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Assistant Scoutmaster chest bumping another in anger

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I am an Assistant Scoutmaster with a local troop. This last week we were on a hike with our troop at summer camp.


The faster older scouts would stop for a break until the younger slower scouts would catch up. Then the older scouts would move on not allowing the younger scouts to have a break. After about 3 times of this I asked my son, who was in last place, to stop as soon as the older scouts started moving along on the trail. I moved about 10 feet up and asked for a buddy check. The acting SPL called the buddy check and said everything was ok and for the troop to move on. I asked what about him, and point back to my son who they did not count.


One of the Assistant Scoutmasters (previous scoutmaster) asked my son what he was doing back there. My son responded "My dad told me to stand here". The assistant scoutmaster came totally un-glued and had a melt down with me. He yelled some very hurtfully things that the scouts did not need to hear. While he was yelling at me he was also using his chest to push me around.


I found this totally unacceptable and just kept quite as we tried to get through the hike. Later that evening, I sat down next to him thinking we could talk about what happened during the hike. The first thing he did was to apologize for his actions on the hike. I told him that there are two things that I just cannot tolerate. One is getting physical with anyone. And the second is to attack my kid like he did. He honestly did not remember doing the chest bumping. But did admit that is his MO when he gets angry. He did not respond to the verbal attacks on my son.


My question is what do I do about this?


This leader is known for verbal outbursts in the past with the troop not really addressing this issue. In addition I have talked to other leaders about taking over as committee chair fairly soon. I feel I could help the troop the most by ignoring this assistant scoutmasters action this time until I get to the committee chair position. However, his actions should not go without notice.


Should I talk to the current Committee Chair? She will not do anything about this. Should I talk to the Chartered organization rep? Position currently open and the Chartered organization is nothing more than parents of the kids in the troop, mostly currently leaders. Should I talk to the Unit Commissioner? Position currently empty. Should I talk to the DE? Again, position currently empty but we do have an acting DE for one day per week. Do I talk to the Council? Do I talk to the police? I work with the local police department. I do not think this would benefit anyone personally or professionally.


Bottom line, I want what is best for the program long term not this individual issue.



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On long hikes, have the slowest person take the lead. That's the only way they get rest. The faster scouts will find things to talk about or look at or keep themselves busy. Otherwise, it's not manageable.


An adult losing their temper and getting physical with anyone is not acceptable. If it's once, you can attribute it to stress. If it's a pattern, things need to change. It's NOT a good example for the scouts. That's the number one role of the adults. To set an example.


Your troop also sets an example by how they respond. The scouts see what happens and they see how the troop responds. What lessons will they take away for life?


You also set an example for your own son by how you respond to this. What lesson do you want him to learn? What do you want him to think about his father?


Our troop had an adult repeatedly use attitude and loud voice to passively aggressively affect things. I've had to take scouts asside and let them know it's not acceptable and it's not their fault. We've taken adults asside to let them know it's not acceptable. Ideally, wish ya luck on making this happen, the ASM who lost it should stand up before the group and apologize and say his behavior is unacceptable. Period. That's what we'd expect from scouts. We should expect the same from adult leaders who set the example for the scouts. ... And ummm... good luck making it happen. :)(This message has been edited by fred8033)(This message has been edited by fred8033)

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First, I'm coming at this from a Scoutmaster's perspective.


1) You used your son as a pawn - not wise. If your son needed a break, he should learn to speak up. An experienced SPL should also learn to recognize the fact that some of the scouts were lagging and sought solutions. Now, allow me to get on my soapbox and once again state that this is another example on why I believe peer based patrols and patrol functions are best. When I was an active Scoutmaster, the troop did a couple of strenuous hikes. It was not a troop event but only for the more experience and physically capable scouts and scouters. Having 17 year old scouts along with 11 year old scouts on a hike is either going to stress the youngsters or bore the oldsters.


2) As an assistant scoutmaster, you should not have asked for a buddy check nor given your son specific and unique instructions. The biggest irritant I had as a scoutmaster were scouts who looked over to dad after every request from the SA, SPL, PL, etc. to see if it was okay. You are not teaching your son the skills necessary for independence when you do this.


3) The other SAs actions were not proper but at least he did apologize. I don't see any example of how that SA "attacked" your son - physically or verbally. Your actions and words "I won't tolerate" could be viewed as just as aggressive in my opinion.


