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  • Discipline Policy for Troop--suggestions needed

    So troop has been lax with discipline over the years, often it's a little adult warning and no follow up by SM for even things that became a habit/problem.

    New SM who wants to have a bit more discipline--not letting boys get away with bullying or hurting others etc without some sort of consequences.

    Com Chair thinks more boys needs to be suspended from the troop if there is a pattern or anyone gets hurt even accidentally, or without malice.
    that at this point they seem to be leaning toward harsher punishments than ever before (going from no consequences to now suspending youth),

    The two of them have already started making plans/forms, writing a discipline policy and disciplining boys using what they've come up with. There has been a bit of contact with Ih since COR is MIA abou discipline with an answer "of course you need a discipline policy and consequences and we want scouting to be a safe place free of bullying etc."

    Disciple so far has jumped from nothing to 30 day and 7 day suspensions for an inappropriate size knife and a lasso of a boy leaving marks (this was marks on neck area cause of where the rope landed and struggle to remove the rope, but was not malicious).

    Anyway, so the point of my post is not to complain about this so far treatment of our youth.

    this discipline policy stuff will come up at the committee mtg Monday night.
    So I want to ask you guys if a troop is going to have discipline policies written out,
    what is a reasonable policy to have "on the books"??
    Does your troop have well written discipline policy, or do you wing it and trust your SM to figure it out?
    Does what your troop use for discipline work or not?

    There is considerations of overall guides something like this:
    • 1st offense, SM conference,
    • 2nd, SM conference with parents,
    • 3rd, SM conference and BOR with 3 committee members. and at 3rd offense suspension could be an option,
    • 4th offense = meeting with SM, CC, COR and parents regarding removal from the troop??
    • are certain serious infractions, or repetitive SM conferences mean we could jump to 3rd or 4th level more quickly??
    • Is the count reset after a certain amount of time??
    • Is the count reset as log as it's for different things (with the slate wiped clean between different things?)
    • are possible infractions spelled out? lying, stealing, alcohol, tobacco, weapons, drugs, fighting, causing serious injury...???
    • are possible punishments spelled out?
    are there steps spelled out for how things are usually handled
    • collect info and report of what happened from both parties? do you ask each party to write down what happened?
    • with sm conference with scouts involved (together or separate) to continue to gather data.
    • parents called if its serious, or for pick up if scout needs to go home and return for sm conference after things cool off, etc?
    • Do you keep a written log of incidents and how they are handled for future reference? (negates the slate wiped clean, but helps with repetitive issues)
    Any info or suggestions would be welcome.

    I honestly feel that most infractions in scouting should be handled with education, and logical consequences rather than punitive punishment.
    not sure how that fits into a discipline policy though.

  • #2
    I think you're on the right track with using discipline as a teaching moment and not a purely punitive one. Most Scouts don't think. The last thing you want to do is create a legalistic environment. If you're going to put a policy like this in place, then be ready to also have a sergeant at arms with a clipboard and spreadsheet at the ready at all times.

    Boys will better respond to a behaviour policy if they are given examples of what behaviour has occurred that shouldn't have--personal examples go along way here, why it is wrong (see Scout Law/G2SS) and then have input into both the guidelines and discipline/repercussions as well as implementation of same. Have a general troop meeting, break into patrols to brainstorm solutions, then come back together. Let the PLC have next to Final Say with the SM/CC and CO approving. Quite honestly, I've seen kids write up really punitive policies, much more so than the adults were thinking. They do want boundaries and consequences that are leveled fairly.

    This is also a place where the PLs and SPL need to be given responsibility and guidance. Sometimes PLs need to get their guys back in line. Disciplining one's mates is a very difficult part of leadership. Don't excuse them from this. KP can be therapeutic.

    Obviously, if there's a severe infraction, safety and welfare or criminal act, it needs to be handled by the SM or responsible adult immediately. In this case, the Scout simply needs to be removed from the group and sent home (unless police involvement is appropriate) and the issue dealt with after the meeting/event is over. A scout who maliciously endangers another needs to be removed from the troop for at least awhile, in my opinion. But, accidents happen, sometimes with the best of intentions. Even the law doesn't punish people as harshly for accidents as it does for intended crimes.

    If you only want the boys to have knives of such length or such blade type, simply tell them that "This is our troop's rule. Bring something outside the norm, and we'll hold on to it until we can give it back to your parents." Same if you have to confiscate a phone or iPod. Kid gets caught with porn, fireworks, etc, same thing. If it's a habit or things pile up, then involve a wider group to assess why the kid can't or won't follow the rules.


