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jsychk

Need guidance please

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Hi, I am a mom of 3 scouts. My oldest is in Boy Scout and the youngest twos are in Cub Scout. My oldest has been a scout since Tiger, and I worked closely with him for 5 years as one of the Pack leaders. After he crossed over, I asked my husband to keep a tap on him while I focus on my two younger ones with the Cub Scout. 

My oldest had been going to camp out every month for 1.5 years since he joined the troop. This summer, he went to a week out-of-state camp. In the middle of the camp, the troop called us and asked us to pick him up. My husband drove several hours to retrieve him and brought him back. Next we know, it seems there are my son's version and the leader's version of the incident. 

The incident is about bullying one kid. After the incident, the leader interrogated each involved scout in the tent alone. At the end, the leaders concluded that my son and another scout (along with other scouts) lured the kid into the wood with sharpened sticks and want to do something to him. Few weeks later, we are told that my son would be suspended for 6 months. 

Actually I have heard about this kid quite a bit from my son because my son complained that he got so much privilege from his mom at the camp. For example, when the patrol burned the food and everyone got nothing to eat, this kid's mother delivered him a meal. Or, when every scout slept in the hot tent, this kid stayed with his parent in an "air-conditioned" tent.  I don't know if this is the norm, but I think some boys gradually didn't see it fair and excluded the kid naturally. 

My son ensured that nobody planned to hurt the kid at all. At the camp, the scouts played with each other as usual. After being told not to climb trees, they decided to run a club, created races and set up trials for the club. Out of a sudden, one scout played with an idea of asking the kid to join, knowing that the kid would probably fail all the trials. The kid happily accepted the invitation and went along. At the end, he failed all the trials except "sharping the stick". The kid still wanted to join the club, so the others continued to play (with) him. At some point, they played a game and asked the kid to hide inside the tent, and the others tried to catch him out of a surprise. The kid escaped and one boy tackled him. Then, the adults got involved. In the process of the interrogation, my son said the leader repeatedly asked the same question until he agreed to it even he knew nothing about it.

I understand the BS is taken after the military, but is this the procedure to punish boys in this situation? For half a year? We talked to my son several times and he said he learned his mistake. Until few days ago, he still couldn't sleep well and had nightmares about it. I asked him if he wants to change troop. He said no because he has friends there but I don't know what he will face after 6 months?! Need guidance please....

 

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At the end, the leaders concluded that my son and another scout (along with other scouts) lured the kid into the wood with sharpened sticks and want to do something to him. Few weeks later, we are told that my son would be suspended for 6 months. 

Has your son apologized to his victim, his troop?  

If the SM followed procedure, he reported this incident to Council which would make joining another unit difficult.

 

Edited by RememberSchiff
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Who determined that your scout was suspended for 6 months, Council or the troop?  As mentioned above, it should be investigated by Council and they should be the ones to determine if there's a cease participation situation.

This club the boys tried to create might fall under the "no secret societies" aspect of YPT, but I'm not sure if we have enough information on that.

The preferential treatment aspect is a problem, but I think separate from the cease participation issue.

We had an incident that allegedly happened at one of our final campouts in 2017 that only a few parents knew about.  They never mentioned it to adult leadership. Whatever happened, happened in a tent, so we were not aware of it during that trip.  It came up at summer camp and because it occurred outside of our Council, the accused scout was issued a cease participation order from Council until they could investigate. They later cleared the scout as the story changed so many times and even the worst version was a request for something improper.

Has your Council investigated the incident?

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Establishing a "club" with initiation "trials" is defined as "hazing" and is strictly prohibited (except for Order of the Arrow which is sanctioned by BSA and strictly monitored by adults).  While I would have handled it differently, I will not second guess the adults who were there.

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5 hours ago, jsychk said:

...  some boys gradually didn't see it fair and excluded the kid naturally. 

... Out of a sudden, one scout played with an idea of asking the kid to join, knowing that the kid would probably fail all the trials. ...

