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OA Elections and The Special Needs Scout

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Hope everyone is having a good year so far.

I have a dilemma coming up in the near future in our Troop, OA elections. This year we may only have 2-3 Scouts eligible. The one I know for sure that has all the requirements fulfilled is a 17 year old with very mild Autism. He should have been nominated last year, but the popularity contest mind set figured in. Both Scouts nominated

last year are suppose to do Ordeal this spring. One may quit the Troop before then due to behavior and personality issues and was the beauty queen candidate. The other is more then deserving.


The SN Scout has rarely missed a camp-out with either of the Troops he as been involved with. He is always in uniform. He managed to work on camp staff last summer. He participates in programs that others won't even look at. He serves as the Webelos Den Chief. He has been granted Alternate Eagle Requirements so he can continue to work toward his Eagle past his 18th birthday. And he has already stated his interest in becoming an ASM.


How do you get the other Scouts to understand that just because this Scout comes across as a goof sometimes, may be slower at completing advancements, has issues that make it hard for him to remember certain information from time to time, that he is just as deserving as they are, if not more so?


Any and all suggestions are welcome.


PS: Moderator, if you would rather this be in another site by all means move it.

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I've seen a very mature for his years OATR have "THE TALK" with younger Scouts. He did a really good Riot Act, considering he was 16. The young man who was at risk of not being elected ... was elected, and properly so.


Where a youth member wasn't emotionally prepared for "THE TALK", I've seen a SM give it. In that case, his comment was "if you have an issue with anyone on the ballot, you need to have a SM Conference with me before the election meeting."



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What are the other two lads like (the two that might also be eligible for nomination this year)? Are they sympathetic? I ask because I was witness to a similar situation many years ago, when I was working on election teams for my Chapter.


One of the units had 3 lads that were eligible for election, one of whom had been eligible the previous year but was not voted in. This lad had mild physical and mental disabilities (it may very well have been autism). There were rumors that a couple of Scouts from his school had actively campaigned against electing him into the Order the year before, and were doing so again. The adult leaders could never prove it though. The adults all felt that this lad was, hands down, the best qualified for the Order. The members of the Unit that were in the Order felt the same (and most of them were senior members of the youth leadership). I knew this because they had asked to meet with us before the meeting to talk about what they could or could not do. I was a sitting Lodge Vice Chief at the time, the other member of the election team was the Chapter Adviser's son, and the Chapter Adviser was with us as well. The Scoutmaster was tempted to make him the only person eligible for election. We told him he could do so but it would be unfair to the other Scouts and asked if he was prepared to tell those Scouts why they weren't being put forward for election. The OA Members all thought it would be unfair too. We offered to declare the first ballot void if the lad wasn't elected and let the Troop vote a second time (which of course meant we were more than just bending the rules) but that if we did this, no matter what the results, the second ballot would have to stand. We suggested that one of the unit's OA members have "the talk" with the Troop on the importance of the order. The SPL volunteered to do this and said he had an idea and left the room to get set up.


As we started the election process, the SPL gave a great talk about what the Order was all about, and how all three of the candidates on the ballot were very deserving and wouldn't be on the ballot if they weren't. Then, the other two lads both got up and publically declared to the Scoutmaster that they knew some of the Scouts were campaigning against the other lad, and were prepared to name names, and if they were elected and the other boy wasn't, they wouldn't accept because the election wouldn't be fair. Then they went over and sat next to the other lad, as if daring the rest of the unit to turn them all down, as the SPL stood there with the biggest grin on his face. I could see the Scoutmaster getting choked up with pride.


All three were elected in to the Order on the very first ballot - and this was the only time I ever announced the results of the election at a meeting. I heard later that the Scouts campaigning against the lad quit Scouts before the end of the year - in 4 years, neither had gotten past 2nd class.


I don't know if this helps or not - you would have the option of making him the sole candidate, but it would be unfair to anyone else who might be eligible for election. I have heard rumors that Scoutmasters in some units have told the Scouts flat out in the meeting before the scheduled election meeting that they WILL vote for EVERY person who is nominated, and that if those nominated weren't all elected, certain trips just might not take place that year because there wouldn't be any adult leaders available to take them. The OA would, of course, frown on this, but the reality is there would be no way to stop it if we didn't witness such a talk.



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I've got to say Calico, reading about a SM dictating OA elections is horrible. How can everyone nominated be elected? Let's say you've got 5 eligble Scouts but your allotment is 2 nominees, how is that resolved? Why would the SM "control" certain outings as punishment? I think a SM flogging is due.

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I don't want this post to come off the wrong way, but want to look for a second at the reasons why a scout may vote against a special needs scout in an OA election. I'm not going to propose any solutions, but I think looking at the causes may help come up with some.

Perhaps this has to do with the nature of what we ask Scouts to look for in OA candidates. You are a young, tenderfoot or second class scout. You most likely don't know that exact nature of the SN Scouts situation. You may not even know that he has any special needs. You do know that he goofs off some (a lot) of the time; he doesn't always do what is asked of him, and has a hard time understanding concepts. He may have strange eating habits, and to accommodate him your patrol always has to have oranges at lunch. Socially, he is awkward to be around, and can't maintain a conversation very well. He occasionally has anger management problems.

Now let's look at the questions that scouts are asked to consider when evaluating OA candidates, and their potential answers.

"Who is pleasant and easy to get along with?"

