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Issue 57 – Mid-August 2005

Just in case you’re a last-minute traveler, here’s a great letter just received, about Hawaii –

Dear Andy,

Just read the latest issue of your GREAT online publication, and thought I should provide some information for Scouts and families coming to visit Hawaii – Yes there are awards that Scouts can earn in Hawaii –

The Aloha Council Hawaii Heritage Trail, which passes by various historical landmarks around Honolulu. It’s about a five-mile walk, and takes about three to five hours, depending on how long you spend at each location. The information is available at the Aloha Council service center, a couple of miles from downtown Honolulu. The patch costs $3.50 and can be purchased after the Scouts complete the hike and present the completed Trail Questionnaire.

The Hawaiiana Award can be earned by Boy Scouts and adult leaders attending summer camp at Camp Pupukea, in the Koolau Mountains above the North Shore (near Waimea Bay).

Your information on the USS ARIZONA Memorial is right on (since you probably got it from the National Park Service web site). Here are some additional thoughts for those visiting Hawaii and interested in WWII-related history:

The USS ARIZONA Memorial is administered by the National Park Service, although the land and the ARIZONA itself, plus the structure over the ship are all owned by the Navy. Visiting the Memorial is the equivalent of visiting a cemetery—That’s exactly what it is: the tomb of over 1,000 Navy personnel. Visiting the memorial is free, and includes a movie about the attack, plus a few comments by Pearl Harbor survivors (Yes, there are still a few here!).

The USS MISSOURI is also here at Pearl Harbor, making the ARIZONA and MISSOURI the “bookends” of WWII, since USS MISSOURI was the site for Japan’s surrender. The USS MISSOURI is managed by the Battleship MISSOURI Memorial Organization, and is open for tours. Tickets for tours start at $16 for adults and $8 for children (escort yourself); guided tours additional cost.

Also in the same general vicinity are the submarine USS BOWFIN Museum and Park. The USS BOWFIN (designation SS-287) is a WWII diesel-powered submarine, known as the “Pearl Harbor Avenger,” because it was launched on 7 December 1942—exactly one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The submarine and its museum are open for tours. Admission is $10 for adults and $3 for children 4-12.

This is just a small taste of what there is here in Hawaii if you’re interested in history and culture. There are many other museums and historical sites, plus arboretums and other parks. In addition, there are lots of hiking trails on all the islands, ranging from a few miles (such as hiking to some of the many waterfalls) to multi-day backpacking trips (Yes, you CAN do “50-Milers” here!). Some require the usual reservations, just as many places on the mainland ask for, especially Haleakala NP, and Hawaii Volcanoes NP, plus the trails on the west and north shore of Kauai. (Barry Nupen, DC, Ka’ala District, Aloha Council, Mililani, HI, USA)

Thanks, Barry! What a great sampler of great things to do and see!

A personal story…

When my younger son was about five, we visited Honolulu and the USS Arizona Memorial, which sits directly over the sunken battleship. It was mid-week and almost no one was on the Memorial that morning itself except my son and I. We toured the Memorial Room and were standing in the mid-section of the Memorial, where the ship itself, with its interred crew of 1,102 seamen who lost their lives when it sank on that fateful day, was visible only as a shadow below the water. We saw also the small bubbles of oil that rose to the surface from near the No. 3 gun turret, as they had for some fifty years. We had been there only a few minutes when my son’s face turned ashen and his forehead became covered with drops of perspiration. “Daddy, can we please leave now?” he implored. “Son, what’s the matter? What’s happening?” I asked, and this is what he said to me (this is an exact quote): “Daddy, I’m hearing too many voices.”

Dear Andy,

I’m a Webelos Den Leader. One of the parents in my Den has been sexually harassing me for quite some time now. He makes sexual innuendos and he touches inappropriately. Everyone hears it and sees it, but everyone laughs if off. He also takes alcohol to our Cub Scout events, and everyone knows about this, too, but no one says a thing. Up to recently, I’ve not said any-thing to anyone—not even my husband—because I didn’t want to cause friction or hurt his wife’s feelings. Instead, I just try to walk away when he comes near, trying to touch me.

The other day, I happened to blurt out in front of my children that I’m glad I finally told Dad that he touched my butt, to which my Webelos son replied, “He touched your butt? He touched mine, too!” I was shocked, but tried to remain calm, hoping maybe it was just a touch like a coach would give, to say “good job.” But when my son described the touching in more detail, it was obviously no simple “pat on the butt.”

I immediately notified my council’s Scout Executive, who advised me to file a police report, which I did. But he also advised me that the council itself really couldn’t take specific action because this man wasn’t a registered leader (even thought he’s on the Pack roster as Assistant Cubmaster).

I was further advised to inform the principal of our school (they’re the Pack’s sponsor) of this situation, and I did so. Meanwhile, the police told me that these cases are hard to prove and that they’ve heard worse and nothing was ever done about it, which was very disappointing news.

