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MarkBrownsky

Bullying incident - need advice

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My son is Life and working towards Eagle.  He is presently ASPL and has been involved with his troop for many years.  Recently while on summer camp he experienced several incidences of bullying from the troop SPL.  I reported it to the SM and troop committee chair.  What was communicated to me by the SM was that they were undertaking an investigation (which involved talking to my son and the SPL) as I asked for it to be completed. My understanding is that BSA is clear that bullying isn't tolerated and needs to be acted upon.  Which is why I was confused when the SM suggested that he was only completing it as I requested it.  This is a red flag for me. 

I want to make sure that the right process is followed.  All my research has produced excellent guidance by BSA about avoiding bullying, what bullying is etc.. but I could find no guidelines on what is to be done if a bullying incident occurs, and particularly when the bully is SPL.  

What advice do you have?  I want to make sure the proper process is adhered to and that the SM and committee follow the correct procedure.

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What do you and your son think the proper outcome here should be?  The BSA doesn't necessarily dictate unit-level disciplinary procedures in most cases.

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27 minutes ago, GMath said:

What do you and your son think the proper outcome here should be?  The BSA doesn't necessarily dictate unit-level disciplinary procedures in most cases.

Actually it does under discipline. It is the CCs responsibility. Still, the layer of dealing with it, (meaning identifying learning exactly what is going on) and determining how the unit should proceed starts with the SM. If the scout doesn't feel the SM is working to make the environment safe, then the next step is the CC. And when it gets this far, I feel asking for help from the parents or mediator is appropriate.

Barry 

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8 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Actually it does under discipline. It is the CCs responsibility. Still, the layer of dealing with it, (meaning identifying learning exactly what is going on) and determining how the unit should proceed starts with the SM. If the scout doesn't feel the SM is working to make the environment safe, then the next step is the CC. And when it gets this far, I feel asking for help from the parents or mediator is appropriate.

Barry 

Thanks for your response. Its presently with the SM, with the CC so far being kept informed.  Are you aware of any BSA guidelines that provide guidance to the SM and CC on how to best respond to bullying?  If they don't handle it well, I can always report it to the Area Council.  

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14 minutes ago, MarkBrownsky said:

Thanks for your response. Its presently with the SM, with the CC so far being kept informed.  Are you aware of any BSA guidelines that provide guidance to the SM and CC on how to best respond to bullying?  If they don't handle it well, I can always report it to the Area Council.  

I would suggest that you stop talking about it as if your intention is for this to be only the first step on a long series of appeals. 

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17 minutes ago, MarkBrownsky said:

Thanks for your response. Its presently with the SM, with the CC so far being kept informed.  Are you aware of any BSA guidelines that provide guidance to the SM and CC on how to best respond to bullying?  If they don't handle it well, I can always report it to the Area Council.  

There is not, to my knowledge, a set of guidelines about what to do, in the sense that there's no program that says "if bullying is alleged conduct investigation this way..."  and then "if bullying is found to have occurred take action X..." 

In line with @Gmath I would urge you to speak with your son about what he thinks would be a good outcome, and make sure you convey that to the SM right away.

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12 minutes ago, David CO said:

I would suggest that you stop talking about it as if your intention is for this to be only the first step on a long series of appeals. 

I appreciate your input.  I hope I didn't come across as just wanting to cause issues with my troop.  What I was trying to communicate is that if there is inaction I have somewhere else to go.  I would much prefer to have it sorted at the troop level.

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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

Actually it does under discipline. It is the CCs responsibility. Still, the layer of dealing with it, (meaning identifying learning exactly what is going on) and determining how the unit should proceed starts with the SM. If the scout doesn't feel the SM is working to make the environment safe, then the next step is the CC. And when it gets this far, I feel asking for help from the parents or mediator is appropriate.

Barry 

While the BSA does assign responsibility for handling these matters to the adult unit leadership, my point was that the BSA does not really provide a step-by-step checklist of actions to take in these cases. The specifics are left to the discretion of the (hopefully) trained and qualified adult unit leadership.

