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  • Harassed by SM

    I apologize in advance for this long post.

    I agreed to take over as committee chair in 2013 after a long-term chair stepped down. She stuck me with the chore of rechartering in late 2012, despite the fact that my husband suffered an acute illness and was in and out of the hospital with a life-threatening condition for six months, continuing well into 2013. During this time, the long-term (and married) SM offered me friendship. He also told me that he would be all over me if he wasn't married or I wasn't married, which should have raised a red flag, but then he has a reputation of sorts, and I thought it was probably not such a big deal. Besides, since we were supposed to work closely to make sure the troop functions, it seemed to make some sense to let these comments slide, and it would pass.

    Not so much. He asked what my intentions were and told me that he would only kiss me when I was ready. I told him my life was complicated enough and I was only interested in friendship. Because I told him that it was none of his business whether I ever had an affair, he cornered my friend at summer camp and asked her if I had. He engaged her in conversations that made her uncomfortable so that she was compelled to leave camp a day earlier than planned.

    Still willing to let my personal concerns slide, I was starting to focus on planning for the next year. I asked at the April committee meeting about reserving the scouts' favorite cabin for the Dec camping trip and was told by the SM that the sp needed to plan the calendar. The spl passed the buck to the next spl, who never came to a committee meeting. Finally, in late Aug, the SM told the spl to arrange a meeting and WE would be there. Well, the senior patrol was there and I was there. We went through the calendar, considered the school calendar, and put it all together. The SM shows up an hour and a half late, jokes that he is also supposed to be at another meeting and will be late for that too, then proceeds to go through the entire process again. After that he brags about himself and all he has done for the troop for another half hour or more. Meanwhile I am ready to be sick and starving because I came straight from work.

    And it gets worse...the October trip is one that was going to be led by the SM and originally planned for a year earlier. Because he procrastinated the first time, the SM couldn't reserve a campsite and it was postponed for April. Because SM procrastinated, the April plans were not set until a couple weeks before the date and had to be cancelled for low turnout. When cancelling the Apr trip, the SM agreed it would be used as a webelos recruiting trip for the fall. I had to keep asking him to set a date. It really bugs me when I have to treat an adult like one of my children. Finally a date was set and we invited the webelos. Guess what, he couldn't find a suitable campsite. Then it was a day trip. Then because some of the older boys wanted to do a particular activity in addition to the main activity, they started talking about changing the date. I said that it would be wrong to change the date this late in the game, but they did it anyway and told the webelos liason to inform them of the date change. Before the meeting was even over, the older boys realized that the new date was the same day as homecoming and they would not be going on the trip. Only a handful of our scouts and only a handful of webelos attended the trip. None of the webelos joined our trip.

    When the SM completely screwed up things that were important to the troop, not just me, I realized how completely insincere that he was about being my "friend". I began to doubt anything that he had to say and because he talks a a lot, there are numerous contradictions and inappropriate comments confirm my doubts.

    Jump to current day. My life has totally changed from when I accepted the CC position less than two years ago. My husband is slowly improving and has a job after being out of work for a year and a half. I was a stay-at-home mom for 13 years, but was fortunate enough to find a salaried full-time job. The scoutmaster and I have essentially no communication. We had our COH last week and no one responded to my email about volunteers, an ongoing problem. So I suck it up an buy the supplies and in the process of setting up, during which, thankfully, the usually helpful parents started on, I was summoned to by the SM, by way of a recently aged-out scout, to sign some paperwork. The paperwork consisted of two rank advancement cards and a completed Eagle Scout Application, which I had not reviewed. I told him that I could not sign off on an application that I had not reviewed. I think that he was in shock that I did not do what he asked.

    The SM said that he would let the scout know. The scout had been on vacation, which means that the SM had the application for a week, and I would have had a week to review the application and sign off on it before he returned. Instead, this is the second Eagle scout application that I have just had an hour to flip through. The scout came by with his report and even with limited time, I could pick out typos, etc. What could I do? The scout's birthday was the next day and it's not his fault that the SM is looking to marginalize my role in the process. I signed off on the application, not knowing if there were bigger issues that I could have caught.

    I would appreciate feedback on two issues: 1) leader-leader sexual harassment; and 2) the role of the committee chair (vs the SM), particularly when it comes to planning the calendar and the Eagle Scout process.


  • #2
    This may not be in the right place on the site and is likely to be moved by an Admin.

    Here's how it works in our Troop: The Committee Chair has nothing to do with the planning of the calendar. That is the job of the Patrol Leaders Council. The Scoutmaster has nothing to do with arranging campsites, special cabins or any of that. That's the job of the Outdoor Chair at the direction of the PLC/SPL. The Committee Chair's job is to run the Adult Committee and to ensure resources that the Scout's require for their program are procured - primarily transportation and funding - along with the paperwork/bureaucracy stuff you've already noted. Others may do things differently.

