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Received an angry email from a parent, and am having trouble coming up with a response.


The backstory:


This past weekend, the troop went camping. We had 13 boys go out Friday night, with 2 more joining us on Saturday afternoon (they went to a merit badge class during the day). On Sunday, parent of one the the scouts that came out Saturday shows up approximately 9 am. They were there to pick up little Jimmy. However, little Jimmy is the QM for the troop, and we were no where near being ready to leave. Also, we thought we would need assistance getting everyone home with the 2 late arrivals from Saturday. The adult leaders told the parent that we were not finished cleaning up and packing, but may need parent to stick around to help transport. Parent then says that he has an appointment at 11am, and needs to get home. He will take little Jimmy, and a couple of others early to help with driving. In the hustle and bustle of cleaning up, 2 additional scouts came by and said they were leaving with parent and little Jimmy. Now, mind you, I should have stopped what I was doing, thought a little bit, and said to them that no ones leaves until we are finished with clean up and pack up. But, I didn't, and they were gone. About 45 minutes later, another adult asks where one of the scouts that left is, and one of the nearby scouts said he left. Remeber, that little Jimmy is the troop QM, and now I realize that the 2 scouts that left were patrol leaders for the patrols that were there. This one of the ASMs to call the parent who left, and parents of the PLs who left to find out why they left, and if they will come assist when we return. I did not hear the answers to that question, but had a brief chat with the ASMs and decided to have a clean up night at Monday's meeting, rather than going to a local establishment for game night (which was listed on the calendar).


I did not send out any reminder emails before Monday's meeting about the change in plans. So, when it was found out that plans were changed, some of the scouts expressed their displeasure, but then went about the clean up task without further complaint.


Needless to say, the irate email I received was about the change of plans without notification. I would like some suggestions on a response, as I am having difficulty coming up with something "PC" to say. I do admit that I was wrong, and should have sent an email regarding change of plans, and yes that will be worked into my response as well.


Let me know what you think...

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I am not sure what happened beyond the QM and 2 PL's left early leaving the unloading and unpacking to others (heard that one before). I assume other boys did the job so:

(1) Did all the boys have to skip the fun night and do clean up--even the ones who did their bit after the campout?

(2) I would not worry too much about the change in plan notification--it happens.

(3) Who made the decision? The SPL should have decided how to handle it...

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Is the parent that sent the angry email the same one as who picked up their son early?


It sounds like there's a lot of opportunity for improvement in the communication department. Scouts needing to leave events early need to communicate that to their PL, SPL and SM. If those Scouts hold PORs, they need to be sure that their assistants are prepared to take on the responsibility in their absence. Perhaps parents need to be reminded of the responsibilities that their sons have on troop events as well.


And, yes, it does sound like the SM should have communicated the change of plans (and the reason for the change) to the youth leadership and appropriate adults ahead of time.


Sounds like a good learning opportunity for all involved...

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First of all, I'd say you're pretty deep into what should be the SPL's and PLs'responsibility. Youth leadership needed to be making the decisions about if and when folks are able to leave and whether or not a change in troop meeting plans is warranted. I would hope the boys would seek your advice and counsel, but they need to be the ones managing this.


Your job was to provide the boys cover from the parents. "I'm really sorry, but we're not ready to go yet. You son is the Troop Quartermaster and is responsible for packing the gear and getting it stowed when we get back to the scout house. Especially since he missed loading and unloading yesterday, he really needs to stay and do his job. You may want to discuss his responsibilities with him."


Ultimately, of course, you can't prevent a parent from taking their son home. But on the way out I would have an short Scoutmaster Conference with the boy -- in full view and ear shot of the parents -- explaining his responsibility the patrol and troop. Scouting is not a door mat. You don't get to show up for the fun stuff after the campsite is set up and leave without helping with the cleaning and load out. Life happens and I know there will be times boys and families are juggling multiple schedules, but in my experience the same kids/families who pull this stuff over and over.


The decision to change the troop meeting to a clean up night should have been left between the SPL and the QM. If asked, my advice the the SPL would be to make the QM responsible and leave it at that -- especially since the QM was the one who bailed. Had the SPL decided to change the game night and involve the whole troop, I would have supported that too.


