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How to deal with youth that are uncomfortable to approach Scoutmaster


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The first thing to state I am NOT the scoutmaster!!!! I am an assistant scoutmaster in a troop that is facing this problem. 

Earlier this month we held a troop committee meeting. One of the first things brought to the committee's attention is that there are acts that are considered bullying happening at troop meetings and campouts and the victims are not comfortable approaching the scoutmaster to report the bullying. The scoutmaster responded by saying that he can't be everywhere at once and that the assistant scoutmasters are also responsible to watch for bullying. I admit that he does have a point with that but as soon as the meeting starts he takes all of the other parents and assistant scoutmasters away from the meeting to chat in a separate room. This leaves 1-2 adults to watch the meeting happening. I normally sit in on the meetings as I am younger and only aged out recently so I know the scouts very well and in my opinion say that they trust me. I have seen things that are bullying and have stepped in to stop it but there are things that I miss because I am not at the meeting or I step out to handle other things.

The scoutmaster tends to dismiss the other adult leadership's ideas and suggestions if they do not agree with his own (this was also brought up at the committee meeting) and in his response, he ended up belittling the committee chair who brought up the issue. The committee chair thinks that is a major reason as the troop is smaller and most are related by family ties. This leads to the youth seeing their parents being disrespected and then not wanting to approach the person that is disrespecting the parents. 

The scoutmaster is not very liked by the youth and adults of the troop so this is another problem. Currently, the scoutmaster has 2 children in the program. The older one is the current ASPL and the other one is younger but they have caused problems in the past. Also, the committee chair is related to some of the victims AND some of the children that have bullied others.

This is my first post here and this is something that is causing a lot of other problems in the troop. I will try and reply with further explanations and information at some point. 

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The first thing is, welcome to our Scouter Forum, where if you ask any 5 of us for an opinion or reference, you'll get 6 answers.

Now, bullying is NOT Scoutlike.  When you have the chance to observe/interrupt such, ask the Scout responsible, "which point of the Scout Law might apply to  your action ?  Was it Kind, or Courteous? Or Trustworthy?  Or Helpful ?"

It's been ALOT of years ago, but there was a Scout in my Troop of Yooth that needed (that was the term, I realized) to feel superior to every other Scout, and made sure you knew HE was the BOSS, physically.  He had a dad that , to be simply put, was not at all like my dad.  Sometimes the kid just chooses the wrong parent, I guess.  I was not alone in my response to him, many others found it necessary to tell him , in person, Scout to Scout, so to speak, to "buzz off" , and knock off the stupid stuff.  I realize not every Troop will have the kids I grew up with, but if the adults will acknowledge the bad , unScoutlike behavior,  very often the Scouts will take care of things.  Of course, if things are really dangerous in behavior, the adults need to step in early.   Adult exampling becomes important. Do the Adults cooperate, discuss, come to a consensus ?  Do they ACTIVELY approve, reward (both publicly and in private) the good behavior  and disabuse the bad?  

We promote and encourage and WATCH AND HEAR the Scouts recite the Scout Promise and Law.  Can we then make them realize the reality of these ideals and the POSSIBITY of making these things active in the world?  "Awww, no one really follows this stuff...  Why do we have to memorize these worthless words, really?"   Have you heard or seen the result of this "stuff"?   

Really? 

Jake eventually quit our Troop.  

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Bottom line:  If your adult leadership is not in harmony on how to deal with disciplinary issues, you will have problems.

Does your Troop have a set of written expectations (Scout Oath and Law are all you need) and consequences?  A written policy on how you will deal with disciplinary issues?  (Bullying being just one of them.) 

This is an issue for all adults... Committee, Scoutmaster Corps, and parents.

Our standard is the Scout Oath and Scout Law.  Whenever a Scout (or adult) violates, we self-police.  It starts at the Patrol Leader level and works up. (Under adult supervision, of course.)  If the situation is not resolved and it gets elevated to an adult (an Assistant Scoutmaster usually) then the adult addresses the situation WITH ANOTHER ADULT OBSERVING (but not in the Scout's face... our object is not to intimidate.)

It takes time to change the culture of a Troop.  And a strong leader(s) who is willing to stick around to see change implemented.

