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  • Messy BoR, irate parent

    I want to share an incident at my troop (I'm SM) that occurred over the last month. I think we could have handled it better, but now I have a very upset parent sending very angry and insulting emails to the entire Troop committee and District Adv Chair.

    At summer camp, the scout at the center of this issue (whose father is a recent ASM, but parent in the troop for 5 years) had 3 separate disciplinary issues. The last resulted in another Troop informing their SM about his un-scouting behavior then I heard of it. It was a messy incident where each Troops witnesses defended their Troop member. The other SM told our scout he would be thrown out of his Troop and "we build jails for kids like you". This happened in my presence and in front of the scout's father. This was really bad from the other SM because even his own scouts said our scout didn't steal anything, but was in a position where he appeared about to take something.

    Because we were in a large public group, I decided not to press the issue in public with the other SM. I told our scout that I was not going to decide anything at that time, let everyone cool down, and we would gather later. After a hour, at our charter org, the father and son got on me in a heated way. I told them I didn't think he tried to steal anything but he showed very poor judgement in getting to a place where those scouts though he was about to steal. I told them I would make no decision at that time and our rules say scouts can be brought before a disciplinary PLC for the boys to decide if any action should be taken. I talked with the SPL and we agreed the scout should have a disciplinary PLC meeting with adults that attended summer camp. The scout failed to show up for the PLC. At the PLC the boys decided the scout should plan a set of scout skills events at our next camp out (in 3 weeks) to work his way back into showing good Scout Spirit. The PLC was before a regular meeting and the scout appeared at regular meeting time. He was informed of this penance and agreed to it.

    Now for the advancement issue. The same night as the PLC, the scout asked an ASM for a SM conference for Life Scout. We do this a lot because we have ~80 scouts in the troop. The ASM asked me permission to do the conference. I was busy doing other conferences so I said yes. This ASM attended camp and the PLC. I reminded the ASM he couldn't fail the scout on the conference, but he could deny signing off on living the scout oath and law. The ASM decided to sign off all his requirements.

    The next week the scout wanted a BoR. A parent assigned to the BoR asked the CC and I if the BoR should occur given the upcoming penance. I said that it should and I would speak to the BoR beforehand. I told the BoR I thought it would be good for the parents in the Troop to tell the scout what they thought of his behavior and make a judgement. I did inform the BoR of the disciplinary issues we had. After meeting with the scout, they decided to postpone a decision until he completes his work in 3 weeks. As a result, he may not be recognized at the next CoH.

    So I put myself in a bad place by not agreeing with the ASM that signed off on his advancement. I should have been more clear with the ASM to postpone it. The scout's father sent a huge, nasty email about me blocking his son's advancement to the entire committee and District staff.

    If I had told the ASM to avoid signing off, the father likely would have still accused me of blocking his son's advancement. If I hadn't informed the BoR of the disciplinary issues, then we would have advanced a scout who didnt meet the standards of the troop. We should have made it clear to the scout that having a BoR while he was under penance was not likely to succeed.

    This is definitely not a common outcome in our Troop. In the past (under prior SMs), infractions like this have been dealt with by suspensions. Suspended scouts cannot get a BoR or SM conference. However, I felt it was better to keep the scout involved and work to understand what his commitments to Scouting should be.

    Our District Advancement Chair told me we could have not held the BoR. I felt that would be adding requirements to his advancement, or delaying the scouts request. I also felt that having the BoR would remove me as the sole opinion about his living the Oath and Law.

    Any advice on what else we can do to avoid this in the future?


  • #2
    Yeah. Stand by your boy.

    There is no way he should have to answer to a bunch of adults. Have the SPL and PL take time to talk with the boy THAT day.
    Tell the blowhard SM that if he has issues, he can have his SPL take it up with your SPL.

    Since you didn't suspend the scout, and if wandering off is a chronic problem that the boy has, you need to prep him for a rough board of review.