One of the advantages of letting the Scouts make the decisions, is on the backside all you have to explain is the PLC is making those calls and you're just supporting them. "Sometimes youth leaders don't make the same decisions we adults would and sometimes those decisions are inconvenient to the adults. But that's the program we've joined and it is your job to support the boys and help them learn from the process." Shrug your shoulders and put your hands in your pockets.


At this point, I think your response to the parents is to explain that Scouting is about teamwork and responsibility. On the campout the troop failed to work together as it should have to take care of its gear, so the change in schedule was required correct the situation. Sorry for the inconvenience. Short and sweet -- don't engage in a debate.


I'd make that the topic of my next Scoutmaster's minute, too. I'm guessing some of the irate parents are irate because they're catching a earful from their irate sons. This would be a great time to reiterate the point that when one member bails on the team the rest of the team has to pick up the slack and sometimes suffers because of it. Creating a little positive peer pressure is a good thing.

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Some suggestions:


Meet with SPL to review what happened. It should have been his responsibility to approve or deny request to leave early from the campout, especially since they were PL's and QM's. SM needs to guide/coach/teach SPL to consider the ramifications of telling allowing scouts to leave early; SPL is then responsible to make sure that the slack is picked up. Remind SPL that he is responsible for the PL's, and his ASPL is responsible for the QM.


Admit to the SPL that the adult leaders broke the chain of command when they allowed scouts to leave early instead of directing them to go talk to the SPL, and agree to work on doing better in the future.


Have SM conferences with the PL's and QM. Ask them if they had gotten appointed another scout to fulfill their obligations before they left. Ask them if they felt it was fair to the other scouts that they left early. Ask them how leaving early was consistent with living by the scout oath and law. (and yes, if one of them is soon to be ready for a rank advancement, how he will demonstrate scout spirit between now and then in order to complete that requirement).


If yuor troop culture is that the SM sends out reminder emails about changes in meeting plans - stop that immediately! That is the SPL's job.

Again, talk to the SPL and appologize for jumping in to the wrong place in the chain of command, and that the SM sould have talked to the SPL about the need for a clean up night and potentially recommendation that the Monday night plans be changed. Then it is SPL's role to make the decision and communicate it to scouts.


Meet with CC and ASM's to review what happened, and agree on steps that you all want to take to move the things that SM/ASM are currently doing back to the SPL and PLC, where they belong. Follow up with PLC on your expectations of them going forward.


Then schedule a meeting with all parents, explain what your vision is to move to boy run ot a greater extent, why you are doing it, and what the benefit will be to their son. Use the example of the past weekend to review with all parents what happened, that adults stepped in when they shouldn't have, that adults have learning curves too. Also, that going forward PL and SPL will make decisions about coming late/leaving early, and change in meeting plans. And adults will do their best to step back from that. Explain that communications will likely get worse in the short term rather than better, as the PLC learns through practice. Ask for their patience as this occurs, as they would expect patience extended to their son when their son has the opportunity to serve in a leadership role.


Good Luck

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I think you have two separate issues and you shouldnt conflate the two:

1) You needed to change plans but you didnt communicate that well

2) You had scouts that had to go home early and that was not communicated well to you.




1) If you changed plans without letting anyone know than the best thing to do is say sorry, we didnt get everything done Sunday that we needed to so we had to make the change to take care of the equipment. But youre right, I should have let everyone else know as soon as the ASMs and I knew we needed to make the change, Ill try hard not to let it happen again. This is all the response you need to give to the irate e-mail, do it and move on. Dont belabor your point and dont get dragged into a long discussion about the wisdom of the decision.


2) Families have multiple obligations, generally speaking I wouldnt presume to judge how they should set their priorities anymore than I would tolerate someone else telling me how I should set mine. I assume the good faith of adults raising families and assume they are going to make the best choices theyre capable of making. That said, the problem here was the same as above, that information needed to be communicated as soon as it was known. If theres a pattern of a problem already with that parent or if you sense the potential of a future pattern than just have a quiet word with the parent acknowledging that you understand these things need to happen and for everyones sake you just need to know about it sooner. If you sense this is a one time deal do nothing.


In both cases, work to make the matter smaller rather than bigger. This forum is full of discussions where the underlying problem is adults more willing to dig in their heals and escalate a conflict rather than turn away and defuse a conflict.


