To my many Scouters, Scouts, parents, professionals, and other loyal readers, sincere thanks for your patience! These past few weeks have been jam-packed with all sorts of responsibilities—family, professional, and volunteer. As a result, this column is regrettably way off-schedule. But I’m working my best to get back to regular publishing, every Tuesday. So thanks for bearing with me! In addition to this one, you’ll find another brand-new column in just three more days!
I’ve been the Scoutmaster for my troop for a few years and just the other day opened up our troop First Aid box. I was amazed at what was in there and even more amazed at what was missing! Can you give me an idea of what a troop should have in its First Aid kit—the main one we bring along on all trips? I’m reevaluating everything we have, and want to get it right for my Scouts and our volunteers. Thanks! (Mark Hogle, SM, Southwest Florida Council)
As a Commissioner, I’ve learned along the way that I don’t need to know the answer for everything…but I do need to know how to find the answers! My secret is simple: I’m a “Googler”! That’s right… For a question like yours, the first place I’d go is a search engine, where I can find what experts have already discovered, so I don’t have to re-invent the proverbial wheel. For instance, J&J has a dandy First Aid kit for a group of 50, for under a hundred bucks… Just see what’s in it, then buy the fill-in supplies you need.
But now let’s take this a bit further, like good Scoutmasters…
The biggest usual problem with a box like this, with lots o’ little stuff in it, is little losses here and there that aren’t kept track of. So don’t make a restocking list all by yourself! This is a great opportunity to train your Quartermaster. It’s your QM who should look through the now-depleted kit and make a list of what to get; then you collaborate by checking that list with him at your side. Then ask, “Anything else we might want to have here, Mr. QM?” You two fill that in, and then he goes “shopping”—a “dry-shop” to be precise—and makes a list-with-prices for the two of you to evaluate together. Once you’ve agreed, you together present this to the treasurer, get it approved, and the QM does the actual buying and re-stocking, paying with the check the treasurer gives him and reconciling after the purchases are done.
Ahh, but it isn’t over yet… Now, your QM makes an inventory of everything in the kit and tapes it inside the lid or cover. Finally, he buys some of those 1″ paper circles used to hold mail-pieces closed, and affixes one to the lid. Now, he’ll know if it’s been opened, which means he re-inventories and keeps a current count.
So instead of merely having a well-stocked First Aid kit, you now have a trained youth QM who’s learned inventorying, buying skills, and decision-making, and he’s now fully invested in the process so that next time he’ll just take this and run with it, with your blessing! How ‘bout them apples!
Can a registered adult drive a next-door neighbor’s Scout to a troop meeting (they’d be the only two in the car), or is this considered one-on-one contact, which isn’t allowed? Some of our committee members and parents are arguing that just driving to and from a Scout troop meetings isn’t an official Scouting activity, using this scenario: “Driving to or from a standard meeting place isn’t an official Scouting activity or part of any tour planning… It’s similar to you going to work and coming home from work, in which situations you’re not considered an employee “on the clock” at either of these times.” Or, what about a Scout who as a driver’s license simply “car-pooling” with a Scout buddy? If he—the driver—practices safe driving habits, there’s no BSA prohibition, right? So then, when do the Youth Protection rules come into play? Do they start when the Scout walks through the meeting room doorway, or does it include driving there and back? (Allen Campbell, ASM, Cascade Pacific Council)
For adults and minors, the guide to follow is elemental and straightforward: No one-on-one contact (this is as much protection for the adult as it is protection of the minor). As for youth driving other youth, check the driving rules in your state.
We have a Scoutmaster who accepted this position with the understanding that he’d take his necessary YP and position-specific training. So far—and it’s been several months now—he hasn’t taken the training we mutually agreed to. On top of this, he ditches troop and committee meetings far too often to be effective in his role. As the Committee Chair who appointed him, I now need to remind him that he’s not fulfilling his commitment and give him a deadline. What’s the best way to do this? Should I, for instance, do this one-on-one, or should I have other committee members (and perhaps an ASM, too) present at this conversation? Or can we let this ride? (Name & Council Withheld)
The BSA hasn’t yet made it mandatory for a Scoutmaster (or any other volunteer, for that matter) to have taken more than Youth Protection Training in order to hold that position; however, don’t be shocked if you see this come down the pike in the not so distant future. Where it does count—big time!—is in achieving your troop’s top Journey to Excellence award! No Scoutmaster trained: No top honors! But there’s even a more important reason why this shouldn’t be delayed. Here’s how it goes: “Hi, Mister Car-Owner. I’m gonna replace the drive train in your Lexus, so I thought I’d let you know I have no training is how to do this. You’re cool with this, yes?” Same with our sons. Do you really want your son to have a clueless role model and mentor? In other words, this is an issue of what kind of Scouting experience do you all want your sons to have? If you think of it this way, the answer’s obvious. And yes, it’s always a good idea to have “witnesses” there, just in case this turns ugly.
Here’s a situation involving three Scouts I’ll call “Adam,” “Bob,” and “Carl”…
On their troop’s last campout, Adam, was, he tells us, pinned down inside their three-man tent while he was in his sleeping bag by Bob and Carl, both older by a year or two than Adam. Then, according to Adam, one of them (he says he’s not sure which one) reached into Adam’s sleeping bag and grabbed him where no boy should be grabbed, while the other looked on. Adam says he yelled at them to stop and get off him, which they eventually did.
According to Bob and Carl, in a later conversation with one of our troop’s adult leaders, they claimed they were simply “rough-housing,” and that neither had made an inappropriate contact with Adam.