I understand the BS is taken after the military, but is this the procedure to punish boys in this situation? For half a year? We talked to my son several times and he said he learned his mistake. Until few days ago, he still couldn't sleep well and had nightmares about it. I asked him if he wants to change troop. He said no because he has friends there but I don't know what he will face after 6 months?! Need guidance please....

 

If your son wasn't a bully, he was complicit in bullying.

Hard truth: you have no idea if he learned his mistake.

That will likely be determined by how he behaves among his friends in the next six months.

Bottom line: scouts stand up for each other or they stand down. 

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7 hours ago, jsychk said:

the leader interrogated each involved scout in the tent alone

 

7 hours ago, jsychk said:

my son complained that he got so much privilege from his mom at the camp.

 

7 hours ago, jsychk said:

Then, the adults got involved. In the process of the interrogation, my son said the leader repeatedly asked the same question until he agreed to it even he knew nothing about it.

There is a lot going on here.  The interrogation alone in the tent, if just a Scout and the leader could be another whole issue.

Obviously there were some bad decisions made by the Scouts.  That in and of itself is not shocking.  Key is your son needs to take responsibility for his actions.  Whether he learns and grows from this is purely on him, sounds like he does understand their actions were not correct.  Key is to make sure he is truly sorry and willing to make amends, not just sorry for being caught

Separate issue 1, and this in no way excuses what happened, is the concern over "special privileges" for one scout.  In general this can lead to bad feelings and the Scout being ostracized by his peers.  Unless there the Scout has special needs.  Not sure how to best approach that challenge in light of what seems to have occurred

Separate issue 2, and in no way does this mitigate what happened, is possibly the handling by the unit.  That may take some deeper discussion.  If as you indicated the Scout who was the victim in the issue had his parent, or parents at camp, they may have had influence in the tenor of the investigation.  This may be a calm meeting to be had and bring the concern to troop committee.  The unit seems to have needed to address the issue.  The question may be was it handled correctly and with concern for all parties.

Your final question is but is this the procedure to punish boys in this situation? For half a year?  Could be yes to both questions.  Certainly it appears that Scouts were doing something and it possibly escalated beyond the original intention.  That needs to be addresses so there should be some consequences.  The six months does not seem at the surface to be out of proportion to the events

Last advice as noted may be to have a calm and wide ranging conversation with the SM, committee, leaders at camp, etc.

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I'm not sure I'm following the chain of events with the boys here.  Sounds like they came up with the idea for a club, decided to invite the kid to join as a goof, decided to have everyone rush the kid, and then one of the boys tackled him.  Then it escalated to the world of adults.

These kind of things are always tough for this forum.  We can only go on what's written here.  So, we really can only guess as to why the adults did what they did.  As a parent here, I'd probably tell my son to accept the punishment, learn from the experience, and move on.  Whether it was an appropriate punishment for what happened is kind of secondary.  To me the key phrase is - if you play with fire, sometimes you get burned.

My lessons from this would be:

  • it is never good to start goofing or picking on another scout.  If this kid was part of the group, this would never have happened.  If they ignored him, this never would have happened
  • adults take concerns about violence very seriously.  Don't put them in the position to have to guess

Is a suspension appropriate or normal?  Sure - troops can do pretty much whatever they want to in this regard.  Suspensions are perfectly legit when they see extreme behavior.

There are certainly some things one could feed back to the troop - the preferential treatment of the scout and the grilling by the adults - perhaps even alone.  I'd let it be and move on.  Whether it was an extreme reaction or not is a judgement call.  I'd focus on what your son can learn from the experience and move on.

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11 hours ago, jsychk said:

 I think some boys gradually didn't see it fair and excluded the kid naturally. 

This is the line that troubles me the most. Exclusion is never "natural," it's always a choice. They could have chosen to ignore their perception of what is fair or not, and included him anyway, but they didn't - they chose to treat the boy differently. As soon as that happens, you're starting on a path to trouble. And it would seem that pretty quickly, they reached their destination.

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7 hours ago, RememberSchiff said:

If the SM followed procedure, he reported this incident to Council which would make joining another unit difficult.

Not necessarily.  The council would have to do an investigation and reach conclusions.  Generally though, councils don't want to get into these incidents unless it's much more extremely.  Also, councils understand that a kid having trouble in one unit can shine in another.  

