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You Disagree w/ Judgement Call - What Do You Do?

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Borrowing from the Judgment Call thread ...


Suppose you're an ASM at a Scout activity with some potential level of risk (weather, paddling, climbing, ...). The decision has been made to continue with the activity, BUT you disagree - what would you do?


I see a few scenarios worthy of discussion:


(1) You are still at home (or work) and the troop is departing for the activity you deem unsafe later that day, but you think it is unsafe to depart at that time. They DO NOT have the needed leadership or transportation without you. What would you do?


(2a) You are at the location of the activity with the other adult leaders and Scouts. You honestly feel it is unsafe to continue with the planned activity. They DO NOT have the needed leadership or transportation without you. What would you do?


(2b) What would you do if they DID have the needed leadership without you, but still needed you for transportation?

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Doesn't matter what the scenario is. If you feel it is unsafe, you don't participate. Then live with your decision. It is life as we know it. Making decisions. It is part of what we are trying to teach.

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As a current ASM in my son's Troop, this is a good question, but easy to answer.


In all cases, if I felt it was unsafe (weather, water conditions, etc) to continue....I would respectfully withdraw my support (transportation included) for the outing (no matter where we are on the trip - waters edge) as well as pulling my son from the trip.



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When I was working summer camp for national, I was placed in this situation. I was in supply division running the summer camp trading post, and I was a registered ASM with a local troop. I recruited one of my scouts to be a CIT for the camp, specifically to help out in the TP. On a slow week at camp, the CD decided to let the CITs be guinea pigs with a program for the following year which consisted of COPE, Canoeing, and Wildness Survival and Orienteering. Problem was two fold: #1 no COPE director was hired for the camp and #2 my CIT was a non-swimmer. I pulled the CIT from the trip, and got into an argument with the CD. As a still certified COPE director (my last season) and former BSA lifeguard, I tried to explain my rational for pulling him by stating that it violated national policy, opened the council and the CD to liability, and since I was an ASM for the scout as well as still certified as a COPE Director, I also felt that I may be liable if I didn't do anything.


Unfortunately it turned into a screaming match. My boss eventually got involved, and stated that it was a local council matter and I should not have interfered. I told her about being the scouts ASM, feeling that I may be held liable if anything happened, as well as being held liable since I was still a certified COPE Director at the time. I was told to drop it, it was a local council matter. I was persona non grata at camp, basically going to the TP, and dining hall and that's it. Luckily I lived 20 minutes away from camp at the time and I went home every nite after that incident.


Knowing how I would be treated the rest of the summer by the CD, and at the main shop by my boss, I still would do the same thing. If you are uncomfortable with a situation, follow your gut feeling.(This message has been edited by eagle92)

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Fellow Scouters,



npr1488 and dg98adams gave their opinions, and I would probably also follow suit.


You can certainly voice your opinion, and refuse for you and your son(s) to participate. But it is the tour leader (whom signed on the tour permit), if they will cease and withdraw from the event. Surely, most adult Scouters are reasonable and can evaluate hazards that become too extreme.



But just to comment, every event we conduct has some risk. The adults just have to measure the risk and ask is it worth it? Or, Is it safe to proceed?


Just going to summer camp, with all those fires, propane stoves, liquid fuel laterns, ax yards, knifes, not to mention stinging insects and boys that have allergic reactions; but we still take those minimum risks.


Even schools and community parks are not safe anymore.


If I didn't take any risk, my boys would have grown up wrapped in bubble-wrap sitting on an inflatable chair in their padded bedroom.


So, hopefully your unit leadership will consider the risk involved and make the right choice.


Scouting Forever and Venture On!

Crew21 Adv



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If there is an activity that I consider not safe, I would pull the leadership aside and explain my concerns. I would strive to show them why this activity is unsafe given the existing conditions. If my sons are to participate, I would withdraw them from the activity. If my troop is participating in a large event, I would withdraw the troop from the event. The parents are trusting me to safeguard their children.


Fortunately, the adult leadership of my troop is sensitive to safety. We very happy to plan and participate in events that push the limits of the scouts. We are not willing to push the limits of safety.


I have some experience in safety matters. I have been a firefighter, EMT, and rescue responder. I hold a number of state and federal certifications in rescue. I look at the event from the standpoint, what would it take to perform a rescue if this event went wrong. Do we have the equipment, training, or access to trained rescuers if something were to go wrong. Can we adjust the program to still make it fun and exciting for the scouts but reduce the potential for rescue. Often slowing down and taking an extra look at the scene you can find ways to limit the risk to an acceptable level.

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resqman, while I no longer hold such certifications, the experience of having been allows me to understand the results of poor judgment and it does cloud my decision making to fall exclusively on the safety side of every issue. Having had the experience of cleaning up after such poor judgments gives one the advantage of seeing all the what-if's that others often ignore.


Your point is well made. One cannot avoid all the risks in all situations, but some legitimate evaluation will go a long way to minimize them, and to foresee some of the options available when they do go wrong.



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Yah, this is interestin', eh? Kind of a funny departure from da other thread where everyone was sayin' the SM should make the decision for da group.


Which is it, I wonder?