The incident was duly reported to the Scoutmaster, who in turn reported it to the troop committee. The committee subsequently submitted an incident report to the council. In response, a council representative who remains unidentified instructed the committee that this incident ranks low among their overall concerns, particularly since it appears to be of a “he said—they said” nature, and that the committee needs to make a decision regarding any disciplinary action and then inform the council of that decision. We, Adam’s parents, agree to abide by the committee’s decision.
As it turns out, Bob and Carl are known among the Scouts in the troop to be regular instigators of behavior like this and they generally avoid both of these boys. The Scoutmaster is aware of this and has been clamping down on both Bob and Carl. He’s scheduled a talk about proper and acceptable behavior with the troop and parents and has already spoken to all of the Scouts about such inappropriate behavior while on a more recent campout. But Bob and Carl seem to be incorrigible; they continue their “rough-housing” and try to “wrestle” with other Scouts at both troop meetings and on camping trips. They claim “innocence” that other Scouts may not want to be a part of their antics.
The adult leaders and the committee believe that Bob and Carl need the Scouting program, and refuse to “expel” them from the troop despite their unceasing crude behavior. But, unfortunately, their behavior extends beyond the troop.
All three boys, along with many others in the troop, attend the same school. Now, at school, Adam is getting “dirty looks” from Bob and Carl, and they purposefully will bump him if they’re walking in the same school hallway. We, Adam’s parents, have informed the school administration about this repeated harassment because our son now appears to be a fixed target for bullying by Bob and Carl.
Meanwhile, Bob and Carl and their parents as well have been prohibited from attending any Scout activities—including troop meetings—until the committee and other leaders decide what to do. The council hasn’t provided any guidance to the committee and acts as if this is simply a case of rough-housing gone a bit too far. As Adam’s parents, we want him kept safe, and we want Bob and Carl to be disciplined, but there seems to be a stalemate here and the council’s not helping. What do we do? (Concerned Parents)
This is unquestionably a messy situation. It starts with conflicting accounts and neither physical injuries nor witnesses. Therefore, the council’s hands are indeed tied. This is indeed an internal matter for the troop’s adult volunteers to resolve using their best judgment.
In the first incident—the tent-and-sleeping bag incident—you’ve described, there are far too many unknowns, such as, at what time of day did this happen? What was Adam doing in his sleeping bag while other Scouts were up and about? If the sleeping bag was zipped, as is normally done, how did someone else get his hand(s) inside it? What was the size of the tent? Were Adam, Bob, and Carl tent-mates, or did Bob and Carl enter a tent that wasn’t theirs? If the three of them weren’t tent-mates, where was Adam’s tent-mate at the time? How did no one hear Adam’s yelling? Where were the adults? Where were the Patrol Leaders and Senior Patrol Leader?
Regarding Bob’s and Carl’s general actions at troop meetings, what has prevented their behavior from being stopped immediately? What is going on that physical contact is being permitted? Where are the youth leaders when this is happening? Where are the Scoutmaster and other adults (including parents) when these actions take place in troop meetings? In sum, it appears that the Scoutmaster’s purported method of “clamping down” is ineffectual. To continue the same method expecting different results is an exercise in insanity.
Here’s what seems to be the fundamental problem: This Scoutmaster hasn’t stepped up to his very first responsibility, which is keeping all of your sons safe (in this case, from one another). Frankly, “talking” to a group of Scouts and expecting this to go in one ear and stay inside their brains is the height of fantasy. If individual Scouts are causing problems, then each one is taken aside, separate from the other(s), and dealt with in crystal-clear terms. Like this: “Touch one more Scout, for any reason, and you will call your parents and tell them that you must be taken home immediately.” This applies to troop meetings as well: At the first point of physical contact, the aggressive Scout is removed from the meeting and instructed to call his parents to be taken home.
As for what to do now, the troop committee and Scoutmaster need to sit down with Bob and his parents, and then—in another meeting—with Carl and his parents. Each boy, with at least one parent present, will be told the following: “Our responsibility is to keep the Scouts of this troop safe. This means safe from other Scouts, too. You have been making physical contact with other Scouts in ways they don’t like. This will stop, right this very second. The Scouts will be told that if you touch any one of them again, for any reason, they are to report this to us immediately. Further, if we should see you do this, you will be removed from the meeting instantly, you will call your parents, and they will come get you and take you home. If this happens on a camp-out, the same process will be followed: They will come to wherever we are camping, collect you, and take you home. If this happens, you will not be permitted to return to troop activities until you are able to promise that this will never happen again. If you break your promise, you will be permanently dismissed from this troop.”
On the school situation, that’s a different venue and most schools have very precise guidelines and procedures for victims of bullying to follow.
Meanwhile, there are “anti-bullying” programs available to your son and his friends, and I encourage you to seek these out and get these boys into them.
Thanks, Andy. You’ve made great sense and raised many points that need to be addressed in our troop. My husband and I really like your solutions. Thanks for the sound advice and for recommending ways for our troop to get back its common sense. (CP)
I think you’ve just revealed the flaw that led to the incident with your son. If this was, in fact, three Scouts bunking together instead of an even number, that’s the fatal flaw. Triads are rarely if ever successful, especially when it’s already known that “Bob and Carl” are buddies and gang up on singletons. If this was, in fact, a threesome, whoever permitted this needs to have his head examined. This is why the BSA has historically promoted “The Buddy System”—two is an even number; when it’s three, the opportunity for “two against one” is ever-present.
Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to email@example.com. Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)
[No. 442 – 5/16/2015 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2015]