    • Basementdweller
      Basementdweller commented
      Editing a comment
      I find it really tragic that you are refering to the Scout law and the Guide to safe scouting at the same time.

  • #3
    This falls under the category of "be careful what you wish for.". Our experience ... We have a detailed troop handbook with a discipline policy that nobody reads. Oddly the goy that helped us write it had a boy with some of the worst discipline problems in the troop. That boy was one of our better leaders. My bottom line, the ASMs and committee need to be prepared to support the SM. If he's worried about the same things you are, move forward. If you're not convinced this is a problem that needs a whole "Geneva convention", talk to him about what you think would really assist him.


    • #4
      Originally posted by Nike View Post
      Sometimes PLs need to get their guys back in line. Disciplining one's mates is a very difficult part of leadership. Don't excuse them from this.... Same if you have to confiscate a phone or iPod.
      And we wonder why they leave.


      • #5
        Accidents happen.

        Sounds like your troop lacks training.

        Discipline for an inappropriate knife size...Seriously?????


        • #6
          Like the government, once you start making policies, you can't stop because new policies will be created with each new issue. For some scouts, policies are goals, not consequences. Three strikes rules are bad because they don't deal directly with the behavior. Should a scout only have a SM confrence when he pulls a knife on another scout? Nike gave a great reply, teach the scouts to deal with their discipline, when the problem behavior is beyound the maturity and experience of the scouts, then let the SM deal with it. Replace the three strikes with Oath and Law. Teach the scouts to be accountible for scouts bad behavior. The more severe the behavior, the higher up the ladder it goes for accountibility. The troop is supposed to be the real world scaled down to boys size so that they have real life experience when they go on their own. There are no three strikes in real life. Barry


          • #7
            Adding to the discussion, but not answering the question directly, the number one problem I find with units trying to deal with discipline is they don't teach the scouts to work as a team. Generally scouts misbehave in groups, not just one on one. Why then does the group not take control of the situation? Boys of this age are so use to adults taking control that they don' t have the experience (or permission) of reacting when they see bad behavior. They also don't have experiences of dealing directly with their peers (best friend) either and are shy of telling a buddy to "stop". They wait until someone of authority deals with the problem, which sometimes never happens and translates to the offending scout that his behavior is OK. Our scouts learned quickly that not only will the offending scout be held accountible for his behavior, but everyone who saw and didn't do something to stop the behavior would be held accountible as well. Bullies don't do well against groups. But another more typical example is we had a scout cut his foot badly running barefoot through camp. The accident occurred right in front of the SPL and several older scouts, but he had run almost the whole troop before he got hurt. The troop has a no running and no barefoot policies, so when I asked who attemped to stop the scout, the PLC found themselves developing program for the next couple of weeks teaching "The Whole Troop" accountibility of behavior. As Nike said, scouts don't like bad behavior either, they just need to be taught how to deal with it. Barry


            • #8
              Bring it to the Troop, have them discuss it. The PLs bring the suggestions to the PLC. The PLC debates and creates it. PLs bring it to the Troop. Troop debates. PLs bring back to PLC for modification. SM has oversight via Guided Discovery. PLC finalizes and then Troop votes. Democratic. If Troop Committee creates it, it's not.


              • #9
                In order to make it simple for the boys, I have only 3 rules I operate under. I have surprisingly little discipline problems, but I would be foolish to say I don't have any.

                1) Safety first
                2) Look and act like a Scout
                3) Have fun

                I never react to breaches of these rules in a way the boys would normally expect me to. Screaming and yelling is what they expect and they figure once the tirade is done, they are off the hook.

                Bullying for example. I approach the picked on kid and ask him if it's fun getting bullied? Obviously the answer is always NO. So he gets a lesson on breaking rule #3. If you aren't having fun and you didn't report it to anyone, you're breaking the rule. One boy said he didn't like tattling on the others, and I simply reiterated, the fact he wasn't having fun and he was breaking the rules.