I've seen situations multiple times where scouts transfer when things like this happen.  IMHO, you really need to ask if your son will get a fair shot later and if you trust the leaders to treat him fairly.  If you do, then work through the issues.  If you have doubts, look for another unit.  

Also, six months is a long time.  It's long enough to form different habits.  

Also, just because your kid is suspended from the troop doesn't mean your kid is suspended from his friends.  He can still invite them over and socialize.  IMHO, I'd definitely do that.  Help your son keep his friendships.

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12 hours ago, jsychk said:

... but I think some boys gradually didn't see it fair and excluded the kid naturally. 

 

33 minutes ago, The Latin Scot said:

This is the line that troubles me the most. Exclusion is never "natural," it's always a choice. They could have chosen to ignore their perception of what is fair or not, and included him anyway, but they didn't - they chose to treat the boy differently. As soon as that happens, you're starting on a path to trouble. And it would seem that pretty quickly, they reached their destination.

 

I mostly agree.  I've seen this pattern in the past.  It's a time bomb waiting to off.  I'm sure the leaders saw lots of little warning signs.  They did not recognize they needed to take action or did not know how to take action.   When I've seen this in the past, there were months and months of small incidents that damaged the relationships.  Unfairness.  Imbalance.  Frustrations.  Grievances. 

  • These little incidents could have been learning opportunities.  Instead big damaged was done by one larger incident.  The key is that this is a learning situation that could have been intervened in much much earlier. Plus it's the nature of groups to identify a problem member and isolate them.  The leaders could have worked the smaller incidents and taught life long lessons.  
  • Another key point I've learned is it's rarely a single person at fault.  Maybe someone instigated.  But another followed.  Others participated.  It's rarely a single person that should be punished.  
  • Hazing and no secret societies ... few scouts go through Guide To Safe Scouting.  1.5 years of camping means a 12 or 13 year old scout.  He's hardly the most qualified.  At that age, I'm sure kids can form "clubs" that are pretty much "hey, lets be a club".  ... Also let's not over-reach.  Kids group together all the time and claim their space.  We teach them the idea of a "patrol" and it's essentially a private cub.  Adding rules and overhead can be just game play.  In this case, it was an unsupervised game that went bad.  

Things went bad and the leaders had to handle it.  But from what I've read so far, it does not sound well handled.  Instead, it seems like the leaders isolated an individual labeling him the same as the club of scouts did for the individual scout that did not fit in.

Edited by fred johnson

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Thank you so much for each of you who take your time and tell me what you think about my situation. I really appreciate it! Although I am in CS for 7 years, I have no idea how the BS works. I have a few things I would like to respond:

  • Since my husband handles the case with the BS leaders, I don't know if the Council investigated the case or not. In fact, my husband didn't ask any question when they told him the verdict over the phone. I would like to know whether my son can do any service project or go to merit badge university?! I don't think suspension is a good punishment because my son is probably fine staying at home and reading books. I think they should still allow him and the group to join the activities but use their free/fun time on the site to do some extra work, like moving rocks at the river or building a fence, just do some labor work that benefits others. I do see this as a learning opportunity for him because I rather see him making a mistake at 12, not 22 or 32. 
     
  • "Key is to make sure he is truly sorry and willing to make amends, not just sorry for being caught" is so true. After the incident, my son has created a booklet to keep track of himself doing 10 nice things a day. He said this will help him to make it as a habit. I hope that's genuine. At home, he is responsible. Over the summer, he did all our laundry, put up dishes, take the dog out several times a day, mow the lawn. Sometimes, he even helps his brothers with their homework. He did it with good attitude. Therefore, getting a call from the troop was very shocking to us. We asked my son to write  his statement of the incident, he did tell the boy who tackled the kid to "let him go" and the boy did. At the end, my son is one of the two who got kicked out from the camp. The other one is the one who tackled the kid. For the rest of the group (about 10 boys), they called their parents. 
     