Hence my suggestion to @MarkBrownsky to begin by talking with your son and coming to some consensus to what you feel an appropriate, constructive resolution would be in this scenario. Then, approach the SM and have that same discussion. I think you are absolutely right to expect transparency and follow up from the SM.  And, while you could escalate this up the chain to the COR or council level, they're first reaction is likely going to be to refer the matter to be handled at the unit level (unless it is particularly egregious.)

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Bullying is a Youth Protection issue in the BSA and there are guidelines that leaders must follow when it is reported. As with all YP issues, leaders should take it extremely seriously.

That said, it doesn't need to escalate to extreme discipline right away. Those guidelines start simple, with a talk. Sometimes that is all that is needed. The guidelines do suggest elevating the issue to a scouting professional at the district level if warranted. But before that, steps should be taken to stop the bullying and hopefully handle the matter within the troop to just put a stop to it.

If those guidelines are not being followed, talk to someone else. But try to allow the process to play out in the troop first.

I know this is a tough issue to deal with. Saying "bullying" throws up a lot of red flags and defenses as soon as it is said, especially since bullying falls under Youth Protection. I've flagged a bullying issue in my unit and it was met with a lot of resistance to even take any action. Many people don't even want to deal, they chalk it up to kids being kids and just goofing around. It's not. It's serious. And it should be pursued seriously by leadership.

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5 minutes ago, GMath said:

While the BSA does assign responsibility for handling these matters to the adult unit leadership, my point was that the BSA does not really provide a step-by-step checklist of actions to take in these cases. The specifics are left to the discretion of the (hopefully) trained and qualified adult unit leadership.

The BSA does provide some guidance, although some of the steps are kind of vague. They advise the following:

Action Plan

1. Stop the abuse, bullying, or policy violation.
2. Protect the Scout/Youth
3. Summon assistance needed from other leaders, authorities etc
4. Take corrective action
5. Notify council Scout executive when warranted
6. Check back with the target youth to insure the problem behavior has stopped

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2 minutes ago, FireStone said:

Bullying is a Youth Protection issue in the BSA and there are guidelines that leaders must follow when it is reported. As with all YP issues, leaders should take it extremely seriously.

That said, it doesn't need to escalate to extreme discipline right away. Those guidelines start simple, with a talk. Sometimes that is all that is needed. The guidelines do suggest elevating the issue to a scouting professional at the district level if warranted. But before that, steps should be taken to stop the bullying and hopefully handle the matter within the troop to just put a stop to it.

If those guidelines are not being followed, talk to someone else. But try to allow the process to play out in the troop first.

I know this is a tough issue to deal with. Saying "bullying" throws up a lot of red flags and defenses as soon as it is said, especially since bullying falls under Youth Protection. I've flagged a bullying issue in my unit and it was met with a lot of resistance to even take any action. Many people don't even want to deal, they chalk it up to kids being kids and just goofing around. It's not. It's serious. And it should be pursued seriously by leadership.

Thanks, @FireStone this is very helpful.  

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One big challenge you may face is getting agreement on what bullying is.  Too often resolving situations like these is hard because of differing perspectives and opinions.  I'd work to build consensus and understanding.  If you can't do that, all the rules and procedures won't help.  

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3 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

One big challenge you may face is getting agreement on what bullying is.  Too often resolving situations like these is hard because of differing perspectives and opinions.  I'd work to build consensus and understanding.  If you can't do that, all the rules and procedures won't help.  

Well said. I will say that there is a step below even the consensus level, what happened? Anytime a scout feels harm, there has to be concern. But, reflecting on my wonderful marriage, sometimes it's just a simple matter of communication and expectation. My kids will tell you that they heard very little yelling in our family while growing up. They found themselves very uncomfortable in situations where yelling was the form of communication. The SM should be able to learn what exactly caused the harm. THEN, determine the reactions for changing the environment to be safe.

Barry

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28 minutes ago, FireStone said:

The BSA does provide some guidance, although some of the steps are kind of vague. They advise the following:

Action Plan

1. Stop the abuse, bullying, or policy violation.
2. Protect the Scout/Youth
3. Summon assistance needed from other leaders, authorities etc
4. Take corrective action
5. Notify council Scout executive when warranted
6. Check back with the target youth to insure the problem behavior has stopped

I'm understanding the discussion so far to mainly be about step 4 "take corrective action," which is wonderfully vague.

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