    • #3
      These things happen and you just have to chalk it up to a learning experience. What is the parents beef? You may not have handled it the best, but their son behaved badly. I like qwazses reply, but I have personally witnessed two SMs get in a fist fight over something more trivial, so I think you handled him fine by letting heads cool. Now a scout can receive both a SM conference and BOR without having to sign the book. You presented both as pass fail, but scouts can receive several SMC and BORs between rank advancements. Don't look at them as pass/fails, but as opportunities to listen and guide. I personally asked my scouts why they felt I should sign off the SM Conference requirement forcing them to justify advancing. In this case, I would have even suggested he take some time to think about it and call me when he was ready. Barry


      • #4
        "but was in a position where he appeared about to take something." This just doesn't sit well with me but I wasn't there. Then again, a one month delay in advancement to Life? Big whoop.


        • #5
          We had a BoR tell a Scout, Patrick, to come back in two months because he had gotten into a fist fight with his brother at a meeting. All accounts were that he was the aggressor and stuck the first blow. Blood and everything. His older, larger, brother had primarily tried to fend off the blows, with incomplete success.

          The BoR, felt he had not displayed "Scout Spirirt" (living by the Oath and Law), needed time to think about that, and needed to come back with a plan of how to avoid getting physical in the future. Determining if a Scout understands and is is showing Scout Spirtt was, and is, part of their duty as a BoR. If that duty has changed, I am not aware of it and BSA has not rewritten the on-line guide to Boards of review to reflect any such change.

          The dad, a lawyer, "demanded" and "appeal hearing," which was held. It was obvious that the son had been, shall we say, unclear about the Board ruling and the reasons for that ruling. After dad was told, he said, in effect, "never mind."

          The Scout came back to the next BoR. He admitted he was letting his temper damage his relationship with his brother. He had a plan to resolve disagreements. He passed.

          Later, Pat was was elected SPL and is a Eagle Scout. He organized thousands of university students to support first responders in the aftermath of 9/11. He has two Phd's and is a successful teacher, researcher, husband and father - very close to his brother.
          Last edited by TAHAWK; 08-30-2014, 09:06 PM.


          • #6
            I had to read through this issue a couple of times to get my head around it.

            Okay, the boy is a pain, but he did not steal anything, just made a commotion. Witnesses from the other troop supported his not stealing, SM of that troop was way out of line and if anyone did anything wrong up to that point it was probably the out-of-control SM.

            Back home, there was a judge and jury convened to discuss a non-issue further. He's a pill. Okay, he agreed to a bit of "community service". But the punishment didn't end there. Ever since that time, other punishments have continued to pile on with the whole BOR SMC etc. signing off, etc. issue.

            Yeah, the dad is a bit over the top, but not really, because he has a point. When is the punishment going to stop and when is everyone going to quit piling more and more on to this boy.

            Okay, he screwed up with some bad choices. Over and done. A little penance, 3 weeks out? Why not make that 3 months or three years? But a heart to heart understanding with the boy would probably have been enough.

            Sorry, even though this boy is not a model scout, I'm going to stick with his side of the issue. A ton of hassle for "but was in a position where he appeared about to take something." For Pete's Sake, people, every conceal carry permit holder walking into a convenience store would be in that position! What "appears to be" doesn't mean anything in a real court of law.

            All I see is that a lot of people went way out of their way to show the boys exactly what real citizenship is NOT supposed to be in this country.

            My response to this? 1) Apologize to the boy for the over reaction on your part, not the part where he started the commotion. 2) Apologize to the parent for not handing it well. 3) Work with the boy to get him through his BOR including sitting in as an observer to make sure the vendetta is really over for this boy. 4) make sure he follows through with his penance as he agreed to. 5) Have a real SMC with this boy and discuss the value of the Oath and Law as it would have provided him protection from such hassles in the future and get a handshake on his honor promise he'll do better in the future. Then trust him and forget about it.

            This leaves the responsibility of correction where it belongs, not the SM of the other troop, not the SPL and PLC, not the SM nor his ASM parent, but instead on the boy himself. He screws up again, he hasn't a leg to stand on. Trust him and forget about it, the boy knows exactly where he stands.



            • #7
              Bravo to your BoR!

              They did their job, which is to review and decide if the scout has met the troop standards. And this was for Life rank, which is no small deal.

              I'm glad to see that the BoR didn't consider themselves to be a rubber stamp.
              You mentioned three total discipline issues with this scout. I'm presuming that that had something to do with the scout's inability to convince the board that he was ready for Life.