4) The good news is that the other SA recognized his actions as a mistake. Do you recognize your actions as a mistake? I think going to the UC, DE, police etc. on this single incident is absurd. As a father, I'd be more interested in my son's view on all of this. I would not come out and ask him directly but you should be able to judge how he feels about the above incidents and I'd do what he prefers - try to get along with the existing troop and its structure or look for another unit.

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accu40 ... great point. dennism manipulated the situation to make a point. The hike was not going great for the younger scouts. So dennism forced a failed buddy check using his own son. Unfortunately, it back fired on him.


It does NOT excuse another ASM losing his temper. Period.


But intentionally making a scout effort fail is just not cool. It's like when getting ready to leave camp and the scouts are walking a patrol line to look for trash. After they pass, an ASM throws trash on the ground in a few places. If not caught, maybe it's a learning situation. If caught, some of those scouts are going to be pretty pissed off and won't trust you again. Heck, I've seen adults use tricks like that. Pisses me off too. Then on the car ride home my son has asked me "Did ### throw trash on the ground?" I can't lie and say no. But if I dance around it, my son knows it's true.


Correct bad situations. Use outings and the normal course of events to teach. But any manipulation can easily back fire and is a bad leadership style to teach. IMHO, manipulation is essentially a form of lying.(This message has been edited by fred8033)

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This was a troop hike, so there was bound to be a range of ages participating even if individual patrols wwere age-homogenous.


The older Scouts leaving the younger behind is selfish. It is also not loyal, courteous, kind, or friendly. It may not be safe, depending on the circumstances. (Does each sub-group, especially the last, have a first aid kit?)


The traditional solution is to take the leader - the SPL - aside and discuss what you see happening. This gives the SPL the opportunity to correct the situation by reminding the older Scouts of their responsibilities in a Scouting context. If the SPL does not change the situation, he needs more/better training and counseling about the objectives of leadership. Ask him if he wants to lead the troop. If so, that includes the younger Scouts.


Adults taking direct action is usurping the role of the leaders unless some immediate safety issue is involved.


The SA who got loud and physical needs to change his behavior. He is setting a terrible example and violating BSA policy. Someone needs to tell him that. There is a need to identify someone whom he respects to deliver the message. Would he like to see the leaders (Scouts) using the same style? Changing well-establish behavior patterns is not easy to achieve.


Where was the SM?(This message has been edited by TAHAWK)

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SA's actions were totally unacceptable and constitute a safety issue in that it sets a dangerous leadership example for scouts. Apology was definitely necessary but does not un-ring the bell. SA is a danger to others.


OP may not have used best approach to deal with the issue but does not change the above nor excuse the SA's actions.


SPL and patrol leader need better tools to manage scouts on hike. In our unit the youth leader (SPL/PL/Crew Chief) asks the question "is anyone not ready?" Hike does not continue if anyone--scout or adult--says they are not ready. Once the those that were not ready say they are the leader asks the question again. At this point, assuming there are no new objections, the hike continues. It works.

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Yah, dennism, welcome to da forums.


Youth leaders learnin' how to deal with slower, younger, or less fit fellows on a hike takes some time and a bit of coaching. Just as young or slower fellows learning to speak up, and occasionally learnin' to push themselves a bit harder for da sake of the group also takes some time and a bit of coaching.


Camping and especially summer camp can also be a bit of an exercise in sleep deprivation as well, eh? ;) Sometimes all of us have done or said somethin' because of gettin' tired and a bit mentally overloaded. I know I have.


So, yah, acco40 is quite right, eh? You made some poor judgement calls as an ASM. Read acco40's post again, because he's right. But da one that I think is most important that acco40 left off is that yeh acted independently without havin' a side conversation with your fellow ASM to let him know your concerns and kick around some ideas and plans together for helpin' the youth learn da lesson. Yeh went rogue on him. That showed a fellow ASM that yeh didn't trust or respect him, that yeh weren't workin' together.


I think it's OK for a fellow ASM to be upset when yeh blindside him the way yeh did. Yep, he should have dealt with it by supportin' you and then had a quiet sidebar with you the way you should have had a quiet sidebar with him before he acted. "Goin' off" instead was his poor judgment.


Now here's my question. When he offered an apology, did you accept it? If yeh did, then I think it's over. Once you accept someone's apology you are honor-bound to put the matter behind you. Yeh start fresh. If that were the case, I would let it go. Especially if he accepted your apology as well.


And that's where this one should end. If there's a pattern that shows up frequently, that's a different issue, but right now aside from innuendo that doesn't seem to be what you're sayin'. Both you and he deserve a re-do for your respective behaviors, and yeh do that by startin' out treatin' your fellow ASM as a colleague.


