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6 minutes ago, ValleyBoy said:

Well we had one scout that had 27 knife's on him during a camping trip.  His father who was on the camping trip removed all but 2 of the knifes from him.

27!  I think they made a movie about that kid...

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I had a scout bring marijuana to summer camp. His tent was inspected after another scout said he smelled it. It was the right thing to do but that's an extreme case. For medicines and cell phones being found I agree that it should have been clearly explained ahead of time, as none of the scouts were intending to do anything wrong. Even if it wasn't explained it would have been better to just explain it that night and give everyone the option to make things right. I'm a bit surprised the council doesn't collect prescription medicines. At the same time, telling a scout that he can't take his over the counter allergy meds without first walking across camp to get it is just going to encourage a scout to not turn it in.

As usual, this sounds more like a personality problem rather than anything to do with policy. Maybe it was an adult that was getting cranky late in the week or just cranky all the time. Or maybe scouts were pushing his buttons, or maybe the whole troop was getting grumpy for some reason. I've seen a lot of it. You just need two scouts butting heads all week and the SM/SPL/random parents or scouts start getting frustrated.

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The two troops I've been associated with have never searched anything of a scouts, not even their tents, unless there was just cause and even then it was done without advertising it in an open manner following a procedure that is pretty generally accepted. In other words, more than one adult in attendance and unless it was an emergency. Also the scout present as well, again unless it was an emergency. In fact, I've only been present one time when it was done and that was for a scout in an emergency situation.

Generally though, if there is something the scout has that they really shouldn't have we talk with the scout privately. If it was a safety issue, we asked the scout to bring us the item(s) for safe keeping. Otherwise, please put it in the bottom of your bag and don't bring it out again this trip and don't bring it on future trips. 

There are some small items on that though. 

  • 1) I've entered a scout's tent with their permission when they aren't there to do a particular thing. For example, retrieve their item they forgot (that is absolutely needed and my doing so made sense), fix a cot etc
  • 2) I've gone through many a summer camp when a sudden rain shower appears and if I know the tents are open (like my own), I get back and hustle around and close tent flaps. Yes, leaving them open would certainly teach a scout not to leave their flaps open. No, I don't want to deal with scouts having hypothermia because they have wet sleeping gear. No, i don't want to deal with the mildew either. Adults are most often the ones with the open tents unless they know there's a good chance for rain. Now stuff left on the table is mostly fair game. I won't let some things get ruined like scout books/papers, but I'm fine with generally everything else in reason. Items on the clothes line I'll decide if they can re-dry after the rain or if it is bad enough to bring them all down and into a tent. 
  • 3) Scouts who are reported as having or seen as having things that they shouldn't have (like too many knives--yes we've had that too) we talk to the scout privately with another adult present and ask them to bring us the things they shouldn't be having. I carry zip-lock bags for this reason, place in here and let's put your name on it to be returned after camp. I love having my vehicle for this reason. Almost as good as a safe. 
  • 4) On my son's troop we had a campsite "Health Lodge" on every outing. Scouts know to come and treat themselves for minor things, with some adult observation or assistance if needed. Ready supply of Gold Bond available. Also medicine dispensary on hand for the scouts who needed it. (I'm working on getting a campsite health lodge  for my current troop, including updating the first aid box.)
  • 5) Parent approval allowed some scouts to self administer their prescribed medication, but we always reviewed it with the scout in question. Sometimes the scout was taking a medicine they didn't want others to know about. Big thing is there are lots of meds that really are safer in our hands than with the scouts. And lots of medicines that scouts don't want their peers to know about. Meds can be dispensed relatively privately with the scout knowing that if they don't come, we will find them and ask them to drop by for a small chat. We always encourage scouts who are taking meds or not to drop by at times they don't need anything, just so other scouts see them as chatting with adults. Gives them a nice cover if they feel they need it. Gives us a good reason to get in touch with how things are going for everyone. 

One of the things I'm more concerned about these days is how to keep prescriptions safe. It's a problem in some cases where you have to keep it readily available and secure. Can't be at the campsite 24/7. 

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Posted (edited)

I'm surprised at the number of posters who are shocked at the idea of a worried SM searching backpacks. Obviously experiences vary in different parts of the country, but if bag searching isn't yet common for overnight youth activities near you, it probably will be. It would be good for BSA to develop a policy for when and how scout belongings should be searched. Preemptive searching, even if cursory and tied to presentation, makes more sense to me as a deterrent but at the very least BSA ought to give guidance on how a SM or any leader should handle it if they have reason to be concerned.  It seems clear from this very interesting discussion that there doesn't appear to be any kind of policy.  Apart from worries about contraband substances and weapons, smuggled food in bear territory is a real concern. Someone just posted elsewhere on this site about a bear that had to be euthanized after eating contraband food. Say all you want about scout privacy, that scout could have gotten himself or someone else mauled, and the bear died. 

Edited by yknot

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4 minutes ago, yknot said:

I'm surprised at the number of posters who are shocked at the idea of a worried SM searching backpacks. Obviously experiences vary in different parts of the country, but if bag searching isn't yet common for overnight youth activities near you, it probably will be. It would be good for BSA to develop a policy for when and how scout belongings should be searched. Preemptive searching, even if cursory and tied to presentation, makes more sense to me as a deterrent but at the very least BSA ought to give guidance on how a SM or any leader should handle it if they have reason to be concerned.  It seems clear from this very interesting discussion that there doesn't appear to be any kind of policy.  Apart from worries about contraband substances and weapons, smuggled food in bear territory is a real concern. Someone just posted elsewhere on this site about a bear that had to be euthanized after eating contraband food. Say all you want about scout privacy, that scout could have gotten himself or someone else mauled, and the bear died. 

