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mab0221

Searching backpacks and tents

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When, if ever, is it acceptable for SM and ASM to suggest/approve a surprise, shake down type of search at weekend campout?   

 

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@mab0221 welcome to scouter.com . This topic is currently under discussion in this thread

 

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3 hours ago, RememberSchiff said:

@mab0221 welcome to scouter.com . This topic is currently under discussion in this thread

 

Yeah, but that thread is dying out.

@Scoutmomonly presented us with a scenario in which the SM and the ASM acted on their own. @mab0221 seems to be asking a question about a SM and ASM who are seeking prior approval to conduct an inspection/search of the tents and backpacks.

Do I understand this correctly?

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When I was a boy scout some of the scouts snuck in booze. It wasn't pretty. You have to remember that the leaders are fully responsible for the safety of all children and also liable. If someone cooks in a tent and sets a fire ablaze - leaders are ultimately liable. Everything might lead to a court case and in that situation then heck yes, they can search bags and tents. Otherwise, if the leaders have nothing but legal exposure, no leaders. School is the same way. 

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I'm torn on this one.  I agree with augustspecht, leaders are responsible for Scouts safety no matter what, and we all know that they've been known to sneak things into camp that they shouldn't  (some adults have been known to as well).  But at the same time I wouldn't want someone going through my things without my permission.  I remember working at Scout camp in the early 90's.  One of the staff was known for his love of illegal substances.  The camp director got wind of it and called in the local Sherriff who went with him into the Scouts trailer at camp and searched his bags.  They found plenty of drugs and ended up firing and called his parents in to pick him up.  I have no idea if charges were filed or if he got in any legal trouble (his father was a long time financer in the council and he tended to get away with just about anything).

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3 hours ago, David CO said:

Yeah, but that thread is dying out.

@Scoutmomonly presented us with a scenario in which the SM and the ASM acted on their own. @mab0221 seems to be asking a question about a SM and ASM who are seeking prior approval to conduct an inspection/search of the tents and backpacks.

Do I understand this correctly?

I suppose I should have been more specific.  The incident has already occurred but there is talk of whether or not it violated BSA guidelines. They did not seek prior approval or attempt proper channels (peers, SPL, ASPL, etc ) of trying to resolve the issue first before immediately jumping to a search.  

Scouts were on a weekend campout. An adult leader claims he smelled a “fruity smell” on a scout’s breath and told the SM.  They decided a search was in order and justified based on the “fruity smell” which made them suspicious of a possible vaping device.  A surprise search of tents and backpacks ensued while the scouts were present.  It was not done secretly behind their backs.  No vaping device was found.  Parents not in attendance were not notified prior to or after.  I believe the other adults on the campout assumed that the proper procedure was being enforced and basically just agreed. I have spoken to the SM and he is adamant that the search was within the guidelines because there was a threat of potential “dangerous contraband”.  

Hope that makes the situation clearer.  Thank you ! 

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They conducted a search and found absolutely nothing? That must have made them look pretty foolish.

 

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Correct.  My questions still remain: Is such a search warranted in this instance?  What is the proper protocol for conducting such a search?   Is a “fruity smell” considered “dangerous contraband”?   

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If it's in bear country, it could be. Where is the scout getting the fruity substance from? Even it's smuggled starbursts and not a vaping device, it's still not safe to have in a tent. Ditto those water flavorings they like to flavor their water with. We tell them not to bring hygiene products that smell like food, even a chap stick, because of bears. It's very hard to know where to draw the line between safety and privacy but when you're responsible for a passel of kids out in the woods somewhere, I tend to side with leaders who take the proactive approach. Just this week someone posted about two bear incidents at scout camp outs. I don't think leaders who are concerned are over reacting. 

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Yah, it's hard to determine the propriety on the concept of smelling something sweet on the breath. Especially since it was determined by one ASM who told the SM. There's lots of things that can lend such a smell. Course here's where I must state that I have no idea of how things smell as I am anosmic (can't perceive any odor i.e. I don't smell anything). What is Fruity to one might be something else sweet to the other. I'm always thinking of diabetic ketoacidosis when someone talks about fruity breath smells. That or candy, breath mints etc. 