    I wouldn't put up with the kind of treatment you're being subjected to for a second. SM should be told that the next time, you're reporting him to the District. His behavior has no place in Scouting.


    • #3
      I moved this to Open Discussion.


      • #4
        1. What sexual harrassment? Has he come on to you since he asked you about the affair a year ago? Also, as the CC, you have the power. If you can find a replacement for this lech, you should. A SM should not be asking anyone, much less a CC if she's ever had an affair, etc.

        2. Your job is to approve a calender, not make it. In terms of the Eagle applications, I think you need to make it known to the Scouts (and the advancement chair and the Eagle coordinator (if you have one)), your expectations. I think an hour is plenty of time, but that's me, not you.


        • #5
          Originally posted by perdidochas View Post
          1. What sexual harassment?
          Well, let's see...

          1. He also told me that he would be all over me if he wasn't married or I wasn't married
          2. told me that he would only kiss me when I was ready
          3. Asking about affairs and such...

          Probably more than that too. What more would you want to hear about to satisfy you that she's been harassed?

          Wonder if he feels bad when he says the oath? Sounds like a new SM is in order...


          • #6
            Originally posted by duckfoot View Post

            Well, let's see...

            1. He also told me that he would be all over me if he wasn't married or I wasn't married
            2. told me that he would only kiss me when I was ready
            3. Asking about affairs and such...

            Probably more than that too. What more would you want to hear about to satisfy you that she's been harassed?

            Wonder if he feels bad when he says the oath? Sounds like a new SM is in order...
            Did she ever tell him to stop? I do think a new SM is in order, but I don't feel it was sexual harassment if she wasn't clear that his intentions were not wanted. Also, part of sexual harassment is the whole power thing. As SM, he is serving at the CC's pleasure--i.e. she has the power over him. The CC can (and should) replace him.


            • #7
              Get rid of the SM.
              Find an SM.
              Find the Advancement Chair to review all advancements.
              Get the PLC to ILST.
              Get the Troop Committee to Troop Committee Training via in-person NOT Online.
              Get the ASM/SM to their Training.

              If you feel like you have been harrassed, take action. You let a lot slide and now your asking us what to do? You know what you need to do.


              • #8
                Not sure what you expect us to do with all the personal stuff thrown in there. Just let me say that whatever he offered in terms of "friendship", you did not return it if you just accepted it as part of some reputation. I tell my female youth that real friendship means putting us guys in our place when we are wholly inappropriate. For teens that's often a matter of saying "I'm just not that into you." rather than "Let's just be friends." But for adults, it's a matter of saying "How dare you ..." and "Don't ever again ..."

                I'll leave actual committee chairs to discuss how they deal with the management issues. But in general, yes, folks do become surprised when you aren't a pushover. The polite thing to do is to express your dissatisfaction with how things are operating and give a vision of how you would like them to be different. Then ask one of those helpful parents for an honest evaluation of how you did and what you could do differently.

                Regarding the Eagle application ... it all depends if the typos reflect a lack of officiousness or lack of integrity. If the boy's just sloppy, let it go. If he's trying to pull a fast one on you and the SM, put your foot down. The more Life BOR's you sit on, the better feel you'll have for which boy is which.


                • #9
                  1 -- probably just semantics, but getting hit on by a sleaze bag outside a work environment I don't think is sexual harassment, it's just sleazy. As the object of such sleaze, you handle it is how you handle it. Had this guy come on to you at a neighborhood party how would you have handled it there? How about, "Really? What would your wife say about this conversation?" Or of course you can always threaten to stuff various parts of his anatomy up his nostrils and pull them out the opposing ears.

                  However, as the committee chairman responsible for the good administration of a Scout troop, I think you have a different obligation. This sort of stuff is poison to a Scout unit. What happens to your volunteer base when word gets out female volunteers aren't safe around the SM? What happens when he hit on the wrong guy's wife? Are parents going to want this guy instructing their sons in moral behavior? Or trust them with him at all? Which begs the point, why do you trust your son with him?

                  Any unit leader who becomes aware of this sort of stuff needs to step on it hard and fast. There is absolutely no room for this in scouting. You and your girlfriend should have reported his behavior to the COR, Institutional head and Scout Executive AT ONCE. I guarantee the sun would not have set again with this jerk in our troop or pack. I don't know that BSA would move that quickly, but I suspect he would be on the "permanently ineligible" list soon enough.

                  2a. The committee is there to support the calendar developed by the Scouts, not to develop it. The SM's job is to coach them through that process. If it's not getting done, your job is to ask the SM what additional resources he needs -- maybe you need to recruit additional ASMs who can work with the Scouts or maybe you need to recruit a new SM.

                  2b. I'm not sure either why it takes you so long to review an Eagle app. Not your job to fix typos, just verify the info (mostly dates) are correct. Maybe you're thinking you need to review the Eagle project report too. While reading it is fine, there is no space in the project book for the CC to sign. And OBTW, in this situation the Scout's 18th birthday is a moot point. All REQUIREMENTS must be completed prior to his birthday, but he has 90 days to collect signatures, submit his application and complete his Board of Review.