Well, he is sort of pleasant, but I have a hard time talking to him, and haven't been able to develop a relationship with him.

"Is he kind and helpful?"

Sometimes, when he is able to, he helps. But he isn't always able to

"Who obeys promptly and cheerfully?"

Well, he is usually happy. But he sometimes has problems obeying.

"Does he control his temper"

No, not really

"If you were at camp with him for several weeks, would you enjoy it"

I don't know. I think I would get tired of dealing with him after a while



I realize that in your case this SN scout might be high-functioning enough to not necessarily elicit these responses, but I think I could easily see a young scout being able to answer the questions these ways, and if I answered "no" or "not really" to that many questions, I probably wouldn't vote for a scout to be an OA member.

So you may have a case of ignorance, rather than malicious action (as I think was evident in Calico's case) that causes him to not be elected.

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ASM915 and Fellow Arrowmen,




How do you get the other Scouts to understand .......?


I think you nailed this question.


It is nearly impossible to get anyone else to do exactly what you want.


To make it personal. I look at the TV news, the political debates, and sometimes I look at my boss. Sometimes I say. "No, you're doing it all wrong" "Don't you know how to do this?!" "Let me show you how to do it!"


I haven't really told my boss that yet, but sometimes I say it to the TV.


In all my (limited) power... All I can do is attempt to get my boss to understand. Only by discussing, illustrating, explaining.


My hat's off to the Scoutmaster or Advisor whose Troop does exactly what they want. Sometimes those Scoutmasters have "the gift of gab" and the Scouts listen to their every word.


During OA elections, I illustrate and explain (or endorse) to attempt to get my Scouts to understand.


I always recommend two specific actions.


To illustrate, I use pre-printed ballots (and golf pencils) with all the eligible Scouts on the ballot. The names are already there, all they need to do is circle. I can't prove it, but I would expect the yield of Arrowmen Ordeal candidates increase with units that use pre-printed ballots.


To explain, My second recommendation would be a Scoutmaster endorsement just before the election. Nearly quoting some of the criteria from the OA election guide. I state something like this....

"All of these candidates, in my opinion, have set

the best examples of brotherhood, cheerfulness,

and service. I, Mr Scoutmaster, personally believe each of these candidates will continue in unselfish service to our troop. Each of these candidates have camped with you, these candidates have helped you with advancement, some of these candidates have staffed summer camp. I endorse each and every one of these candidates for the Order of the Arrow. It would just be a shame if any of these candidates were not elected"


Still, I can't prove it. But I would expect the election statistics would improve.


Good Luck in getting the other Scouts to understand!!


Scouting Forever and Venture On!

Crew21 Adv

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A great way to make elections fairer and reduce "popularity contests" would be to get the chapter or lodge to send members (preferably from another troop) to the meeting to hold the elections.


Before the elections start, have the senior member of this OA team give a presentation on what a good candidate would be.


On a side note: Just want to congratulate Jake Wellman on his selection as the National Order of the Arrow Chief. He is great young man and will do great things for the Order.

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I've spoken to my troop members the week prior to the OA coming and encouraged them to think about the upcoming election. I always remind them that they can vote for each and every candidate, and it's certainly not an issue if everyone gets elected. (That's only happened once in our troop).


For the SN scout, can you give him some special assignment a few weeks before the election? Maybe teach a special camping skill, something that he's really in to??? These kids have short memories, and often elections are based on their latest interactions with the young man.

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All Scouts can be elected, but they don't have to be. In the old system where only half the eligible scouts could get elected each year, you would end up with a pecking order of the Worthly Scouts. It would sometime take 3-4 years for a worthy Scout to get elected. The new system of letting the Scouts voted for as many as were eligible eliminated that. However, it introduced the possibility for unworthy Scouts to get elected. Ultimately, the decision for who is eligible is based on the Scouts as it was then. With proper education, most of them would make the right decision on how to select which may or may not be everyone based on who the Scoutmaster deems as worthy. The candidates coming into the OA are definately older than they were under the old policy, but that probably isn't a bad thing.

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"The candidates coming into the OA are definately older than they were under the old policy, but that probably isn't a bad thing."



I am not convinced of that! It might be so in your Lodge but I am guessing that in my lodge the average age has decreased.


I think anything the SM does for one candidate, even a SN scout, that he does not do for all other candidates would constitute campagining which should not be allowed. If the scouts fail to elect a great candidate so be it. That is simply the way it is. It has nothing to do with fairness. If fairness was the primary reason for any one candidate receiving a vote then I'm doubtful that anyone would get a second chance.

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To build on Local's comment - I've heard more than a few Scoutmasters and Committee Chairs express frustration over the OA election process in the past, especially when candidates they have deemed worthy aren't voted in by the members of the unit. Not only do they express disappointment in the members of their unit who don't vote for some of the Scouts, they express much frustration over the whole election process that puts them in a position to be disappointed in their boys.


These leaders then tend to react in one of two ways (that I know of). They either tell the election team they've held their own election, thank you very much, and here are the boys that have been voted in (units can't hold their own elections but when push comes to shove, most Council's won't back their Lodge if they try to enforce it - better for the Lodge to be hacked off at them then a bunch of leaders from different Troops who could decide to tell them where to go when it comes time for FOS presentations), or they just decide that the OA has no place within their Troop and never participate.


Now I don't have a suggestion for a solution - I'm not sure the election system should be scrapped, but I sympathize with the frustrations of the unit leaders.



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