Through the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, girls discover their personal best and prepare for a positive future, connect with others in an increasingly diverse world and take action to solve problems and improve their communities.

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