I've seen this play out in both directions, eh? I've seen frightened parents with zero real experience try to hold groups hostage whenever they got scared (by thunder, or temps below freezing, or whatever). "Personal veto" can be a real danger to everyone if a parent or two and a few kids "go rogue". There's a reason why mutiny in times of war is punishable by death.


And I've seen SMs with too little experience launch into conditions where discretion should have been the better part of valor.


I think for scenario (1) I would just go along. Da fact that I have concerns about an activity later in the day ain't really relevant. I'd share my concerns, but until the group got there and looked at the actual conditions, I only have suspicions, eh? And I agreed to offer support, and that includes drivin' and being available when they consider alternates.


I think for scenario (2a) I'd share my concerns and listen to da other parties. It may well be that I don't have the same knowledge or experience as da other folks. From there, it just depends, eh? Consensus is best, but I think I'd defer to those with more experience, and defer to a designated leader if I had equal experience and it was a judgment call. Only spot that gets tricky is when yeh truly have more experience but aren't da designated leader.


I think for (2b), da option to just help with transport for the day is a good one if my safety concern is primarily for myself. Hey, can't deny it, I'm gettin' up in years! That's a challenge-by-choice sorta thing, and if I personally don't feel up to it I bow out. If it's I'm more concerned about da group and OK myself, then I reckon I'd still go along to do what I could to keep da group out of trouble or run a rescue if I had to.




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In the fortunate position of being the one making the judgment call - or at least the final call - I like to get input.

After getting input, and considering everyone is going to bounce me first, the once the call is made I would really prefer support.


On the other hand, On those occasions where someone else might be making the decision.

1) Continue to support as much as you can, i.e. just because you drive doesn't mean you can't see the river and decide it's too much for you and your child - Great, maybe you can assist with the post river shuttling? Ensure dinner est up sill be complete?, Guard the Gear?

2) In a private manner, express your concerns and see if the Decision maker hadn't considered the angle/aspect you see.


My biggest issue - especially since I seek input (to the extent of covering a couple of extra miles by foot to get it) I find it especially irritating to hear the person who had no opinion before the decision was made, berate me for my silliness in front of everyone AFTER I have finally made a decision.

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Yes I agree with the rational approach. While the SM or his designate is the ultimate decider, I hope they get the input from everyone, especially those with more experience. If it is a flagrant safety issue, like the one I encountered, then you need to uninvolve yourself and make it known. If it a questionable situation, i.e. about evenly split, Then some serious thinking does need to go into whetehr it's a go/no go.


Some things to consider off the top of my head in a canoeing situation:


Ability of the scouts and adults; Maybe you need to mix up the prearranged group to even out abilities?

Location, are you near home base are far far away? Are you at the beginning or middle of the float?


Equipment, do you have extras and do you have the rescue equipment needed inc case of a problem.

Planning, do you have back up plans in case you start, then realize it's not going to work out.

Ok there's more but with 3 kids tearing up the house, it's more later.



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I would discuss my concerns with the decision maker, making sure he has all the information I think I have and that I have all the information he thinks he has. Shouldn't that be step one anyway? Make sure we're all reading from the same manual? I've learned that most of the time when these kinds of situations pop up, it's because someone (and, sorry to say, it's usually the one threatening to withdraw) just doesn't have all the information - and once they get all the information, things become hunky-dory.


Sometimes a river looks worse than it really is. Sometimes a dark forboding sky in the distance is no where near ones destination. Sometimes, Plan B has been planned but not advertised. Most people just need to know that their worries and concerns have been addressed. A good leader will be able to handle this fairly easily.


Being the person I am, if the decision was made to go despite my misgivings, I'd still go - but be extra vigilant. Part of that comes from experience. I've encountered massive thunderstorms after 10PM on a Friday night making me think it's time to go that have lasted an hour then have gorgeous weather the rest of the weekend.



On the flip side, what would you do if you were the decision maker and the other driver/leader bailed because of their safety concerns and their judgment over-riding yours?


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At work we have policy's for just about anything and everything you can imagine.

When ordered by a high ranking commissioned officer to break policy or do something against policy.

We (Me) are supposed to inform the person that this what he has ordered is against policy.

We are then supposed to follow the order and as soon as possible put in writing a report o what happened.

This will be reviewed by the Facility Superintendent or his superior.


I when I read what kenk posted find myself between a rock and a hard place.

On one hand if I'm the ASM I feel that in keeping with the Scout Law need to be loyal to the SM.

To be honest I do find the scenarios a little confusing.


I know that not doing anything is just wrong.

I do feel that I would at the right place and the right time take the SM aside away from too many ears!! And voice my opinion. I think I might mention that I was going to make a record of what I said to him (I'm not sure about this? I know I would write it down, I'm not sure how I might tell him and not make it sound like a threat?)

I would attend the activity.

Once we were where the activity was to take place, I'd evaluate the situation.

There is a difference between potential risk and foolhardy.

If the risk was too big? Or it became clear to me, that what was planned was foolhardy.

I would explain to the person in charge my feelings and why I thought the plan needed changed.

My hope would be that he would see reason.

Failing that I'm not exactly sure what I'd do.

I guess I'd look at my options and decide which was the best.



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