Upon matriculation to the unit, each family receives a copy of our Troop policies (Our Troop Handbook, if you will.)  In it there is this section:

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Troop XX Code of Conduct

Scouting activities are fun, memorable experiences.  Troop leaders want Scouts to enjoy themselves and grow individually and as a Troop.  During all activities, Scouts must behave appropriately, and in accordance with the Scout Oath and Scout Law.  Not only does inappropriate and disruptive behavior ruin Scouting for others, it can be dangerous.  Troop XX will not tolerate such behavior.

The consequences of misbehavior will vary depending upon the severity of the action and the Scout’s circumstances.  The PLC may address behavior under the guidance and approval of the Scoutmaster. Consequences may include verbal or written warnings to the Scout, excluding a Scout from an activity, parent conferences, sending a Scout home from an activity with a parent, or exclusion from future activities until leaders regain trust in the Scout’s behavior.  The Scoutmaster or adult leader of each activity will be ultimately responsible for managing any breach of acceptable conduct.  Scoutmasters may refer conduct to the Troop Committee for advice and action.

If a Scout’s behavior or negligence results in damage to Troop equipment or a person’s property, the Scout will pay for repairs or replacement.  The PLC may recommend, and the Troop Committee may direct using Scout Account monies to pay for damages.

All Scouts and their parents will sign the current Troop XX Code of Conduct Agreement and Handbook Receipt before a Scout participates in Troop outings.

----------------------------------------------

Parents and Scouts must sign an agreement with the Scoutmaster governing behavior expectations and consequences.

This establishes a culture, standards and consequences for Scout and parents.  It makes it a little more "real" when a Scout signs his name...

When we encounter conflict, we work through it using the template above.  Each situation is different.

In my seven years with this Troop, we have formally dismissed (in writing, that is) two Scouts from our Troop: one due to bullying, and one due to inability to control their physical outbursts with other Scouts.  Two others have left during the process of addressing similar issues.

Each case is documented, with written communications with parents, and discussed first with Key 3, then with the Committee and Scoutmaster Corps.  Whenever we take the formal action of dismissing a Scout, we inform our IH, Commissioner (if we have one at the time), and DE (if we have one at the time) or Scout Executive. 

Scouts know they can come to us with issues, and we will deal with it fairly and quickly.  Justice delayed is justice denied!

Word has gotten around to parents that our Troop works diligently to keep a safe environment for Scouts.  In that seven years, our Troop has doubled in size (and I don't mean by height or weight 😜 )   (This being only one of the reasons for the growth, IMHO.)

Here is the Agreement:

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Troop XX Code of Conduct Agreement and Troop Handbook Receipt

 

 

 

Scout’s Name ____________________________________________________________________

 

I will behave appropriately during all Scout activities, living the Oath and Law, and demonstrating Scout Spirit at all times. I understand that misbehavior and inappropriate activities will not be tolerated.

 

I understand there will be consequences if my behavior is not acceptable.  I understand consequences can and will include warnings, sitting out during an activity, parent conferences, having a parent take me home from an activity, or exclusion from future activities until I earn trust in my behavior again, and demonstrate to my Scout youth and adult leadership that I can be trusted.

 

 

 

____________________________________________                                             _____________________

Signature of Scout                                                                                                           Date

 

 

 

I have reviewed the Troop Handbook, 2022 Revision, and discussed behavior expectations and consequences with my Scout.  Furthermore, I understand I must make arrangements to pick up my Scout from an activity if necessary, even if the activity is out of town.

 

 

 

____________________________________________                                                       _____________________

Signature of Parent or Guardian                                                                                            Date

 

 

 

____________________________________________                                                     _____________________

Signature of Scoutmaster                                                                                                        Date

 

 

Scoutmaster will return signed agreement to the appropriate Committee Member for tracking.

  

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@InquisitiveScouter, scouts love paperwork! But I have a funny feeling this SM would see the need for such as an affront.

@Jmatt0613, welcome to the forums! And thanks in advance for all you do for the youth.

You gave us a lot to unpack. But, let me paint with a broad brush. A scout is kind. Boys or girls who are unkind are not scouts. Such a youth should be suspended from the troop until he/she decides to live up to his/her vows. No paperwork necessary.