              • #8
                1. Ya did good diffusing the situation with the other SM. I would have probably gone all papa bear on him. 2. The PLC should not have made a decision regarding the Scout in abscentia. But failure to appear is really bad form and would have resulted in further conversations regarding courteousness. 3. So the Scout blows off the PLC but still shows up to ask for a SMC? How does that work? 4. And here's where things really fell off the track -- under the circumstances you should have never delegated the SMC. That was your opportunity to deal with all the swirl in one sitting. At that point the PLC had (properly or not) made its ruling and the Scout should have fulfilled that obligation before advancing. 5. Tell the district adv guy to mind his own dang business. Life SMC and BOR decisions are not appealalble to the district. Plus somewhere in the bowels of the Guide to Adv. or maybe the BSA bylaws is a requirements that Scouts be members in good standing of the unit. Given the PLC's ruling, the Scout needed to meet the PLC's request before advancing. 6. Tell the father to go pound sand. Had his son not been where he shouldn't have been there would have been no issue at all. Besides his kid completed his advancement. The dad needs to learn when to say thank you and sit down.


                • #9
                  Your question was about handling future instances. So that's what I answered. Some further thoughts ...

                  Of course the other issue is patrol method and camp etiquette. In a perfect world your troop would have about 10 patrols 300' apart. It'd be nice if you always had that 200 by 300 yard postage stamp of land! That distance makes it pretty clear to a boy where he does or does not belong. But, I suspect you all are usually crammed pretty tight ... and by the sound of it, this was summer camp and therefore even more crowded. In these circumstances, boys need to be taught camp etiquette. Simply put, a scout is courteous and asks "permission to enter" even if it's just passing through a common path. Your older boys will model this automatically. But from day 1 they need to explain to the boys how walk through camp. Really and truly this applies when boys visit from patrol to patrol as well. Also explain to the boys that when they are visiting other camps, to go nowhere unescorted ('cept maybe the latrine).

                  As for handling the current situation ...

                  I wouldn't tell the father to "pound sand" as 2c suggests. I would explain to the father and the boy that he won't have to wait until the next CoH to receive his patch. You will order it as soon as the BoR is satisfied and have your SPL award it at the next meeting after it comes in. A boy may certainly hold rank before being recognized for it at a CoH

                  I would still apologize to the boy for making clear that this might not be a straightforward BoR.

                  Judge any advice from a district advancement chair on how well he/she has advised you in the past. Balance that with the level of trust you have in your committee ... which seems to be high.

                  Meanwhile, for a teachable moment, ask your PLC if bureaucracy got in the way of justice in this case.
                  Last edited by qwazse; 08-31-2014, 06:20 AM.


                  • #10
                    The very first thing I would do is eliminate the "PLC Disciplinary Hearings" - they have no place in Scouting - We may want units to be more boy led but that does NOT allow the adults (ie - Scoutmaster - ie YOU) to abrogate their responsibility to handle any disciplinary duties. For minor issues like a Scout not washing the dishes when it's his turn, or not getting up in time to serve as dining hall steward, you can leave those to the PL and SPL (and again, not a whole committe of Scouts) and support the PL and SPL in handling it. You, as Scoutmaster, step in when there are more serious issues and you pull the committee in when the issue could lead to suspension/expulsion. There are no trials - you sit down with the boy and discuss the issue and determine an appropriate pennance (and if you're wise, you'll get input from the lad himself what would be appropriate). If it's something that requires a call to a parent, you contact the parent asap then sit down with both to discuss the issue. If you think the issue is serious enough to warrant suspension or expulsion, you contact the CC and let him sit in on the discussion as well. My Troop allowed the SM and the CC together to suspend a lad with no further review from the committee. Only expulsions required the agreement of the committee and the COR.

                    The next thing I would do is not to use the BOR to deal with my disciplinary issues - the District Advancement Chair did not do anything but provide advice and that advice was sound - if you felt the disciplinary issues were serious enough to delay advancement, then you should have postponed the SM Conference and the BOR - that is not adding to the requirements - but the BOR delaying a decision until the Scout completes something that is not part of the requirements for rank (and none of the BS about "Scout Spirit" of "Living the Oath" - a one time skills demonstration should not be considered sufficient to restore someone in good graces as far as those go) could be considered adding to the requirements.