Now, down the road a pace if yeh do become the CC, then the approach might be different a bit. There, I see the behaviors by the youth leaders to be da sort of thing that perhaps reflects some adult leadership that hasn't yet figured out how to guide scouts to a servant leader type of role. If that feels like the case after a bit, then yeh recruit some additional leaders to help fill that need, especially thinkin' about da SM role down the road, and yeh redirect the energies of guys like this to a more supportive role.




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One question, in the long list of folks you asked about relating this incident to, the one you did not mention was the SM.




Where was the SM?


Is there a problem there?


Yes, this ASM's behavior was horrible, but he did apologize to you.


However - ditto to what was said by all. Especially Beav's comment that you should have talked to the other ASM before you pulled that stunt with your son, and left your son hanging there in the middle of a very bad situation.


I rather feel that you need to apologize to your son for that one.





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A couple things need to happen...


1) You appoligize to son for putting him in that position.

2) If the ASM is truely sorry for his actions, then the apology should be in public, as the offense was public as well.


Can stand when folks in a leadership position screw up publically, then try to "own" it by making it right in private.


Man up and say you're sorry in front of the scouts. Thats a HUGE lesson for everyone to learn.

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acco40 pretty much nailed it. I agree with DeanX as well and have made the "Mr Turtle lost his temper, made a complete A$$ of himself, and apologizes to Mr ##" speech.


But yeah I think the other guy needs to work on chilling.

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Thanks for all of your reply's. This information is very helpful.


There are a few comments that I would like to make.


1) I totally understand that I could have handled this better my self. My preference would have been to find a way to talk to the SPL and encourage him to look at how the troop was hiking and see if there wasn't a way to pull the troop closer while they hike. This ASM does not allow other ASM to talk to the SPL without going through him. He will even pull that on the SM. Maybe some of my frustration of not allowing the younger scouts to get a break came out. BTW, it was more than my son that was not getting breaks. I will learn from this myself.


2) The SM was not on the hike because he needed some time away from the ASM that pushed and yelled at me.


3) I know without a doubt that after this issue I handled this situation exactly as I would have wanted my son or any scout to handle it. I was the one who did everything that I could to diffuse the situation after the incident. The ASM that pushed me even commented to me about how patience I was with him during the week. I had other ASM's comment that they would not be so calm in this situation.


4) In an effort to keep my post short I may not have been as clear as I wish I would have been on my origional post. You see I am new to ASM and have not used this forum very much either.


5) I followed up with the SM yesterday. He is at a total loss about how to handle this ASM other than to just let him be scoutmaster again.


6) I always tell my son that if you tell me the truth there still may be repercussions for your actions, but it will be less than if you had told me a lie. I feel that same about this situation. Even though he apologized for his actions and I accepted his apologue, there should still be consenquences for his actions. You see this is not the first time this ASM has blown a fuse. And in a wierd way I understand him more than anyone else in the troop. None of that changes the fact that there is always consequences for his actions and mine or the SM.


7) I guess that I feel there is never a reason for any adult leader or scout to get physical with another in any way, shape or form. And I was looking for input on who I should talk to about this issue to help the troop move forward as this is an on-going problem.




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My inclination would be to find the previous Scoutmaster a new job in Scouting outside contact with the Scouts.


I've accepted people who lost their self control in the presence of Scouts ----once. Anyone can have a bad day. But you describe a person who indulges in bad behavior repeatedly, and that isn't acceptable.


The current SM appears to be unwilling to grasp the thistle and deal with the problem. This is already causing significant compromises in the troop, such as the SM not going on the hike.


Furthermore, hiking young Scouts into the ground is not an acceptable tactic by the SPL. When you recognized this as a problem you had a responsibility to take action to correct it, in my view. Personally I wouldn't be critical of the method you used --- you acted reasonably in my view.


I would be inclined to talk turkey with the Scoutmaster about the former Scoutmaster, and talk with the Committee Chair if that doesn't lead to a recognition of the problem. At a minimum the SM and/or CC need to make it clear to the former SM that further displays of temper will result in him being separated from the Troop program.

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"I guess that I feel there is never a reason for any adult leader or scout to get physical with another in any way, shape or form. And I was looking for input on who I should talk to about this issue to help the troop move forward as this is an on-going problem. "


This is the kicker for me.


I would be talking with the SM, CC, and COR to explain to them that my kid isn't going to be in a program where adults solve their problems or vent their frustrations by shoving each other around (literally or figuratively).



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