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ASM915

OA Elections and The Special Needs Scout

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Two comments:

 

1) On election policy: All of us over-21s need to remember we don't have a vote in this. The policies are set by youth members! National leadership is all under-22. Now, National level Advisers may be able to influence... but it's still the young men's call.

 

2) When I Ordealed in 1970 I was 13 1/2. I'm convinced many candidates today are just barely 12, but they meet candidacy requirements.

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I am interested in this subject as well since we just had a SN Scout earn First Class, and that automatically put him into the "O/A eligible" category in our TroopMaster software. When I think of what the O/A SHOULD do and stand for, I can't imagine any of the 3 quite young scouts that popped up as eligible, actually being worthy members of the O/A, seriously!!

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Joni,

 

I've seen Scouts make mature judgment calls on elections.

 

I've seen Scouts turn elections into popularity contests.

 

I've seen Scoutmasters who would certify anyone with two feet and breathing as being eligible for election.

 

I've seen Scoutmasters who care.

 

Half the challenge is a good certification of nominees by the Scoutmaster. He has that degree of control. From that point on, the Election Team has responsibility.

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I second John-in-KC's point. It really is the duty of a Scoutmaster to instill the sense of honesty and fairness in the majority of his troop over the years that will result in OA elections that are reasonable though not always predictable in the eyes of the Scoutmaster. One of the whole points of both scouting and the OA is to create leadership skills and other good personal qualities in boys that will last them throughout their lifetimes. If someone is not being elected and they truly deserve to be then the Scoutmaster should see that as a call to increase their efforts. On the other hand if a Scoutmaster is trying to make sure everyone gets elected then perhaps the Scoutmaster should ease up a bit. In the case at hand it sounds a bit complicated - is the reason the Scoutmaster pressing because the scout is a SN scout or because he is every bit as good of a scout as the others who are chosen? From what I read it sounds like it may not be a clear case, especially in terms of the SN scout being disruptive and unhelpful to others at times and the points raised by Meamemg in his post should be considered. OA is not and should not be something that goes to every boy on their 13th or 14th birthday just because they turned that age.

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I've had a couple of my ASMs express frustration with the election procedure to the point of saying that we needed to find a way to change the election process. They were frustrated that one boy didn't get elected. But in talking with the Scouts, I am convinced they voted against this boy for very valid reasons. This particular Scout acted perfectly around adults, but behaved in a different fashion when it was only the boys. I'm ok with the election process the way it is - I think the boys can make valid judgements about who gets elected. This year we've had our election and I know the result, which hasn't been announced yet. I think the Scouts did a fine job of discriminating. If a Scout is unable to convince the other Scouts that he is a good example of living by the Scout oath and law, then by definition, he isn't deserving of being in the OA.

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Election results are in.

 

The outgoing Chapter Chief helped the new Chief hold the elections. He gave a speech, which the adults missed because we were tending to another Troop issue, about qualifications, popularity contests, and Special Needs Scouts. He informed the gang that he himself was a SNS, had managed to become Eagle and Chapter Chief amongst other positions.He informed them that they should really think hard about turning things into a popularity contest just because they don't always understand the NSN, and that most SNS are just as qualified if not more so then most of them.

 

The Scout in question is already figuring that he did not get elected again. Man will he be surprised at tapouts at the Spring Camporee. Thanks for everyones stories, experiences and general input.

 

YIS

ASM915

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I'm an ASM. My son is a 13 year old Star Scout. He's been told that he'll be eligable for the OA vote this spring.

 

My son has Aspergers Syndrome, and is clearly not all that popular with the other Scouts.

 

While my wife gets upset at the thought of the OA election being a "popularity contest", I myself understand the process and I'm OK with it. I've had discussions with my son about the possibility that the other Scouts may not vote for him. He says he's OK with it. If he doesn't get voted in, it will hurt both of us parents, but that doesn't matter, and I honestly think he'll be OK. There will always be next year.

 

My biggest problem with our OA elections is the fact that, at least so far for the last two years I've been in the troop, OA elections have occurred just after we get the new Webelos crossing over into the troop. This year we'll have 11 new Scouts and 13 experienced Scouts. I don't think it is fair to have those new Scouts vote after just one meeting and one outing with the troop. They just don't know the Scouts well enough to vote for or against them. I wish voters were required to have been with the troop for a minimum of some number of months -- or something similar.