                    The third thing I would do is stop keeping score on disciplinary issues - heck, after a full week of summer camp, most Scouts will have a disciplinary issue or two under their belt by the end of the week - you deal with them and move on - humans are flawed, scouts are humans, therefore scouts are flawed - they'll never be perfect but if they're generally living up to the spirit of Scouting, even with their flaws, then they are still worthy - it sounds to me like you ASM might just have put the right perspective on the issues as a whole and gotten it right. Time to stand up for that ASM and that Scout.


                    • #11
                      Although, like you said, there were better ways to handle some elements of this, I don't see where any rules were broken. The time frame for a BOR to happen isn't defined to my knowledge. Likes you're correct, this parent was going to go off anyway.

                      I said parent specifically, as you as SM appoint your assistants (ASM's). This guys behavior is way out of line for a scout leader. Lots of people have given good advice for how to handle the young man, mine is remove the ASM.


                      • #12
                        Discipline is a shared responsibility of leadership and Scouters. If you have not noticed, the video for YPT was corrected to reflect this arrangement. (The YPT video was previously in conflict with all other B.S.A. publications on the topic. Isolated "Bubbles" again - like indoor "lock-ins" to play video games being counted as a "campout" for J2E.).

                        Scout Spirit has always been part of the requirements for advancment in the UK and the B.S.A. So if it is "BS," it is traditional BS and current BS - Boy Scouting from BP to Hillcourt to B.S.A. 2014 See:

                        One problem with having the PLC (formerly AKA "Court of Honor" - and think on that) sit as a quasi-court is that youth can be awfully-bloody minded about discipline - tougher than most adults. That's where the Scouter comes in to meeet this shared responsibility. Moreover, the PLC is not a BOR - presently.
                        Last edited by TAHAWK; 09-02-2014, 05:18 PM.


                        • #13
                          I like using the PLC for extreme discipline cases.

                          1- They greatly increase the authority perceived.
                          2- It invests the troop members in their own good behavior.
                          3- They'll be the ones monitoring future behavior: the PLC has more eyes in the right places than the SM & ASMs.
                          4- The SM can temper their discussions if they get too blood-thirsty.


                          • #14
                            In my troop, the PL is responsible for the members of his patrol. If there is a disciplinary problem, it starts with him. If he needs help he can always turn to the SPL which is normal for all issues he faces, not just disciplinary. If the SPL has a problem and needs help he turns to the SM which is normal for all issues he faces, not just disciplinary.

                            Having the PLC deal with something other than interpatrol issues is none of their business. A scout being disciplined for some reason is not a troop issue and thus PLC doesn't need to be involved. PL, SPL if needed and SM if needed are all that is needed.

                            The more people one gets involved in the problem, the bigger the mess and the more "opinions" are bantered around to confuse the issue. I can see it now. Little Johnny does something wrong at summer camp and 10 minutes after they get back, the boys in the troop and their parents, the troop committee, the SM and 6 ASM's the UC and COR are all standing on the front porch of Little Johnny's house ready set to solve the disciplinary problem of Little Johnny. Set up a card table and sell tickets, it sounds like a great fundraiser. Maybe a little show and sell for all the neighborhood gawkers that show up. I'm sure the media will want to cover any bad news that comes out of the BSA, one can expect them to show up. I would also suggest a police or two to cover crowd control.

                            The highest ranking officer in my troop is the PL. If he can't handle the situation, he has help to consult. One of the reasons I have very few disciplinary problems in my troop is the PL handles most of them on his own. Occasionally the SPL gets called in. The situation has to be really bad for it to bounce to me to help deal with. I've never had to deal with a problem where a parent has had to be called to come pick up their son. The only time a parent has been involved was when the parent was also a troop Scouter and he happened to hear the scuttlebutt.

                            I did have one incident in all the years of scouting that the troop was involved. The manager of the camp trading post told the camp director that a scout from troop #XX shoplifted something from the trading post.

                            The camp director came to me and told me. I called the SPL to deal with it. He called all the PL's together, the were told to gather up their patrols and we all marched off to the trading post. SPL lined up the boys and asked the trading post manager to pick out the culprit. He couldn't, it wasn't any of our boys. He apologized to the troop. The SPL said the apology was accepted and told the PL's to take charge of their patrols, they were dismissed. As it turned out the culprit was an Eagle Scout from another troop. A month later that same SPL was sent an application for employment for next year's summer camp.