                  • #10
                    Recognize - looks like you did
                    Resist - I can't tell
                    Report - COR, IH, SE

                    You COR, IH get together and find a new SM. If the COR and IH don't want to, just walk away...


                    • #11

                      No means No and it takes two to tango.

                      Tell him NO in a firm solid tone, If the chase persists. then report it to the COR and IH. ask for him to be removed.

                      The other stuff, will take care of itself

                      Why are the adults planning outings???


                      • #12
                        Thank you all for the feedback.

                        In response to the comment about the personal stuff---it is personal to me. I ignored the little alarm bells ringing in my head for a long time and am kicking myself for my naiveness. I feel humiliated and betrayed that someone who claimed to be my friend was apparently taking advantage of my vulnerable state. I have distanced myself from him without explicitly confronting him about his inappropriate advances. I consider the fact that he no longer personally communicates with me in any way as evidence that he knows that he crossed a line and there is no going back. That hasn't stopped him from offering his assistance if I needed help with anything when there is an audience. The bottom line is that a troop cannot function very well under these circumstances.

                        I can't help but think that if the other adult leaders in the troop had the strength of character, including myself, and/or the inclination to take on the role of SM that the current SM would have been ousted by now. If he steps down or is asked to step down, I believe it is highly unlikely that the troop will continue.

                        As far as I know I am doing what the long-term CC did before me. That included taking a lead role in communicating with the troop, making sure the calendar is put together and distributed, and reviewing Eagle applications for typos and grammar. I even heard the SM tell a parent that was my job and he took care of everything else. And for what it's worth, if they only took away the idea that when they go out into the real world, the ability to communicate with proper grammar and correct spelling will benefit them in the long term, then I would be happy just to do that.

                        Based on your responses, I think that my troop is more dysfunctional than I thought. I had next to no involvement with the troop until I became CC. I suppose that it is inevitable that a troop will fall into a rut when the CC and SM have been running it for a decade or more. As far as I can tell, the troop follows more or less the same schedule and on the same trips year after year. Don't even think about bringing up going to a different summer camp to the SM.

                        Most of the higher ranked scouts seem focused only on ranking up to Eagle Scout because it will look good on their college and future work applications and the same is true of their parents. This situation is reinforced by a SM that only seems interested in those who will be Eagle Scouts because he says "it makes him look good." Hence, the parade of spls that are so involved in other activities that they can barely plan the weekly meetings, let alone plan a weekend camping trip or calendar for the year, or think about the long-term health of the troop. The system that has evolved is that parent volunteers do most of the legwork to plan the trips. From what I gather, this is why the former CC had to be so involved in the planning and I felt it was my duty to do the same.

                        I had hoped to speak with the COR at the COH last week, at least long enough to arrange a time a more lengthy discussion. Unfortunately I was told that he had a heart attack and I am still trying to find out the details. You hear news like that and this all seems so petty and unnecessary.

                        I wish that I had run across this forum sooner. I tried numerous google searches to see if anyone else had a similar experience as mine. As women have been increasingly involved in their son's troop, I thought I would have gotten some hits about this issue, but was surprised to find nothing about sexual harassment among leaders except for the written policy for Philmont.

                        I will continue to monitor the responses to my post and consider how to proceed in a way the doesn't totally blow up the troop.

                        Thanks again.


                        • #13
                          "I can't help but think that if the other adult leaders in the troop had the strength of character, including myself, and/or the inclination to take on the role of SM that the current SM would have been ousted by now. If he steps down or is asked to step down, I believe it is highly unlikely that the troop will continue." This is an indication of really bad leadership that a lot of us need to look out for. When folks around us think that we cannot be replaced and everything will fall apart if we go, we are not prepared when things go off the rails. You need to find the institutional head and ask for someone to step in for the COR. Heart attacks take months to bounce back from. You can tell him/her that since becoming CC you realized that the troop isn't functioning as it ought, and you need a little guidance to make it better. We scouters screw up interpersonally all the time. It's actually one of the benefits of being an adult in the program. You get to come clean about your strengths and weaknesses and over time improve a little. I'm all for giving a person the benefit of the doubt, but if a guy hasn't apologized to you for his inappropriate behavior, I'm afraid it just means he's moving on to his next mark.


                          • #14
                            Are there any ASMs? Have you talked to them about stepping up?


                            • #15
                              There are probably "proper channels" to file complaints and concerns about the SM's behavior or processes to deal with him within the troop and they should be used. If sexual harassment is or isn't the correct pc term for what has happened doesn't really matter. There are really only 2 people who need to label or define the behavior, Chagrined Chair and the SM's wife. So I would take your concerns to his wife. Even if she gets upset with you and says she doesn't believe you, his poor behavior will stop.