                The bully gets a dose of rule #2. Is bullying scout behavior (quote A Scout is Friendly)? and then HE defines the punishment. Often times they inflict more punishment on themselves than I would have dished out. So far no boy has dared to get off easy by suggesting a slap on the wrist. I had one incident where an older boy said something not very nice to one of the new boys while they were sitting at the campfire. He intended it to be a "harmless" comment, but I heard it and first of all asked the young boy what he felt about it and he said, "It was a hurtful" comment. When I asked him if he was having fun, he said, "No", to which he got an earful from me about not saying something IMMEDIATELY to an adult. He was breaking the rule! Then the older boy got an earful about respect and if he wanted the younger boys to look up to him he had better change his ways. Then I asked him what he was going to do about this incident. All of this occurred in front of all the other boys. He sat there in front of all his peers and didn't say a word for a moment. Then he got up, went over to the younger boy, apologized and asked if he could be his buddy for the next 6 months so that no other scout does what he did to him. The younger boy hesitated, but said okay. They became close friends after that.

                I was really surprised by the older scout's reaction because I was more using it as a learning experience than really applying any kind of punishment. I had assumed the older boy was thinking it harmless fun in the first place. However, it would seem that none of the other boys participated in that kind of harmful joking for quite some time.

                I caught a boy on a cell phone and asked who it was he was calling and he said his mom. I asked if I could talk to her too. He handed me the phone and it was his mom on the other end, much to my surprise. I did tell her how harmful it was for her son to have a cell phone because of the other boys who see him talking, especially those who are homesick would want to call their moms too. After our conversation I handed him back the phone and said he mother wanted to talk to him. His mother had a little chat with him at which when ended, he handed me the phone and asked me to keep it until after the campout. He never brought it with him again.

                A lot of times when being creative, it is far easier to deal with the scouts when treated on a peer-to-peer basis with them. With punishment it is a top down negative type of situation, but when one deals with the boy as a respected peer, they more often than not will take ownership of the situation and make appropriate corrections on their own.

                I guess after 40 years of working with youth I have never really had any serious situations because I constantly try to head them off before they get serious and I do so by dealing with the minor infractions in ways that the boys participate in the discipline long before they have become normally accepted traditions of bad behavior in the troop.

                Of course if any of these rules were written down in some policy book somewhere it would have been lost 5 minutes after being handed out.

                Keep it simple and apply it constantly. Like safety, one can overlook it only so long before someone gets hurt. Never let it get to that point in the first place.



                • jblake47
                  jblake47 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Yep, for one thing, it reinforces the idea that they can and should take charge of their situation. They don't have to be the "victim"! I have seen some of the less timid boys stand up to the bullies and flat out tell them that they aren't having any fun and if they don't cut it out they wouldn't be having it either. It also reiterates that if a boy is being bullied, he had better step up and tell an adult right away!!!

                  It also lengthens the time between when the situation occurs and when I address the bully. If the picked on kid is getting a bit of negative attention, what's it going to be when the other shoe drops and the bully's turn comes up. If the SM is hard on the victim, the perpetrator has a long time to sweat before I turn my attention to him. By the time I'm done with the first guy for breaking the Have Fun rule, can you imagine what's going through the mind of the guy who isn't acting like a scout? There is no woods dense enough, no hole deep enough or river wide enough for this boy to have considered in his options. The fear of their imagination is always far worse than anything I can think of.

                  And like I said, always do the unexpected! It keeps the boys off balance. Wouldn't it be expected the bully goes first?


                • st0ut717
                  st0ut717 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  In many years of both military and civilian leadership I have never come across an example where adding to the abuse of the victim is acceptable.
                  That is on par with the islaimic tradition of stoning a girl because she was raped.

                  This is wrong on so many levels.
                  1 you blame the victim first.
                  2 you administer punishment of the victim publicly.

                  You are very lucky I am not one of your adults.

                • jblake47
                  jblake47 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  To each his own. Everyone deals with situations differently. I handle it in a manner that tends to forgo problems of a more serious nature further on down the road. Maybe this is why I have very seldom had to handle major problems in my working with youth.

                  One can decide to coddle the victim and tell him how unfortunate he is having been bullied, or you can teach him to stand up to the bully and deal with the situation he finds himself in. If he simply sits there and "takes it" he is in fact enabling the bully and every other bully in his life to continue the process. If he doesn't report it, he enables the bullies as well. There comes a day when the "victim" can choose not to be a victim any longer and needs to learn how to step up to the plate and deal with it. My "yelling" at the "victim" is paramount to giving him permission to not be a victim anymore and that I expect him to say something about it to someone.

                  st0ut717: if you read carefully my comments, I didn't blame the "victim" for the situation, I only "corrected" the part where he didn't deal with it. Punishment? Since when is a lesson on standing up for oneself a punishment? Permission to report abuse is now considered a punishment? Giving out the lesson in front of everyone so everyone learns bullying won't be tolerated in the troop/pack? That's a punishment, too?

