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Safety vs. Inclusion ??

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I'm all for inclusion, but I do want it done in an intelligent, responsible manner that doesn't impose undue burdens on scouters or endanger other scouts.  

I was reading an article about an autistic scout who was not allowed to shoot rifles at a scout camp in Minnesota.  The scouters in charge of the range perceived a potential safety issue that was beyond their experience to confidently handled. For the safety of all on the range (whether real or merely perceived), they didn't let the scout shoot.

His parents complained.

What do you think?  Did the scouters at the range do the right thing?  Should they have let the scout shoot even if they felt it endangered others?  Should the council apologize?  What do you think is the right way to handle this situation?

Story:
https://kstp.com/news/family-says-boy-scout-was-singled-out-for-being-on-autism-spectrum-northern-minnesota/5409365/ 

 

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Posted (edited)

I'm all for safety, and anytime a range safety officer (RSO) feels they aren't equipped to meet necessary safety standards, they should indeed cease operations or limit a Scout's participation.  However, this sentence in particular is especially troubling.

"And he said that, 'Well he's not going to shoot on my range. We've had problems in the past with kids like that,'" James said.

The RSO's concern was not based on anything this particular Scout did, but on the Scouter's prior experience with "those type of kids". That's a problem. 

 

Edited by Pale Horse
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The scouter at the range in this case absolutely did the wrong thing.  I have a special needs daughter and would not have had a problem if she would have not been allowed due to the fact that I know her abilities.  The biggest issue to me is camp staff that do not know how to deal with special needs kids so there fallback position is potential safety issues.  

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23 minutes ago, ValleyBoy said:

The scouter at the range in this case absolutely did the wrong thing.  I have a special needs daughter and would not have had a problem if she would have not been allowed due to the fact that I know her abilities.  The biggest issue to me is camp staff that do not know how to deal with special needs kids so there fallback position is potential safety issues.  

Well! Yes! The scouter was not confident with his skill in working this scout. Soooo, he should proceed outside of his comfort and possibly put others in the area in danger!

It isn't just an issue with this particular situation at summer camp, I've seen it repeated several times over the years with unit leaders. Scouters (volunteers) only have so much experience for the different challenges that confront them. AND, I'm sure it's not the parents first time to run into adults who aren't comfortable working safely with their kids. So, who is responsible?

Parents need to step up an expect to provide the assistance needed for the gap between the adults apprehension and their child's handicapped limitations.  Two friends of mine became Scoutmasters just so their handicapped sons could have a fulfilling scouting experience. 

Barry

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Posted (edited)

Sad that parents or whoever had to escalate this to the broadcast news.  Hasn't scouts been dragged through enough already?  Doesn't the parent want his kid to stay in scouts?  Now, their kid will be eternally known in their troop, in their district and in the local schools as the kid who dragged his own organization into the public opinion space.  I trust the adults to treat the kid fairly, but the other scouts might not as much.  I assume if a family does this, the family is planning to leave scouts.  

BSA and scouting and local volunteers bend over backwards to help kids with special needs.  And, we've had lots of scouts with all sorts of issues.  Now and then adults don't every situation well.  Or specific situations get the better of the leaders.  If this situation is as it was said, then the guy being paid effectively $ 2.00 per hour did not handle it well.  And it's sad because it gives everyone a black eye after all the hard work put in.  No scout should ever hear people asking if they are mentally disturbed.  ... to be honest though, the rest of the story seems reasonable.   ... RSO saying they've had trouble with kids like that is questionable depending on context?  statement is ok if referring to screwing around or not sitting still or not listening or ...  It's not ok if referring to autism ... even then it should be discussed quietly to the side with other adult leaders or camp staff.  Not in front of the scouts.  

I've run BBGun and Archery ranges.  I have asked parents to help kids who need a bit more focus.  I've asked kids to step out because of their behavior.   The point is I was responsible to keep the range safe.   But riffle and shotgun are different than cub camp.  And it needs to be the prerogative of the RSO.  It's their neck if the range is not kept safe.

My issue is I just never seen a scout leader or staffer use those exact words.  As such, it seems like a very one sided representation of a bad situation. ... I have seen scouts use those exact words about each other.  Usually, it's followed with some adult finding an opportunity to coach the scout.  

With that said, we've got multiple scouts in our troop on the autism spectrum disorder scale.  Two of them ... depending time of day ... depending if they took their medicines ... I could see being kicked off the firing range because they can't sit still and listen.  At those times, they will screw around and distract the others.  The RSO needs to maintain control of the range and keep things safe.  If the scouts are squirrel-ly or not listening or screwing around, they should be kicked off the range.  It can be mater of factly handled and bluntly.  ... But the issue is not the diagnosis.  The issue is the specific timing and whether the scouts can participate safely.  