Still, you have to also consider if the scout has a history or if the troop has one or if the ASM has a history of encountering these things in other settings.... What motivates the decision on the suspicion? 

One of the problems with suspicion is that we look for things and have confirmation bias when we are looking for it. I had a kid once at a church youth event who was in the AA for teens. He was turning his life around, working at being clean and clear etc. One of the adults from another church chapter found out and had it in for this kid. Knew this kid had to be bad. And gee, the kid did looked and acted a little rough like he came from a bad environment. BECAUSE HE HAD! Yet here he was turning himself into a different person. 

Anyway, this was a huge event involving not only our multi-state region, but another multi-state region. Our kid fell in with some of their kids because of similar likes in music, hacky sack etc and at the end of event dance he was hanging out with them when they passed him a can of coke. Except the can contained more than just coke. Our kid took a sip, threw on the ground, and got very angry at these people. Immediately went and got an adult involved etc. He then needed to go make a call to his AA counselor (this was in the 80s, no cellophones). That adult who was looking for a reason heard there was an issue involving alcohol and went quickly into the fray trying to be the enforcer etc.  Long story short, that adult was informed he would never be allowed at any events outside of his own church and a report was sent to his church as well. Yah, it was pretty messed up. 

As to your questions: 

Depends on what sort of history is going on here, but basically if you can state your case to where another adult (SM here) agrees, then yes you can conduct a search. Hindsight can't play a role. It's what going on then and what has happened before that helps sway our judgement. 

There isn't a protocol listed anywhere. Common sense tells you that you had better have appropriate controls over the search, but hey! Who operates on common sense all the time? I agree that it is wise to think ahead and have a troop plan on how to handle searches so that everyone can think about it rationally and with leisure. Haste doesn't lend itself to rational thought all the time. 

Personally, without some historical evidence lending to this decision, I'd want some secondary confirmation. And then I would want to take time to talk about it with other scouters. Not saying that vaping is harmless or good etc, but it won't kill anyone immediately (unless the vape explodes, but that's another story). 

You can hide all sorts of stuff in all sorts of ways. Just searching a tote or tent isn't going to necessarily find anything. If you have time and can watch a scout for clues to what they are doing, and see if it occurs more than once then you have more of a rational reason to do it.  

As to if the SM etc have the right? Absolutely. Should they exercise that right because they have it? Only when it is prudent. And you are going to have arguments on how prudent it is unless there's ample evidence before hand that it's a good idea. And even then, there are folks who are going to argue the legality. 

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12 minutes ago, Buggie said:

I'm always thinking of diabetic ketoacidosis when someone talks about fruity breath smells. 

That was my first thought. But vaping is another possibility. 

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43 minutes ago, mab0221 said:

Correct.  My questions still remain: Is such a search warranted in this instance?  What is the proper protocol for conducting such a search?   Is a “fruity smell” considered “dangerous contraband”?   

What is your personal concern about the search? Why do you want to pursue this? 

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If you have a diabetic kid in your troop, I would hope the leaders would already know that because they would have medical records on hand. You can sometimes have spontaneous cases suddenly present -- and cold weather can sometimes be a trigger that raises developing or latent cases to a level of diagnosis -- but a fruity smell on a kid is more likely the result of something fruity he's gotten into lol.

 

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8 hours ago, augustspecht said:

When I was a boy scout some of the scouts snuck in booze. It wasn't pretty. You have to remember that the leaders are fully responsible for the safety of all children and also liable. If someone cooks in a tent and sets a fire ablaze - leaders are ultimately liable. Everything might lead to a court case and in that situation then heck yes, they can search bags and tents. Otherwise, if the leaders have nothing but legal exposure, no leaders. School is the same way. 