                  You are right on one account, I'm lucky you're not one of my adults.

                  I work in a multi-billion dollar, international business and as such part of a culture of safety in an industrial setting. When I see people doing dangerous things, I do not address them directly, but deal with the unsafe situation at hand. I apply correction actions to contain the danger and then get a commitment from the person that such activity will not repeat itself. It is my intent to keep the worker safe, not punish him/her for their unsafe behavior.

                  So with the bullying situation, I stop the situation and correct the actions of those participating. First the "victim" who needs to address it immediately and then the bully who in fact does get a boat load of "A Scout is courteous, kind, helpful, and friendly", and how it will apply to Scout Spirit come advancement time.

                  Just as a thought to consider, corrective action to a situation is not punishment. Punishment is something that is done after the fact by those that feel it necessary to do more than just correct the situation. Far to often punishment does nothing more than steel the resolve of those who participate in anti-social behavior and just get better at hiding it.


              • #10
                We have had better luck the more boy-led we get. Boys tend to call other boys out quicker and are tougher on rule breakers and punishments.


                • jblake47
                  jblake47 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  As well as it should be. I have had the unfortunate situation as an adult to have to step in on occasion, but having learned how I deal with situations, the boys do well in picking up on that and boy-led discipline is occurring all over the place. I as SM can't be everywhere all the time. I need good youth leaders picking up the slack!

                  It is a Really Really bad situation where adults have to be called in and I have had an occasion or two where this has had to happen and it is a lose-lose for everyone! Adult interference beyond the SM should be a last resort! By the time some adult drags out his copy of the troop's rules and regulations, the situation is pretty much done for all the way around.

                  I had a parent call once when his boy came home "kinda quiet" after a meeting. He asked him what was wrong. He said, "Nothing, I'm handling it." I asked the parent if he wanted to know what was going on or was he going to leave it to his boy to work through. I did tell him the situation wasn't the end of the world. He said he'd prefer to have his kid handle it and that was the end of the conversation. Maybe someday the boy will tell his parents what went on (I can't even remember now what it was), but it's the boy's choice, he owns the problem, he owns the solution, and once it's dealt with by me, it's history. The boy made better choices after that and I didn't have any discipline problems with him again. I also never heard back from the parent either.

                  One last thing, if the boy was quiet after a meeting and got the same call from the parent, and I didn't know what was going on, I would have encouraged the parent to pursue it. It might have been an abuse/bully situation that slipped past me. Of course there's always the fact that the boy might have been angry with me for something as well and I would want to find that out from the parent as well.


              • #11
                5yearscouter, In scouting, everything is interconnected. When you are having discipline problems, take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and you may find a non-obvious solutions. When do the discipline problems occur? Perhaps the PLC needs to plan more activities or different activities to keep scouts engaged, reducing the likelihood that they have time to fill with discipline inducing activities of their own.
                How are patrols structured? A patrol of same aged boys is more likely to let actions get out of control without one of the patrol members stepping in than is a mixed age patrol.
                What incentive is there for scouts to behave in a scout-like manner? A discipline policy is stick-based. What carrots is the PLC using? What carrots are the scouters using? Is there an opportunity for recognition or reward for patrols that exhibit scout like behaviour? For cleaning up after meals/cleaning gear/packing gear properly quickly/etc? Make use of positive peer pressure by recognizing patrols rather than individuals.
                Are the patrols that go on campouts "real patrols", or ad hoc patrols formed by whomever shows up for that particular campout? The difference is that ad hoc patrols dont develop a patrol identity or pride because it really is not "their" patrol.
                Does the PLC ever discuss discipline problems? No need to wait for the next month's PLC meeting. If the troop is having discipline prblems on a campout, Ask the SPL to pull the patrol leaders together to review expected behaviour and what they are going to do about it, and in turn for the patrol leaders to review with their patrol, and what the patrol is going to do about it.
                Are patrols separated for most of the meeting/campout time? Patrols may have a joint campfire for stories/skits, etc. but if several patrols are all camping next to each other and camp kitchens are near each other, there is much more opportunity for disipline problems to arise in a group of 15 - 30 scouts than there is within individual groups of 6 -8.
                These are just some sample questions to consider; as you look at your own situation specifics, you may think of more.
                good luck,


                • #12
                  Thanks everybody. What you say is what I think. There should not really be punishments for the sake of punishment. I believe the SM is more toward logical consequences and re-education rather than punitive, but the committee chair is strongly thinking there must be punishment to show the parents that scouting is a safe environment.

