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Any organization that maintains strict standards of control over its members behavior like fraternities, bsa, military will always be popular sources of bullying/hazing. Their entire organizational structure is centered on control and what one level of member can demand of another with relative impunity.
There are a lot of people who think the boys should not be the disciplinarians, but peer pressure is a wonderful asset to have in a troop! Of course it helped that each boy in my troop carried a 6' piece of closet rod for a walking stick. Like knives and woods tools, they were informed that it is a tool, not a weapon. I said I would allow the boy to use it in defense of himself (Rule #`1: safety first), but NEVER as an offensive weapon (Rule #2: Look and act like a Scout.) I actually never had a problem with any boy misusing his stave. If any of the boys got playful with it, a number of the boys would bring it to a halt very quickly. More than once I heard someone say off in the distance, "That's a tool, not a weapon!" I didn't always know if it was the stave, a knife, ax or saw, but the boys were taking care of it on their own.
I had one new boy come to me a few weeks after getting his Totin' Chit and complain to me one of the older boys had torn up his card. I didn't even need to go ask the older boy why he did it. I asked the boy what he was doing just before the boy tore it up. He said just whittling. I asked him where. He said by the campfire. I asked why he wasn't in the whittling area. He said there wasn't a whittling area. I asked him why he didn't make one before he started. There was a long pause and he said okay and asked if he could keep his knife in his pocket until he got home. I said sure. And that was the end of the situation.
Right off the bat, my first thought was some older boy was picking on him, but it turns out the system worked.
I think the form of bullying is different in an adult-led Troop; some of the bully's are the ones good at manipulating the adults. I agree that the adults need to be there for the real hard cases--you know when you probably need to notify Council over.
It just might be me, but the kinds of disciplinary problems I have faced generally do not even need to be escalated to the parents notification let alone Council. Any time a situation like that occurs, I'm assuming there has been a few red flags thrown up long before it got to that point. I don't know, I always try and nip it in the bud those flags long before it gets to that point. I may be a bit over the top myself on this kind of thing, but it has worked 40 years for me.
I had the trading post employee accuse "someone in my troop of shoplifting" while in the store. I was told of this by the camp director. I went back and notified the SPL and he said we're ALL going back to the trading post and the culprit will be identified. He formed up the entire troop and marched them back to the trading post. Then asked the employee to point out which of the boys he saw shoplifting. He looked over the boys and said he was mistaken, none of the boys there was the boy he had seen. The SPL then addressed the employee and said, "Will you be notifying the camp staff of this misidentification or should I?" The employee said he would take care of notifying the director of his mistake.
While none of my boys was involved, they all got a good lesson of what would happen if this really had occurred.
Was I sure none of my boys was involved when first notified? Nope. While I trust my boys, when dealing with boys this age, any and all things can happen. Was I surprised when the employee couldn't identify any of my boys? Not surprised, but very much relieved.
I think you are all missing a critical element here by mis-defining "discipline." Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is training which makes punishment unnecessary. We don't punish Scouts. That is the parent's responsibility. We do try to instill in the Scouts a sense of discipline such that their behavior is not a problem. In this sense discipline takes on the same meaning as disciple -- as in an adherent of a particular philosophy. While I like the simplicity of Stosh's three rules, I also have a bias toward the Scout Oath and Law.
My rule is if you want to be a Scout and get to do the things Scouts do, then you behave like a Scout, that is, follow the Scout Oath and Law. If not, you don't get to be a Scout. That may mean you are removed from the program for whatever short time is required to bring your behavior back in line with the ideals, or it may be longer. In very rare cases it may be permanent.
Our troop discipline policy about a page and a half. It mostly talks about how we expect Scouts to behave -- follow the Oath and Law, set a good example for others, provide service to the troop and others, wear the uniform and attend regularly. There is a list of specifically prohibited behaviors stolen for our summer camp -- most of which comes under the heading of DUH! We then have an escalating progression for dealing with unacceptable behaviors: first the junior leaders, second with a SM conference, third removal from the activity and last suspension or expulsion. At each level the policy is to do what is necessary to ensure the safety of the Scouts and what is in the best interest of the troop and the individual scout. NO sentencing guidelines, like 5yr's CC seems to want -- that's a terrible idea, just creates work for the local Scout lawyers. We do what we think is best. The other thing we do is share information. I think one of the worst things you can do is keep behavior problems confidential. I absolutely want all the ASMs to know what is going on so the next time something comes up they know were things stand. Same rule applies to youth. I encourage youth leaders to handle problems, but they absolutely must let the adults in charge know what happened and how it was handled. (This applies to first aid, too, and for the same reasons. Yes, there are numerous war stories and scars behind that policy.
Why is the Comm. Chair involved to this extent with Discipline and punishment of the boys? The ScoutMaster has the final say with everything pertaining to the boys, not the CC. I used to have issues within my troop when I first took it over... we had a few "bad apples" that were only interested in causing trouble... once I took over the boys realized that they'll actually have to earn what they receive, I now leave initial punishment to the SPL and ASPL... they have a heavier and more appropriate hand than I ever would. If something occurs that warrants my attention as SM, the boys bring the accused to me, and they plead their case. I have never had to send a boy home from a campout, never had to call the police, or anything like that. I've had one boy tell me to "screw off" after he was being increasingly difficult during a troop meeting, In that case I pulled the boy aside and told him I wanted to speak with his mother when she came to pick him up after the meeting. I mentioned it to her, and she had him write an apology to me and now he's the most polite boy in the troop :-)
In our troop, the SM deals with teaching and coaching the scouts. I've rarely seen him direct "punishments". Usually, his guidance is restorative such as "okay, now help fix his tent" or similar. When real punishment is needed such as removing the scout from the troop, that is a committee and committee chair job. We want to keep the scoutmaster as the good guy if possible.
Speaking from the committee position, the CC needs to know what's going on. I don't think the CC needs to be in on every issue or have some kind of veto authourity, but he needs to be aware of what's going on, especially if a boy is disruptive. The only time the CC needs to really be standing shoulder to shoulder with SM, as opposed to behind him nodding, is when something happens that is serious enough to warrant police and/or legal intervention. I've been in troops that run the gamut, but in all of them the committee has taken seriously its responsibility to support the program and run interference with anxious, hovering parents.
- If you look for problems, you will find problems.
- Scouting is not about punishments.
- "Discipline must be constructive." Guide To Safe Scouting, page 2. Constructive discipline, in my opinion, is restorative discipline and teaches lessons.
- I don't care for long documented procedural ways to handle discipline. They are never consistently applied and only get called when really serious things happen. At that point, you have bigger fish to fry then a procedure. You are also dealing with leader failings by writing a policy. Remember to also train the leader or find the right leader. *** You can never deal with leader failings by writing a policy. ***
- If the scout is a safety risk, you separate the scout from the troop. Period.
- If the scout will not behave within the bounds of the scout oath and law, he is removed until he is willing to work within the bounds of the scout oath and law.
- The best scoutmaster I've seen handled things with a shake of the head, sometimes a negative chuckle and phrases such as "What happened?" "How does <insert name> feel about it?" "What caused that?" "How did he react?" "Why do you think he reacted that way?" He'd ask way way more questions and kept the questions very simple and almost naive. Usually the asking of the questions was plenty for the scout to know what he did was unacceptable. Then, he would suggest a way to handle it.
- One thing that took me awhile to figure out ... Scouting isn't for every kid. Some kids are mean. Some have bigger issues. Some kids might really really need scouting to teach them lessons, but it can kill a troop. Troops need to identify those scouts and make they fairly and consistently lay down the law before that scout drives many other scouts away.