So, at that point, nothing was happening, or likely to happen. But then a woman friend (who, ironically, had also been harassed by this guy back when she was a Den Leader herself) came to me and told me that she was very upset with me because, according to her, I was the reason why the Pack had almost lost its Charter, and that I never should have talked about the alcohol, because that was a separate issue. She went on to claim that I had “overstepped my bounds,” and that harassment and alcohol abuse were two separate issues, and that the whole Pack got dragged through the mud because of me.

In a sense she was right, because neither she (when she was a Den Leader) nor the Cubmaster (who happens to be her best friend) ever reported, much less dealt with, either the harassment or the alcohol issues, even though they both knew about both issues! Instead, they both got really upset with me, for “tattling” on them. When they asked me to resign as Den Leader, I couldn’t believe my ears! Their rationale was that the man who was the violator was going to pull out of the Pack because of me, and I’d have to resign or he’d quit, and if I didn’t resign, they’d vote me out! I refused, because I felt that I did nothing wrong and had been a good Den Leader, but more importantly because I love Scouting and, even more important, what kind of example would I be setting for my son! I felt I was being robbed of my dignity and my son’s if I did that. I felt I was being penalized for having reported such conduct. I spoke once again with our Scout Executive, who just said it’s all “politics” and that they were just trying to intimidate and pressure me, but that the parents would probably do nothing.

Well, guess what… The Cubmaster, the violator, and the former Den Leader got together, called the uninvolved parents, and created a new Den, excluding only me and my Webelos son. Now I’m left alone with my son, looking like I did something bad when I didn’t. I thought maybe I could lead my son by myself and thought that he would somehow still be able to at least have the Arrow of Light Ceremony along with the other boys in what had been his Den (they’ve been together since they were Tigers). They said that that’s OK for my son, but not for me. My son agrees that that’s just not right, and he doesn’t want to do it.

So what lesson does all this teach my son? That when something is reported that ought to be reported, you get punished for it? Everyone tells you to report this type of stuff, but in the end I came to find out that nobody really wants to deal with it. Everyone wants to wash their hands of it, including the BSA and the school. The truth is that the alcohol and the sexual harassment can be proven, even if what this violator did with my son might not be able to be corroborated. But, even so, I still come out looking like the bad guy. And, I go to another Pack, it’ll be hard, because my son will be new and also because he’s already completed all the requirements for the Arrow of Light.

I feel like no one supported me. I guess the Council tried, but they said it was strictly a Pack-and-Den issue. The saddest thing here is that I’m left so heart-broken. I believed in this organization so much, my son and I enjoyed it so much that he has perfect attendance for four years, we never missed a Den or Pack meeting or any outing for that matter, and we even did a ten-mile hike together. My son dreams of being an Eagle Scout and I’ll support him, but right now I am so disillusioned.

Recently, the District Commissioner spoke to the Cubmaster and me, and she asked me why I still want to be Den Leader when this other person wants to do it…Why do I want to be bothered with more work if I’m doing Girl Scouts, too (we have a daughter, too). She kept saying how this former Den Leader is dying to be Den Leader again. I am so disappointed in the organization. It seems there is no solution, or any justice for my son. What message does this send to him? That when you report something wrong, you get penalized for it? I try to teach him to speak up since he’s somewhat shy, and now that he finally did, his mother gets basically ousted. That is so so sad. I wish that they had at least compromised with me. Maybe I could’ve at least been Assistant Den Leader if that would help keep the boys together, since it’s the boys who are our ultimate priority. But I wasn’t even offered that. Or I could’ve at least been acknowledged as a good Den Leader and it could’ve been mentioned to the rest of the parents in such a way without mentioning anything about allegations or any names, that I was stepping down for the good of the Den, but that I had done a good job as Den Leader. At least I could’ve been acknowledged and maybe I could’ve somehow lived with that, because I would’ve still felt respected and have some dignity. But now I’ve also come to realize that they clearly didn’t appreciate me as a leader. I really don’t need those types of people in my life, but I’m left with the dilemma that my son still wants to finish his Arrow of Light and also with the dilemma that this individual got away with it. It really hurts so badly, because my son as well as seven of the other boys in his Webelos Den have completely fulfilled the requirements for the Arrow of Light. The ceremony for this had been planned for this coming February. My son will have his 10th birthday at the end of this month (August) and he along with the others will be starting 5th grade this year. I was hoping that I could convince the Den to hold off bridging until May of 2006, because my son and I wanted to do one last Pinewood Derby, Raingutter Regatta, and especially the Pushcart Derby, but the others didn’t want to because most of the other boys will be ten-and-a-half in January, and only my son and maybe one other will be that age in March of 2006.

I’m not sure now if I really have a question for you, I feel like this letter is so long that it feels as if you’re more of my shrink now (just kidding). What do you advise me to do? As I’ve mentioned, going to another Pack is sort of not an option. The Scout Executive has advised me not to resign, because it would look as if I did something wrong. And although I wasn’t “voted out,” they still found a way to oust me.