                  The scout who brought the inappropriate sized knife had done so more than once, but never had his totn chit taken away, or had to reteach totn chit to others, if he were being sneaky that his parent needed to know he couldn't bring any knives to scouts until he re-earned the chit and taught the chit and showed that he could be responsible about it. An older scout after this occured volunteered to teach a class to all the scouts on appropriate sized knifes for the job at hand, and which knives should probably never come to any scout thing, what the troop rules about knifes are (no wearing sheath knives, sm approves when sheath knives may be appropriate--but this had not been shared with the youth in years), plus a bit on boy scout camp knife rules in the area, local city and national laws about knifes.

                  But the scout who had the knife problem was suspended for 30 days when he really needed to be the one doing the research and going thru the above class or learning it and teaching it with the other older scout beside him. The 30 day suspension in effect told the scout we didn't want him anymore, and he has not returned so far at 60 days. I do not think he will recharter with our troop.

                  The scout who lassoed his friend wrote up what happened as soon as he was told there was a problem and he needed to see the sm for a conference about it. The scout laid out a list of things he should do including apology letter to the scout and his parents (cause the mom was upset that her son had rope marks at his neck) the scout had apologized as soon as he realized that he lassoed the neck instead of the shoulders, and there were no marks evident until the scout went home and mom saw something. The scout also had a plan to teach a class about the dangers of ropes around body parts you want to keep, choking, the choking game, damage to the windpipe that could occur and that things like this should be reported to the SM. He offered to pay for the dr visit if the scout had gone to the doctor as well (he did not need medical care of any kind). The committee chair wanted to suspend the boy for 30 days, the SM thought the scout's plan was ideal and wanted to just do that. I told them they needed to always involve a third adult in these things since obviously they do not agree. Scout was suspended for 7 days, but after a lot of discussion is going to be allowed to attend PLC to see if they want him to teach the class according to his plan. He figured it fit in with the rest of the knot and rope stuff, and based on status of the troop rope box, they all need to learn some rope respect including whipping/fusing and coiling rope correctly and getting it all away from being a tangled mess.

                  I'm just not looking forward to the committee meeting.


                  • #13
                    Sounds like the problem is with the CC. Punishing a scout to send a message to the parents is rather draconian.


                    • #14
                      Originally posted by 5yearscouter View Post
                      but after a lot of discussion is going to be allowed to attend PLC to see if they want him to teach the class according to his plan. He figured it fit in with the rest of the knot and rope stuff, and based on status of the troop rope box, they all need to learn some rope respect
                      So he is going to research the topic, instruct the entire Troop for a month on how to throw a lasso*, and then lead your rope-throwing campout?

                      This should get him started:

                      HOW TO SPIN A ROPE:
                      Lariat throwing,
                      Rope Spinning
                      and Trick Cowboy Knots


                      To introduce the topic with a Scouting context, here is an introduction by one of the BSA's founders, Dan Beard:

                      *Properly speaking, there is no such thing as a "lasso." You may lasso things with lariat, but you cannot carry a "lasso," because lasso is a verb, and no cowboy carries a verb coiled at his saddle-bow though he may have strings of forcible adjectives under his tongue...



                      • #15
                        The glaring issue is definitions. What is "bullying"? It has become the norm in our society lately to label anything bullying, but bullying is a specific behavior with a specific definition, first and foremost it requires repetition, but most people apply the term to one-off instances. What is an "inappropriate size knife"? Contrary to popular belief, BSA sets no limit to the length of knife a scout may carry, so the committee must make its own definition.

                        As noted by others above, the biggest problem with these is that they are most often overly complicated, seeking to address every little thing that might ever happen when they cannot anyway, and no one ever reads them and they are rarely applied as written. They're useless in that way.


                        • jblake47
                          jblake47 commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Gee, I've shown up at a camporee with a sidearm and 36" sword and no one said a thing.

                          On the other hand, I've never been in the woods without a hunting sheath knife. It was a practice I began while in scouting and now with the more modern types of equipment it is no longer a great necessity as it once was, but for fire starting and ropes, it can't be beat. Of course for really good fire starting, the belt axe I also carry is fantastic. Of course the the belt axe is sharpened to knife keenness. That whole process is not forbidden by BSA, only local councils who feel it necessary to restrict tool usage to the level of inefficiency. It's better to bring wood from home on your hike than find appropriate wood in the forest. At least that's the way the theory goes.