Edited by fred8033
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50 minutes ago, ValleyBoy said:

The scouter at the range in this case absolutely did the wrong thing.  I have a special needs daughter and would not have had a problem if she would have not been allowed due to the fact that I know her abilities.  The biggest issue to me is camp staff that do not know how to deal with special needs kids so there fallback position is potential safety issues.  

I agree and disagree.  IMHO, the RSO handled it poorly.  ... but we need to separate that from the fundamental of his need to teach the scouts and to keep them safe.  A RSO absolutely needs the prerogative to remove scouts who can't listen, can't focus or are screwing around.  From the RSO point of view, it doesn't matter if it's just bad behavior or a disability.  

But the RSO should have handled it better.  

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RSO seems like the RSO you would get from central casting, my way or the highway.  Yes safety is a concern, yes you need to follow all the correct guidelines.  

The parent was there, was going to directly supervise.  A minute or two of quick instruction to the father could have alleviated all of this.  But it was "His" range...so here we are.

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9 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

But the RSO should have handled it better.  

He may have. The story is only one side told by the parent. 

Barry

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1 hour ago, Sentinel947 said:

I was a Rifle Instructor at a Council camp. We had a scout who was autistic. He had a leader from his troop that came with him and helped him shoot. He didn't get the badge because his accuracy wasn't enough to complete the badge, but his leader and I made sure he had fun and the other Scouts were safe

@Sentinel947  Well done.

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2 hours ago, fred8033 said:

@Sentinel947  Well done.

Thanks! If he didn't have his leader, it would have been considerably more challenging. My staff member or I would have had to sit with him the entire session, which would take us away from other kids. Whether he was safe or not at the range was definitely a decision I had to make. Thankfully I had a wonderful RSO/Shooting Sports Director to help with that. 

The first session his Scout leader came with him, introduced himself and explained the Scouts limitations. Unfortunately, the Scout, his family and Troop hadn't talked to the council about alternative or disability adjusted requirements, so I couldn't pass him on requirement L. Shoot 5 groups in the space of a quarter. It was a struggle for him to hit the paper, let alone a target.

My assistant and I would take turns "testing" rifles at the far end of the firing line, which we would actually be shooting a few shots at his target so regardless of how he shot, he'd have a few hits on the paper. By the end of the week he could at least hit the paper on his own without my assistant or I gifting him hits. I've never seen a scout happier to not pass a badge. 

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Mixed emotions on this one.

I am all for working with special needs Scouts. I have done so in the past, and will be spending a week with one in the near future.They can be challenging to work with, but also very rewarding.

BUT

They can be too challenging too challenging for staff. One Cub at my CSDC needed someone with him all the time because he was indeed that challenging. Thank goodness his grandfather was with him the entire time to help out. Otherwise he would have been asked to leave and not come back the rest of the week.

While the RSO could have handled it better, I think he made the right decision. If he thought he could not handle that Scout on the range, he has every right to limit access. The RSO's concern is with EVERYONE on the range, not just one individual. I had restricted access to the range one time with the special needs Scout one time. Grandfather had to leave the area for a few minutes to take care of personal business. Grandfather had not showed up when it was the Cubs turn to shoot, and I did not have enough staff for one-on-one with him. Now, once his grandfather returned, he did get a chance to shoot. I also knew the situation prior to running the range, so it wasn't a surprise.

 

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I agree about the mixed emotions. You want every scout to maximize their potential but the prime directive for leaders and people like this RSO is to keep everyone safe. I think it's also fair to allow people to say when they are not comfortable. Most of us do not have years of training or advanced degrees in dealing with some of these very complex and challenging behavioral and developmental issues. Parents of scouts with issues are often not a reliable or objective source of information about a child's real capabilities, because they are often so focused on trying to maximize mainstream opportunities for their child. That could also be part of what the RSO was referring to "in his experience."  

 

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Well, the parents say the RSO did the wrong thing, and the camp director says the RSO did the wrong thing, so everybody seems to agree on that.  Even the RSO may agree at this point.

I am not sure what the parents are looking for at this point.  It says they are looking for "policy changes and an an apology," but then it says "Upon learning of this incident, the camp directors took action to correct the staff member, had him apologize to the Scout and his father, and offered the Scout the full opportunity to participate in target shooting while still at camp."  If that is true, the parents and the Scout already got their apology, and the Scout got a chance to participate.  It doesn't appear that any policy change is required, because the RSO was not following the policy that already exists, which would allow the Scout to participate.  Things like this are always going to happen, and the camp or employer or government or whoever can only apologize and make sure all employees understand the policy, and upon repeated violations, terminate the employee.  But that is never going to completely stop all violations of a policy.

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