  • "the Scout who was the victim in the issue had his parent, or parents at camp, they may have had influence in the tenor of the investigation" ~ this is what my husband thinks because the victim's parent(s) attend each one of the camp. In the past, my husband said something like the kid is fine himself but the mom enables him to be annoying and not fitting in with others. Due to the popcorn, I had a brief encounter with the mom last year. I think she is an older mom who has only one son, so she does all she can to protect the kid and rescue him in all occasions. 
     
  •  "you really need to ask if your son will get a fair shot later and if you trust the leaders to treat him fairly.  If you do, then work through the issues.  If you have doubts, look for another unit." That's a really helpful insight and advice for me. I told my son that if he decides to go back after 6 months, he has to be extremely behaved in every action and earn back the trust from everyone in the troop. It's not gonna be easy, but I think it's up to him. Since my son doesn't have a phone, I do let him to use my phone and have some contact with his scout friends. I just hope he won't give up scouting after 6 months. 

    It's been a long day since I have a Pack meeting to prepare for today. Thanks again for your insight and support. Good night to you all...

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12 hours ago, jsychk said:

... I would like to know whether my son can do any service project or go to merit badge university?! I don't think suspension is a good punishment because my son is probably fine staying at home and reading books. I think they should still allow him and the group to join the activities but use their free/fun time on the site to do some extra work, like moving rocks at the river or building a fence, just do some labor work that benefits others. ...

How much suspended scouts may participate in Projects and MBU participation depends on the SM. Outside of scouting, there are lots of service opportunities. And, really, nobody can stop a boy from going to the library and reading up on the material he needs for any MB that he's interested in.  That will prepare him for when he is permitted to meet with a counselor.

13 hours ago, jsychk said:

... Therefore, getting a call from the troop was very shocking to us. ...

When we suspend a scout, the SM and CC pay a visit to the parents in person. Even so, in these situations, there comes a point where you all have to agree to disagree.

13 hours ago, jsychk said:

... I just hope he won't give up scouting after 6 months. ...

That is most scouters' hope ... thus a suspension rather than an expulsion.

But, also keep in mind that it isn't just about the boy being punished. Sometimes, a problem is more pervasive than they boys who were suspended. Six months gives the boys time to show their true colors. If issues continue, there are fewer obvious targets to point the finger to.

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13 hours ago, jsychk said:

Thank you so much for each of you who take your time and tell me what you think about my situation. I really appreciate it! Although I am in CS for 7 years, I have no idea how the BS works. I have a few things I would like to respond:

  • Since my husband handles the case with the BS leaders, I don't know if the Council investigated the case or not. In fact, my husband didn't ask any question when they told him the verdict over the phone. I would like to know whether my son can do any service project or go to merit badge university?! I don't think suspension is a good punishment because my son is probably fine staying at home and reading books. I think they should still allow him and the group to join the activities but use their free/fun time on the site to do some extra work, like moving rocks at the river or building a fence, just do some labor work that benefits others. I do see this as a learning opportunity for him because I rather see him making a mistake at 12, not 22 or 32. 
      
  • "Key is to make sure he is truly sorry and willing to make amends, not just sorry for being caught" is so true. After the incident, my son has created a booklet to keep track of himself doing 10 nice things a day. He said this will help him to make it as a habit. I hope that's genuine. At home, he is responsible. Over the summer, he did all our laundry, put up dishes, take the dog out several times a day, mow the lawn. Sometimes, he even helps his brothers with their homework. He did it with good attitude. Therefore, getting a call from the troop was very shocking to us. We asked my son to write  his statement of the incident, he did tell the boy who tackled the kid to "let him go" and the boy did. At the end, my son is one of the two who got kicked out from the camp. The other one is the one who tackled the kid. For the rest of the group (about 10 boys), they called their parents. 
     
  • "the Scout who was the victim in the issue had his parent, or parents at camp, they may have had influence in the tenor of the investigation" ~ this is what my husband thinks because the victim's parent(s) attend each one of the camp. In the past, my husband said something like the kid is fine himself but the mom enables him to be annoying and not fitting in with others. Due to the popcorn, I had a brief encounter with the mom last year. I think she is an older mom who has only one son, so she does all she can to protect the kid and rescue him in all occasions. 
      