 

My solution this year is to ask if we can put photos of the OA-eligible Scouts on the ballots, so at least the new Scouts can recognize their faces. I hope this will be OK.

 

(This message has been edited by kenk)

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Our OA election team specifically recommends putting boys pictures on the ballot.

 

They also told us that it would be ok if the Scoutmaster said that the new Scouts were not eligible to vote. Boys just need a majority of those who vote, not a majority of those present. I wasn't sure if this was quite by the book, but it seemed like a very practical rule. We solved the problem by having the OA elections prior to crossover.

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Oak Tree, if a youth is a registered member of the troop then he has a right to vote in the election. If a troop is worried about new scouts not knowing the people on the ballot then the troop should schedule the election in January of later in the year.

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I think your OA election team needs someone to talk to them. As Region 7 Voyageur said, all boys who are in good standing with dues paid are eligible to vote whether they have one week or several years in the troop. As was mentioned, you could set either the vote or the cross-over such that you do not have scouts who are so new they have no way of knowing any of the eligible boys, or even better, set the election so that the new members have a chance to meet the eligible boys and interact with them for a few months so that the newer scouts can start out in the troop being full members. I have found that it does not take very long for boys to gauge each other and that the newer ones tend not to get caught up in the popularity contest issue since they have not been around long enough to get caught in it. If you start out by giving the new scouts some real responsibility I find they tend to rise to the expectations you set for them. Conversely if you have a lack of trust and expectationn in them, they tend to sink to that level. Just have a talk with the whole troop as to what you expect several weeks in advance of the vote as to the importance of what they will be doing and how you will count on them to make informed judgments.

 

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As a current SPL and the local Lodge Chief I've noticed that whenever adults make such things an issue it rarely serves to do more than alienate the youth who you are trying to protect. Use the youth leadership as much as possible on this sort of thing. Also try to start counter acting the problem before the night of the election so as to minimize the issue's trancparency.

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I'm the father of a mildly autistic Scout - actually he has Asperger's Syndrome. He is currently a 13 year old Life Scout with two more merit badges needed for Eagle (plus the project).

 

He joined the troop with a group of four Scouts. Last year all four were eligible for O/A. Only two got elected - the two special needs (SN) Scouts - my son included - did not get elected. My wife was mad. I was a bit sad about the inequity of it, but yielded to the process. I talked with my son about it and he said he didn't care. I think he really did. The other SN Scout seemed OK with it.

 

This year there will be three eligible Scouts: the two SN Scouts who are now Life Scouts, plus a younger First Class Scout. We have a whole bunch of younger Scouts that joined last year. Since then my son has become a patrol leader. I suspect my son will have a good chance of getting elected this year. If he doesn't, then I'm OK with it.

 

My own opinion is that its no so much an election issue, but rather a long-term issue of educating the non-SN Scouts - and parents - about the needs of special people. This isn't a one-night thing, but something to be brought into the open and discussed from day one.

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Mike,

Thank you for your thoughts. That was why I had brought the discussion up a couple of months before the election last winter. All we did was ask the old and new Chapter Chiefs to talk with the boys about popularity contests, which they did, and it worked out nice for the Chapter.

 

The scout in question, was called out at the Spring Camporee. He completed his Ordeal at the Spring Ordeal. Everyone who knows him from campstaff, were pleasantly surprised that he managed to control himself through the Ordeal and managed to stay quiet the whole time.

 

He helped as a trail guide during the summer call-outs at camp, help with Fall Ordeal, went to Fall Fellowship, hasn't missed a Chapter or LEC meeting, has been elected Chapter VC of Activities, helped put together a service project and swim party, and now a Xmas climbing party with a little assistance. He's planning on Conclave and NOAC this coming year. He's also eyeing the Chapter Chief spot, or the LEC for next year.

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We have three scouts with development issues in our Troop: two with autism and one with tourette's syndrome. Of the three, only two have been with us long enough to be eligible for OA and only one of those is very active with our Troop. That is the scout the boys elected into OA. They realize that being a scout is about your spirit, not always your behavior due to a disability.

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