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Sounds like a somewhat sticky problem. One thing I do with our troop is the campout always ends at the church we meet at. For instance, tonight, we're meeting at my house. QM is probably loading up his dad's truck right now. Our troop is very strung out geographically. Some of the boys are meeting at my place, some are coming up a little later due to dad's work schedules. One has to leave early (for another scouting deal) Although he won't be around to break camp, his dad said they would be at the church Sunday to clean up. (his idea)


Our SPL is missing this trip. The young man is just not doing his job. It's the second campout he's missed in only nine years of scouts including Cubs. He's my kid so I think I'm going to give it to him pretty good at our next troop meeting for blowing us off.


In response to the e-mail. Unfortunately, stuff happens. Although "adaptable" is not one of the 12 points, Helpful, Trustworthy, Loyal and Kind are all appropriate to the situation. THe gear needed to be cleaned and organized so the scouts, being trustworthy and loyal to each other and troop, decided to be kind and help the troop instead of doing the fun stuff all the time.

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Gee, what do you think would have happened if the SM sent out an email saying......



Hey, come to the scout cabin instead of pizza game place we are going to clean up the mess from the camp out.........



No one would have shown up........



If you were to meet at the CO and then leave for the game place, I would not apologize, but would tell the parent that because so many boys left the camp out early it was impossible to finish the clean up in a timely and fair manner. It was decided that the entire troop would help on Monday cleaning up instead of the game place....the game place will be rescheduled for a future date.


If they don't like it tough cookies.



The problem with boys leaving earily is it sets a bad precedent......I don't give a hoot what you say, I bet this is not the first time this scout has done this and not the last.......The other boys bailed when they saw their chance, why should we work when jimmy left?????

(This message has been edited by Basementdweller)

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reread the OP.....



So Jimmy showed up late......didn't help setup

Gets benefit of program saturday.....

Leaves early sunday.......Doesn't have to help tear down or clean up.




So is Jimmy's parent the one complaining????


Jimmy needs and SMC about responsibility and his position(This message has been edited by Basementdweller)

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I did not send out any reminder emails before Monday's meeting about the change in plans. So, when it was found out that plans were changed, some of the scouts expressed their displeasure, but then went about the clean up task without further complaint.


Needless to say, the irate email I received was about the change of plans without notification. I would like some suggestions on a response...


Send an email to all the adults in the troop. Explain that Monday night required a change of plans to clean up the gear instead of doing game night because of some planning problems the Scouts had on the campout. Praise the scouts for understanding the need to take care of the Troop's gear. Mention that there was of course some grumbling from the scouts about the change as should only be expected any time a change of plans means you have to do work instead of play, but tell the parents how proud you are of their sons for handling the clean up with maturity and a sense of responsibility.


Then a couple of days later, reply to the irate email with a short "I'm really sorry for not getting back to you soonner. Did the email I sent to troop explain what happened? Thanks," Hopefully they will get the message that their son acted with more maturity than they did.



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All the advice here is good.


I would also suggest something like this to the irate parent:


"It's clear that that this was more upsetting to your son than he let on. Make sure he knows that I'm always here to listen to his concerns -- just like our committee chair is available to listen to yours.


So in addition to the things that I told you I will do differently the next time, do you or your family have a way that we can herd our boys in the right direction? If so, please consider lending a hand on our committee. We need your input!"


Of course, you may owe your CC an apology if this parent has a more permanent chip on his shoulder and does follow your advice! ;) But, we can only solve one problem at a time!

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I guess all of you are more parent PC than I am, because I would have said one of the two following things:


1) " The unannounced change of plans are the direct result of and completely related to the

unannounced change of plans that happened at the campout. You do understand the concept of cause & effect don't you? "


2) "This was a simple but effective leson in responcibility. Quite a few of the scouts shirked their responcibility this past weekend, and left the troop in a very tight spot. This shirking of responcibility also affects the entire troop and troop equipment. It is akin to having to pay the piper after having played."



So what's the worst thing that happens? The "But the rules do not apply to my son" parent gets bent out of shape and pulls his/her son from thew troop?


So what's the worst part of that>.you get a another scout to step up and assume QM posituon?


Again, I admit I might not have the most tact in this situation, but I see an apology as an invitation for this parent ( and scout(s) ) to keep on showing up late, leaving early, neglecting duty...and the worst part - other scouts are staring to follow that lead.

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