Now, it is tough when adults are at loggerheads about what should be straightforward. But, the important thing is to set your own compass so that you can courteously explain to others what you’re observing.

Edited by qwazse
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43 minutes ago, qwazse said:

@InquisitiveScouter, scouts love paperwork! But I have a funny feeling this SM would see the need for such as an affront.

@Jmatt0613, welcome to the forums! And thanks in advance for all you do for the youth.

You gave us a lot to unpack. But, let me paint with a broad brush. A scout is kind. Boys or girls who are unkind are not scouts. Such a youth should be suspended from the troop until he/she decides to live up to his/her vows. No paperwork necessary.

Now, it is tough when adults are at loggerheads about what should be straightforward. But, the important thing is to set your own compass so that you can courteously explain to others what you’re observing.

LOL, it's not really for the Scouts... it's for the parents.  Ultimately, you are not recruiting Scouts; you are recruiting their parents.

If you do not establish a safe environment for Scouts, you'll soon have none.  Their parents will have taken them away.

Edited by InquisitiveScouter
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Thank you for the warm welcome everyone!

During the committee meeting, we also talked about holding the youth accountable for their actions including bringing an old system back. Back when I first joined my troop we were required to show our 9-week grades to the scoutmaster, if your grades were below a certain point then you were suspended from campouts and similar activities until you showed improvement.

@InquisitiveScouter is it ok if I use the Code of Conduct that you shared as a guideline for making one for my troop? I would of course bring this to the committee's attention at our next committee meeting to see if this is something we could incorporate for the future! 

I also have some other questions for everyone: What are some ways that the other adult leaders and I can make sure that the youth know that we are trying to make changes without anyone feeling like they are the cause of the changes? Also, what powers can 'remove" a scoutmaster if he does something that would require him to be removed?

 

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Firstly, I caution a long think before your Committee adopt any "By-Laws".  Getting legslistic can have undesired side affects.  Will it let you point to the "rule" and  it's consequences?  Certainly, but then that becomes a challenge to be sidestepped. Witnesses,  does it REALLY mean that, etc...

A good SM can use the Scout Law as basis of his/her Scoutmaster Minute at the end of the meeting.  It can bring things together, it can point out, without being PERSONAL,  what needs to be said .  Your SM might be encouraged to consider this, twelve months of inspiration at your doorstep. There are 12 points in the BSA Scout Law, other countries have less or more. Research can show what is similar, what is different.  But they are all very much the same at base. Bullies never like the Scout Law, it means too much self examination, too much holding to account, too much concern for "the other guy", not alot  for yerself. 

That said, the authority to remove ANY Troop adult leader lays with NOT the Committee, but with the Charter Org Rep and the Institution Head. They can , at any time , politely write a letter, copy to the Council Scout Executive,  informing that (for whatever reason)  the SM's services are no longer required or accepted as of (this date). Thank you very much for your prior service, we wish you well in your future endeavors (but not with THIS Troop. And with the Council Scout Executive's knowledge, probably not with any other in that Council). 

Before that has to happen, many cups of tea and/or coffee should be drunk with the offending person to attempt to understand her/his attitude, problem, reasons.  Do they even know what is happening around them?  

Tell me again, why are we in Scouting? 

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7 hours ago, Jmatt0613 said:

is it ok if I use the Code of Conduct that you shared as a guideline for making one for my troop?

Yes, of course.  But do not lose sight of the forest for the trees... the forest is the culture you (plural) need to create at your unit... one of the trees is that form. 

The standards must always be the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.  Do not set any other.  (Like grades... that should be up to the parents, IMHO)

And every Scout is unique (just like you, lol) and in unique circumstances.  So treat every situation like it is brand new.

Good discipline is not a formula.  It's a relationship.

And @SSScout is correct regarding hiring/firing.  Just look at the adult application.  Who signs it to approve?  COR or IH 

Therefore they have to power to remove.

https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/524-501.pdf

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Regarding grades and Scouting, I would be EXTREMELY leery of that. I knew a Scout who had a lot, and I do mean LOT, of issues that affected his school performance: parents' divorce, new home, mom dating again, etc. The home life severely affected his school; going from honor roll to average and/or failing. Scouting was his only "safe space" where he could get away and forget his problems for a while. When Mom  grounded him from Scouts until his grades came back up, it was the final straw for the Scout, and he attempted suicide. Thankfully it was caught in time, and he survived. 