 

2 hours ago, yknot said:

If it's in bear country, it could be. Where is the scout getting the fruity substance from? Even it's smuggled starbursts and not a vaping device, it's still not safe to have in a tent. Ditto those water flavorings they like to flavor their water with. We tell them not to bring hygiene products that smell like food, even a chap stick, because of bears. It's very hard to know where to draw the line between safety and privacy but when you're responsible for a passel of kids out in the woods somewhere, I tend to side with leaders who take the proactive approach. Just this week someone posted about two bear incidents at scout camp outs. I don't think leaders who are concerned are over reacting. 

 

1 hour ago, Buggie said:

Yah, it's hard to determine the propriety on the concept of smelling something sweet on the breath. Especially since it was determined by one ASM who told the SM. There's lots of things that can lend such a smell. Course here's where I must state that I have no idea of how things smell as I am anosmic (can't perceive any odor i.e. I don't smell anything). What is Fruity to one might be something else sweet to the other. I'm always thinking of diabetic ketoacidosis when someone talks about fruity breath smells. That or candy, breath mints etc. 

Still, you have to also consider if the scout has a history or if the troop has one or if the ASM has a history of encountering these things in other settings.... What motivates the decision on the suspicion? 

One of the problems with suspicion is that we look for things and have confirmation bias when we are looking for it. I had a kid once at a church youth event who was in the AA for teens. He was turning his life around, working at being clean and clear etc. One of the adults from another church chapter found out and had it in for this kid. Knew this kid had to be bad. And gee, the kid did looked and acted a little rough like he came from a bad environment. BECAUSE HE HAD! Yet here he was turning himself into a different person. 

Anyway, this was a huge event involving not only our multi-state region, but another multi-state region. Our kid fell in with some of their kids because of similar likes in music, hacky sack etc and at the end of event dance he was hanging out with them when they passed him a can of coke. Except the can contained more than just coke. Our kid took a sip, threw on the ground, and got very angry at these people. Immediately went and got an adult involved etc. He then needed to go make a call to his AA counselor (this was in the 80s, no cellophones). That adult who was looking for a reason heard there was an issue involving alcohol and went quickly into the fray trying to be the enforcer etc.  Long story short, that adult was informed he would never be allowed at any events outside of his own church and a report was sent to his church as well. Yah, it was pretty messed up. 

As to your questions: 

Depends on what sort of history is going on here, but basically if you can state your case to where another adult (SM here) agrees, then yes you can conduct a search. Hindsight can't play a role. It's what going on then and what has happened before that helps sway our judgement. 

There isn't a protocol listed anywhere. Common sense tells you that you had better have appropriate controls over the search, but hey! Who operates on common sense all the time? I agree that it is wise to think ahead and have a troop plan on how to handle searches so that everyone can think about it rationally and with leisure. Haste doesn't lend itself to rational thought all the time. 

Personally, without some historical evidence lending to this decision, I'd want some secondary confirmation. And then I would want to take time to talk about it with other scouters. Not saying that vaping is harmless or good etc, but it won't kill anyone immediately (unless the vape explodes, but that's another story). 

You can hide all sorts of stuff in all sorts of ways. Just searching a tote or tent isn't going to necessarily find anything. If you have time and can watch a scout for clues to what they are doing, and see if it occurs more than once then you have more of a rational reason to do it.  

As to if the SM etc have the right? Absolutely. Should they exercise that right because they have it? Only when it is prudent. And you are going to have arguments on how prudent it is unless there's ample evidence before hand that it's a good idea. And even then, there are folks who are going to argue the legality. 

Very helpful. Thank you. 

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Here's the process I suggested in that other thread for conducting a search:

- two adults approach the scout and tell the Scout they have a reason to search the scout' s belongings

- if the Scout objects, an immediate call is made to the parent and the scout goes home.

- if the Scout agrees to the search, it is done in full visibility of the Scout.  Any items confiscated are jointly acknowledged.

- items are returned after the event.

- if something is found of grave consequence a phone call is made to the parents and the scout goes home.

 

This seems to me to be a very appropriate way to handle this.  Scoutmaster absolutely have the right to request a search.  The Scout either accepts or declines the search.  If the Scout declines, then he goes home.  No one is forced to do anything.  The Scout in turn learns a very orderly process for how adults would deal with each other.

 

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