So that is what I’m left with. Pretty sad huh? I’m not really sure if I’m even supposed to be talking about stuff like this! Well I think it’s OK, since there is no case pending, there is not enough evidence because all of the people who would be my witnesses are his friends and are supporting him. I know I made this super long, but thanks for reading it and giving me any thoughts you might have.

I’m going to cover five subjects with you. They’re not only for you, but also for the other readers of this column. They are: Alcohol, Sexual Harassment-Youth, Sexual Harassment-Adult, Responsibility, and Modeling. After we’ve covered these, I’ll give you a prescription for what you can do for your son right now.

Alcohol

The BSA has a zero tolerance policy regarding alcohol, for which there are no exceptions. If the person you spoke of was consuming alcohol at a Pack event, it is immediately the Cubmaster’s responsibility to instruct the person with the alcohol to either remove the alcohol from the premises (or camp-ground) or remove himself along with it. If this took place at a Den event, it is the Den Leader’s immediate responsibility to do likewise. This matter can be dealt with in advance, by including in the meeting or outing notice that alcohol is strictly prohibited; however, it cannot be dealt with after the incident has passed—it’s too late. Reporting the presence of alcohol after the incident has passed accomplishes nothing. Your District Executive can provide further instruction on how best to manage the actual instruction.

Sexual Harassment-Youth

All youth in Scouting are covered by the Youth Protection Training guidelines and any unit (Pack, Den, or other) that permits adults who are not Youth Protection trained to interact with Scouts is making a serious mistake. Moreover, no adult should ever be in a situation where he or she is alone with an individual Scout who is not their own child, and this is the unit’s responsibility as well. Your own son may need specific training in how to shout, “DON’T TOUCH ME!” when he is touched inappropriately by an adult.

Sexual Harassment-Adult

My wife, an educator with over 30 years’ experience with all sorts of parents, of a wide variety of persuasions, tells me this: If you’re touched in a way that you instantly know is inappropriate, SLAP THAT HAND INSTANTLY AND HARD and say without hesitation, “Don’t do that again, ever.” When you walk small around a predator, you set yourself up as prey, and that’s exactly what this is all about: POWER. Don’t abdicate your personal power over the situation, ever, and don’t fail to take care of yourself. You’re the only one who can. Notice that, like both of the other situations, the way to deal with this is INSTANTANEOUSLY – Never after it’s over.

Responsibility

Your Scout Executive was 100% correct when he told you that the BSA itself is not the policeman for sexual harassment. The BSA doesn’t own your Pack or Den; the school that sponsors you does. Moreover, as you learned from your Police Department, this might be a civil or possibly criminal matter but, whatever it is, it’s a matter between people. This means it’s unfair as well as inaccurate to claim that the Boy Scouts want to “wash their hands” of such matters – the Boy Scouts have nothing to do with inappropriate actions between two adults, registered volunteers or not. That’s not just some BSA policy; that’s the law. Furthermore, the Police advised you well when they noted that such un-witnessed actions and/or commentary are difficult to bring to court. However, if you do wish to pursue this further, you should by all means seek out the counsel of an attorney.

Modeling

It’s undeniable that your son picked up some life-lessons from some of the other adults involved in this mess… That sometimes people aren’t fair, that people play politics, that some people are in denial or lie, that some people try to ignore the elephant in the living room. But I’m most concerned about what your son may have internalized from observing you. Consider: It’s not impossible that he’s had some up-close-and-personal lessons in not speaking up, in keeping secrets, in cringing as a response to a predatory power-play, and in blaming others for our own misfortunes. This worries me. And I’m sincerely hoping that, in your willingness to write to me in the first place, you’re also equally willing to hear what I’ve just had to say. It would be easy to dismiss my comments with something like, “He just doesn’t get it,” but that only serves to perpetuate your own unhappiness and sense of powerlessness. You can’t give your son personal power if you give away your own.

Now, the prescription. At age ten and having earned the Arrow of Light, your son is eligible to join a Troop and become a Boy Scout. Make this happen for him. Don’t keep him small by reminiscing about Pinewood Derbies and such – That’s now for the little kids. It’s time to move on. He should re-visit one of the Troops that he visited when he was completing his Arrow of Light requirements and JOIN IT. But, this time, instead of going there with Mom, he goes with Dad. It’s now time for you to concentrate on your daughter, while Dad-and-son move on to Boy Scouting. If you still want to make a contribution to Cub Scouting, which you obviously enjoyed a great deal, one way to do that is to become a facilitator for Youth Protection Training. If you choose to do this, you’ll be guaranteeing that no other leader ever has to suffer the advances of a predator the way you did, and the children of countless others will be safer, too! And if that isn’t a major contribution, I don’t know what is!

Keep on keepin’ on!

Andy

Got a question? Send it to me at AskAndyBSA@yahoo.com -be sure to let me know your Scouting position, town, state, and council!

(Mid-August 2005 – Copyright © 2005 Andy McCommish)

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About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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