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On 9/13/2022 at 1:58 AM, Jmatt0613 said:

The scoutmaster is not very liked by the youth and adults of the troop so this is another problem. Currently, the scoutmaster has 2 children in the program. The older one is the current ASPL and the other one is younger but they have caused problems in the past.

Yeah.  Sadly, I see this as a key issue.  Sometimes people volunteer or step-up because they want to be there for their kids ... BUT it's their kids that are the issue ... and their (parent) behavior becomes then part of the issue too.  

Scouting is really a simple program.  Scouting is about activities and learning to socialize. 

Bad behavior is not for scouting.  ASMs/SM need to be there to stop it.  When incidients happen, explicitly state what was wrong and what is expected.  If the situation involved a group, do it together so they all know.   If you need to call out a single person, do it privately (with another adult).  ... old adage .. publicly praise ... privately correct.   ....  If the behavior continues, then the youth and/or adult needs to find somewhere else to spend their time.   ... If the troop problems still continue, the troop will fail.  Parents don't want their kids in a program that is not a good example.

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I understand the fact that the grades should be handled by the parents but as the troop is very small (one family has almost 50% of the scouts in the troop along with their parents) and the idea of reinstating this by the Committee Chair who is a part of that family. Some other reasons the Chair suggested this is because there is a requirement in the Scholarship merit badge that requires proof of a B average over multiple terms, and that it helps teach accountability for their actions. 

I understand that also putting a Code of Conduct in could cause some unforeseen problems but I feel that at this point it is a requirement, unfortunately. I remembered a screenshot that I took of something a scout had posted to their Snapchat story back in February where the scout openly admits to having swastikas up and down their arms, cursing at a teacher, flipping another student off and other actions that DEFINITELY aren't scout-like. I want to protect the troop and the charter organization that hosts us and that while the activities are not a troop event the scouts ARE the face of the troop so if one scout is doing these actions then others will think that's what the rest of our troop is like as well.

The current scoutmaster joined with his oldest in 2018, he is an eagle from a neighboring council and wasn't a part of the troop for long before he became the right-hand of the old scoutmaster probably 6-9 months. During the entire time of him being in the troop, not very many people liked him because he has the attitude of a know-it-all and this quick rise of "rank". 

Thank you for reading all of this and all of your answers. I genuinely care about my troop because it has been a second family to me so it might sound as if I am painting people in a bad light but I am only echoing what others have said and agreed with.

 

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I think the grade thing is not a good idea. Such a requirement is odd and out of step with respect to what Scouts is. If a parent wants to ground their Scout and keep them from meetings, that is fine. 

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I think the whole idea of using grades to determine eligibility is overreach and should never be considered.  You may have an academically underachieving young person and the best thing they have going is Scouting.  As far as a code of conduct, BOLDERDASH,  Scouting has a well established code of conduct, the Scout Law.  Throw in the Scout Oath and the Guide to Safe Scouting and you have all you need. Why reinvent the wheel? Just use what is already in place.

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Ok, I understand the problems with the grades but unfortunately, I am a trained assistant scoutmaster so I don't get a vote on anything discussed at committee meetings. I am only trying to provide information that I believe is relevant to the original question I posted. I swing both ways on that issue because I do understand that it should be kept to the parents but when a troop of 12 kids where 50% of them are related by blood sometimes issues like grades do have a major influence on our troop. Our current committee chair, communication manager, Scoutmaster of our girl's troop, and 2 assistant scoutmasters are also part of that family. There has always been a problem with this family at some point or another but when there are acts of repeated bullying at the meetings by a child in this family there needs to be a change. 

On 9/23/2022 at 8:31 PM, Mrjeff said:

Scouting has a well established code of conduct, the Scout Law.

Unfortunately, I believe that no one in our troop practices the scout law anymore including our scoutmaster. I hope this Code of conduct can be a wake-up call for the scouts and parents who don't follow it anymore that they need to clean up their act because for the future of our troop I will propose my version of the code of conduct hopefully at our next committee meeting in October. No matter the outcome I will respect the committee's decision and then decide what to focus on next in supporting my troop.

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