  •  "you really need to ask if your son will get a fair shot later and if you trust the leaders to treat him fairly.  If you do, then work through the issues.  If you have doubts, look for another unit." That's a really helpful insight and advice for me. I told my son that if he decides to go back after 6 months, he has to be extremely behaved in every action and earn back the trust from everyone in the troop. It's not gonna be easy, but I think it's up to him. Since my son doesn't have a phone, I do let him to use my phone and have some contact with his scout friends. I just hope he won't give up scouting after 6 months. 

"Suspension" ... I've never liked suspensions either.  How is it a lesson when you remove from an organization that is supposed to teach him positive values, good decision making and good behavior.  It seems like you are throwing adrift.  If the troop needs to ask the scout to leave, I can understand.  But a six month time out is huge.  It's somewhere between 10% and 20% of an average scouting career.  Personally, I'd find another unit or somewhere else to spend my time.  

"kid is fine himself but the " <mom/dad> ... I swear this is a common pattern.  I've seen kids that are reasonably okay on their own get then have their behavior change when the parents are around and it often ends with the group of scouts alienating / ostracizing the scout.  I have come to believe that scouts is best when the kids can reasonably function on their own or with a bit of guidance.  Or, if the parent can separate themselves sufficiently.  All too often the parent/child dynamic damages the scouting experience both for themselves and for others. 

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After the incident, my husband drove several hours to take our son home. Few days later, my husband had a brief meeting with the troop leaders when the troop came back from the camp. I don't know if this considers a "paying a visit"? Overall, it's mostly handled by phone calls between the leader(s) and my husband. Another thing is...my son said he was given no food when he was put in a place alone while waiting for my husband to pick him up at the camp (the camp site is 8 hours away). Although he probably missed a couple meals, I thought it's kinda strange. However, it may give him a taste of real hunger because he is a picky eater (with a certain food allergies).  

The leaders told my husband that my son hates the kid repeatedly. After "discussing" with our son, we asked him why he doesn't like the kid. Here's what he wrote:

"Why I dislike the kid, I guess the best explanation is jealousy, because I can't put "I have no idea why I dislike the kid." I admit I was jealous of the fact that he had a lot of stuff I didn't, and I, like some other people, thought he was a little too "pampered." We also found him rather annoying. I know they say just stay away, but for some reason, he (the kid) followed us around; and it kind of built up over the months. Some scouts, me and another boy included, noticed his parents are more protective than ours, and found it unfair that they fought his battles for him (figuratively, of course.). While in this case, it's obvious that they have to step in, they sometimes step in for things as silly as an argument about who's tent goes where. The scout movement supports independence, but in my own and several other's opinions, his parents shouldn't be so heavily involved in scout's affairs. Again, this is only an opinion and I am not telling his parents how to parent their kid, as I (obviously) have no experience in this area. I am simply stating my opinions as asked. I did not exclude him because of his differences, because then I would have to exclude everybody, as everybody has their differences. I am aware that most of you reading this don't believe a single word of this, but as I said at the beginning, I don't know why I don't like him and  I can't write a paper on that. I had to write something, so I wrote the most logical reason why I dislike him."

We also asked my son to write about the incident earlier. It's rather long, but I think my husband sent both copies to the troop leader before the verdict...just let them read my son's side of the story as the one-on-one interrogation didn't show that.  
 

Edited by jsychk

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52 minutes ago, jsychk said:

Another thing is...my son said he was given no food when he was put in a place alone while waiting for my husband to pick him up at the camp (the camp site is 8 hours away). Although he probably missed a couple meals, I thought it's kinda strange. However, it may give him a taste of real hunger because he is a picky eater (with a certain food allergies). 

Well, you definitely can't do THAT.  And that's totally apart from the fact that you probably paid for those meals when you paid your son's camp fee.  He (and you) forfeited the meals from the day(s) he was no longer there, but for a wide variety of reasons, he was entitled to eat while he was there.  If you want to give your son "a taste of real hunger" that is your call, except that if any child protection agency folks got wind of it, they might decide it was not your call.  It definitely was not the adult troop leaders' call.

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