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Twocubdad

Interrogating Scouts

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INTERROGATION - As for this specific incident... Completely inappropriate. It's abusive. Period. It will be the most vivid memory of camp for all those scouts and probably the trigger to end more than one scouting experience. If the camp staffers really feel it's that significant, work with the unit leaders, call the cops or throw us out of camp.

As a unit leader ... If I was feeling at all uncomfortable with what they were doing, I'd put a stop to it.  In fact, I'd try to understand what they were going to do BEFORE the interrogations started.  I'd hope I could re-route the process to something less damaging.

It took me a long time as the unit leader to develop expertise and get comfortable with telling other adults and staffers NO.  If you represent a scouting unit, you are responsible for those scouts.  Not the camp staffers.  Not the leaders of another troop. In our troop, I hope our units have purged out habits based on humiliating, intimidating or pressuring scouts. Unfortunately, other units regularly use those habits to run their troops.

JAMBOREE - I've heard too many interesting stories about Jamboree incidents (shower houses, intimidation, punishments, treating scouts like little kids, ...).  I can easily see how tensions rise and incidents happen. I won't send any of my other sons to a Jamboree or recommend any scouts in my units go unless I can be a leader or personally have seen all the adult leaders in action.  It's risking too much at too much of a cost.

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Staff actions were over the line.

 

Fred, I agree--the unit scouters are responsible for the welfare of their scouts...if staff is out of line, scout leaders can and should tell staffers to "stand down." I too learned this the hard way.

 

As with any organization, especially a closeknit and isolated one like a camp staff, certain behaviors and attitudes develop. They can be good, but they can be bad as well, as evidenced by the case presented in the original post. A little too full of themselves. If a crime was committed, call the cops. If not, then a course of action should be decided jointly between camp director and SM.

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IANAL, but my understanding would be that camp staff cannot detain people against their wishes at all, but on the other hand, they could make it a condition of staying on the property. I'm trying to imagine what right the leaders might have (and since I am one, I do wonder about what my own legal status is in terms of giving actual orders to Scouts) - but I doubt there is any legal right to be present when someone else is talking to one of your Scouts. Is there a difference between a 'formal investigation' and some 'informal inquiries'? "Hey, do you know who did this?" I doubt that legally there's a difference.

 

But I'm just speculating based on my own knowledge and experience - I'd like to know what the real answer is. I'll point out that most of us probably don't know our full rights even as parents of kids. Where exactly do my rights as a parent end and the rights of the state begin?

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With the legal department (Beavah and NJ) apparently back from vacation, I'm bumping the thread for their input.

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I agree. I look forward to seeing what Beavah and NJ say. I learn much from their posts.

 

I'm betting the key is that ... we as scouts and scouters only succeed by the unstated agreement to work together.

 

 

"giving orders to scouts" - Legally, we have no authority. Scouts have to be willing to accept our direction. If that relationship breaks down, our only recourse is to call their parents to pick them up or call the police because we are no longer responsibile for the health and welfare of the scout. We hand off that responsibility to someone with proper authority (parent or police).

 

 

 

"asking to be present when a scout is questioned"

 

- By camp staff - We have no right but you can expect it anyway ... because scout camps don't have authority to detain and question scouts. They have the legal right to ask us to leave their property, but not to imprison and function as their own police force, judge and jury. At best, they can detain someone if they are calling the police (i.e. a citizen's arrest) but they better be ready to demonstrate that a crime occured and that this is the person who did it.

 

- By police - We have no right period. Our only recourse is to immediately call the parents and support what they want to do.

 

 

I look forward to what others say.

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Ah, what tempests in teapots we create in this beautiful Scoutin' land of ours! :)

 

I think the BM thing happens because lots of younger lads just aren't used to pit toilets, eh? We have a lot more city kids who've only been on porcelain, and da BALOO rules for cubs make it less likely that cub scouts have pit toilet experience. So they hold it and hold it, tryin' to avoid the pit toilet. But when they get in a shower the warm water and such just triggers the body's automatic responses and there yeh have it. A young lad is goin' to be WAAYYYY too embarrassed to own up to that, eh? So I think yeh just have to deal with such things with patience and compassion.

 

As for da rest, nah, there's no particular policy guidance on respondin' to vandalism. Some general stuff, similar to the G2SS stuff on youth discipline. Be constructive and all that. Might have changed, the books only get bigger not smaller, eh? ;) Sometimes local councils have their own procedures.

 

The way these things should be handled, of course, is collaboratively with the unit leaders on site, usually with da unit leaders takin' the lead role with the boys. Senior camp staff should be approachin' Scoutmasters, not boys. If the unit leaders don't/won't do the right thing, then yeh ask the entire unit to leave, or (more commonly) never invite 'em back and send a note to their CO and home council. So personally I find what Twocubdad describes to be so far over the line as to border on the bizarre. I'd be havin' a serious sit down with the Camp Director and Scout Executive, and perhaps da Council President or Regional folks.

 

As da long-timers on da forums know, I'm a fellow who is absolutely opposed to the modern trend of treatin' youthful behavioral issues as matters for law enforcement. I think it shows utter incompetence on da part of parents/schools/scouters who should have the skills to work with youth. Law enforcement and da courts, quite frankly, do not have those skills. So unless we're talkin' about something like burning down the dining hall or a serious YP issue, I'd hope a camp would just work with da scouters and parents and COs. Happily I didn't see any reference in Twocubdad's stuff to the camp actually callin' law enforcement. If that were to happen, I think da proper role of a unit scouter in such a case is to protect the rights and interests of the boy until the lad's parents can be present.

 

Beavah

 

 

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In this case, the staff treated the Scouts, the unit leaders and in some cases their own staff members as suspects and subjected them all to individual questioning (like a 52-year-old bank executive is likely to write obscenities on the wall, huh?)

 

My real question is what standing does a unit leader have to demand access to the Scouts and/or that questioning be stopped until a parent (or I suppose a lawyer) is present? Who has legal responsibility for the youth, the unit leader or the camp staff?

 

And by the way, I agree with you about the BM situations. We had a situation like that at camp one year. The staff closed the showers for a day demanding the responsible party come forward (right, like someone will admit to that), then demanded the troops in that half of the camp all clean the showers (again, like we can get 150 people in one shower stall to clean it). When I and another SM checked it out, it was evident that some poor kid just had too many helpings of the mac & cheese and exploded a day or two later. And just as important, from a health and sanitation standpoint, we couldn't see having a bunch of kids do the cleaning, so the two of us handled it.

 

But being weird and generally sick individuals, we still had fun with it. We showed up for assembly that night with an "evidence bag" containing a specimen. Coincidentally, the camp dog was a "retired CSI canine" who sniffed the evidence bag and then was led around the assembly looking for a match. Of course it could have just been a Baby Ruth bar in the evidence bag. You know how sleep deprivation and camp food plays tricks with the mind. Funny, there were lots of leftovers after dinner that night.

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