Nobody has a problem with a SM taking actions directly related to addressing safety.  The original posting has zero to do with safety and all to with an over-bearing SM trying to enforce HIS policies,  not the Troop's Youth Leaders' policies.  That is a problem.  Even if it was a health & safety issue, I firmly believe he should still have a second person there as a witness. There's no way in hell I'm rooting around anywhere a scout keeps his underwear without a second set of eyes present. 

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There is no policy, that's the point of this whole interesting discussion. You can say the SM was enforcing 'his' policy, or you can say he was trying to do his best in the absence of any policy. Also, the issue with the original poster seems to be that scouts weren't present. There was no mention that another adult was not present while the search was conducted, which, if not,  I agree is essential to protect both the scout and the person(s) doing the search. However, without a BSA policy, no matter what he does (or any of us would do) in a difficult situation could be construed as wrong.  
 

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55 minutes ago, Pale Horse said:

There's no way in hell I'm rooting around anywhere a scout keeps his underwear without a second set of eyes present. 

Need gloves too.  Gas mask might be prudent as well. 

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1 hour ago, yknot said:

It would be good for BSA to develop a policy 

This is where I disagree. It should be the Chartered Organization's policy that prevails in this situation. If the CO is a church or school that regularly searches the luggage before an overnight trip, then it should be the same with the Boy Scout troop. If the CO doesn't conduct searches, then they shouldn't search the Boy Scouts either.

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1 hour ago, yknot said:

I'm surprised at the number of posters who are shocked at the idea of a worried SM searching backpacks. 

I am surprised at the number of people who are shocked at the idea that a scout leader might see their son's underwear. I grew up in the days when many people still dried their laundry outdoors on a clothes line. We would have laughed at the idea of a boy being embarrassed about a scout leader seeing his underwear. 

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42 minutes ago, yknot said:

There is no policy, that's the point of this whole interesting discussion. You can say the SM was enforcing 'his' policy, or you can say he was trying to do his best in the absence of any policy. Also, the issue with the original poster seems to be that scouts weren't present. There was no mention that another adult was not present while the search was conducted, which, if not,  I agree is essential to protect both the scout and the person(s) doing the search. However, without a BSA policy, no matter what he does (or any of us would do) in a difficult situation could be construed as wrong.  
 

What I find interesting in this topic is the tradeoff between rules & the purposes of Scouting.  We're discussing more about whether a Scoutmaster can search belongings without Scouts present than whether the Scoutmaster should.

it strikes me that it's more beneficial to youth development for searches like this to lead to constructive action and not simply be about finding items. 

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59 minutes ago, Buggie said:

Need gloves too.  Gas mask might be prudent as well. 

Nah, chances are they're still clean. Everyone knows Scouts don't change underwear at camp.

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45 minutes ago, David CO said:

I am surprised at the number of people who are shocked at the idea that a scout leader might see their son's underwear. I grew up in the days when many people still dried their laundry outdoors on a clothes line. We would have laughed at the idea of a boy being embarrassed about a scout leader seeing his underwear. 

Many things have changed since those days, and this is one of them. It's not embarrassment I'm worried about; I'm not embarrassed to see underwear and many Scouts probably aren't either. It's the appearance of impropriety that concerns me though and I have no desire to be accused of anything untoward by the .0001% that would take umbrage against it.

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20 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

What I find interesting in this topic is the tradeoff between rules & the purposes of Scouting.  We're discussing more about whether a Scoutmaster can search belongings without Scouts present than whether the Scoutmaster should.

I would agree with you here if the OP hadn't specifically asked about policy in her opening sentence. I think we are simply responding to her question. 

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Posted (edited)

Thank you all for you thoughtful responses. I wanted to put this out there to temper my initial emotional response and hear varying perspectives.  I have listened and considered each of your points. I do agree that a stronger policy on meds and phones would have spared the troop this misfortune. Thank you to those who pointed that out.

A few answers to queries: I am a trained leader. I have also completed the committee chair training as well as the merit badge counselor training. There was another Scout leader present.  It should be noted both he and the scoutmaster are good friends. This occurred the second morning of camp, before the bottom drops out and everyone gets cranky. (I’ve been with them at camp enough times to know the routine.)

After attending family night last night, it is clear that the boys are not upset about the items that the scoutmaster is claiming as controversial, it was the search without them present. They stated that they would’ve offered up any meds or phones had the SM been prepared with his new policy and had a procedure for collecting those items. As far as should a scoutmaster go through a scout’s belongings without the scout present, I am convinced they should not. (Unless there is an emergency, which this was not.)

Since this incident, the SM has spent more time on his phone both with Council (who I haven’t even contacted yet) and contacting parents of those he confiscated items from, rather than participating with the scouts.  He has not acknowledged the opinions of the boys nor offered an apology for the violation they perceive. The older scouts stated that he has been cold to them, at one point telling them to “build your own damn fire,” during a rainstorm when two patrols were attempting to share a cooking fire. He has not spoken to them directly since he searched their totes.  When I asked them how they could resolve the situation, they stated that they don’t feel a conversation would be welcomed based on his behavior since.  I asked if they had spoken to the SPL. They informed me that he doesn’t like what the SMS did either, but he feels he has to go along with it  😢

There has been a great deal of damage in troop relationships due to his actions (and I’m sure also due to the boys resulting behavior and attitudes) and that is just not what scouting is supposed to be about.  Everyone makes mistakes and part of modeling good scouting and leadership requires one to admit their’s. 

Edited by Scoutmomonly
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