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Mike Long

What to do when older scouts are disobedient.

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Before I start let me state that I agree completely that we need to utilize positive reinforcment as opposed to punishments in Scouting and we should not "kick out" boys.

 

Here is the situation. A couple of years ago I took over the position of Scoutmaster of our troop. The troop was in sad shape. Uniforms were not being worn, the Scoutmaster was planning the program completety, the committee didn't exist, the junior leaders were in name only. In my opinion this was not a scout troop this was a camping club that aped the BSA.

 

Eventually I took over as Scoutmaster. The first point of business was to establish the committee. At the first real committee meeting in years I point blank told them that if I am to take on this position I then the Troop WILL follow the BSA program. One of my sticking points was that the Troop will wear the Scout uniform correctly to all Troop meetings. In the past the troop wore the uniform only at the first meeting of the month and the troop T-shirt to all others. In reality that meant that the boys never wore the uniform and sometimes wore the T. The committee agreed.

 

In the following year or so I have been constantly reminding boys to wear the uniform. Reminding junior leaders that they set the example and it is part of their job to wear the uniform. I have had two groups of webelos join the troop since then and all you need to do is remind them and they comply.

 

My problem is with some of the older boys who came up in the old system. I finally had enough of cajoling these guys and put my foot down. I told them that it is inexcusable that they continue to ignore the rules of the troop and the BSA. I pointed out pages 12 and 13 of the Scout handbook where is says in no uncertain terms to wear the uniform and the inportance of it. I pointed out the eight fundamental methods of Scouting that #8 was the uniform. I told them that these items are not negotiable. If you want to be a scout then you abide by the rules of Scouting and not attempt to wiggle around them. Troops that do this are not scout troops they are sad parodies of the BSA. If you don't like the rule obey it and try to get it changed or quit. I also told them that I don't appreciate them teaching the younger scouts to be disobedient by their example especially from Life and Star Scouts. Of course I got the fifth degree in return and the the crux of their arguement was that they wanted to go back to the unScoutlike (my description) way it was. If not then they will quit if they must wear the uniform. Frankly I don't want these guys to quit, but I also won't allow that cancerous attitude to infect the rest of the troop.

 

The ringleader asked to approach the Troop Committee and ask that the uniform issue be changed back. I was ok with that as I thought it might be helpful that the committee help him to understand that this isn't just Scoutmaster Long's rule but the BSA's rule and let them approach the committee. Some of my assistants thought that this was a bad idea and that I should have told them to obey or get out. At the committee meeting the discussion got heated and it became obvious to me that this was turning into a battle of wills between him and me judging by the character assassination on me he attempted when it became obvious that his arguement was pointless. We voted and he was overwhelmingly defeated with only one vote in his favor. (It disturbs me that even one adult voted his way as I thought this is something the committee can not choose to do and that this in my mind was simply an excercise in showing the boy how wrong he is.) After the meeting he continued his combative arguement with anyone who would listen also stating that he would speak to the district and council...ad nauseum.

 

I intend to speak with him and apologise that the meeting got heated and ask him if we can both move forward together and work for the betterment of the troop, and let this be a lesson for the both of us.

 

Here is my concern. I know this boy and it is highly likely that he is going to become a problem. I think he is going to do what he can to disrupt and fight the uniform and in the end force the myself and the committee to remove him from our membership for the betterment of the Troop. I do not want to remove the boy as I consider it a personal failure.

 

Suggestions, comments, critisims, help?

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Mike,

 

...but I also won't allow that cancerous attitude to infect the rest of the troop.

 

Remember that part, because it's the root. You're the Scoutmaster for ALL the boys and the entire troop. As such, you need to set the example for ALL, and not be lead astray in your attempts to keep one or two boys in the troop. Your efforts are, indeed admirable, and I commend your spirit in trying to keep all the guys, but... You may lose one, or two, to save the troop. That's not a bad percentage in the end.

 

As to the one yong man with whom you have the problem, you might approach him with the attitude that you stand by the principles of the BSA and it's policies, and you'd like to help him in whatever way you might, but he has to understand what the BSA is all about, uniform included, and then he's more than welcome. If he's looking for a Boys Club, perhaps there's one nearby. He may walk, let him if that's HIS choice, it's not yours. You're giving him the opportunity to make a difficult choice, and that's what life is all about. Difficult choices. Having been in your position myself with issues other than uniform, but just as troubling in the mind of the older Scout, I can appreciate both his mindset, and yours. I made it my business to stand by the rules, and would bend over backwards to explain them, and the reasons for them. Ultimately, the choices were theirs, and I would make sure they understood that. I was not trying to force them to do anything other than abide by rules, and that is a very big life lesson to be learned. When they walked, I was dismayed, but sometimes, they would think better, and come back. Sometimes they wouldn't, and I'd wish them well. Only once did I have to invite a returning boy to leave, for good, when it became apparent that his only reason for returning was to make trouble. But that's part of life, too.

 

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Mike,

 

I fought a similar battle on wear of the uniform in the last year or so. That, coupled with trying to bring our activities and advancement in line with the BSA program. When It came to uniforms I had three boys who just didn't want to get with the program. Of those three, 1 left, 2 changed, and the troop is better for it. I would have liked to have kept all fo them but the one that left had problems with my style in general and was interested in play time but not in the program.

 

Bottom line for me, we need to build a program that teaches the boys character. Some boys will be attracted to it and others will be repelled but the program is what those who stick with it come for. Stick to your guns!! You'll lose a boy once in a while no matter what you do. Take comfort in the fact that the ones you lose will go because they aren't ready for a good program not because the program wasn't ready for them. It's sad to lose a scout but it's sadder to lose him because we failed to provide the promise.

 

Teach them well, keep their feet to the fire...They're next in line to take over the world!

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Mike,

 

Sounds to me like you are doing everything right. Uniforms became an issue in our troop too, but now almost everybody wears their full uniform at all the right times. If this guy bails, that is his choice, not yours. Keep up the good work.

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Mike,

 

I understand your not wanting to be the one to remove the boy from scouting. So, don't be. Let the boy remove himself.

 

You have already laid fine groundwork. You have a mandate from your committee (not that you needed one) that you are right so you have the support you need. Very soon, if not at your next meeting or at the very least the one after that put your uniform policy in written form. Spell out what is acceptable and what is not. Have included the number of times a scout may show up "out of uniform" before he receives a "verbal" warning (usually 3)

then after another 3 times a "written" warning and another 3 means counseling and possible expulsion from the troop.

 

I know this seems tedious, and you can adjust the numbers, but lay it out and follow it. If it gets to the counseling stage, its not you who has decided to remove the boy from scouting, it is the boy.

 

One word of warning, all the troop knows what happened. You must take control or you lose any control. Lay out the process and follow it, all eyes are on you.

 

 

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Mike,

Kudos to the way you handled the situation! Like OGE said let the boy remove himself from the Troop.

 

To me, this is in direct violation of the Scout Law. He is not being obedient therefore until he is he should not be allowed to advance since he is not showing Scout Spirit by living the Scout Oath AND Law!

 

Ed Mori

Scoutmaster

Troop 1

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Mike,

Scoutmaster can be a hard job especially to those who take it seriously. These older scouts have had a poor example before you arrived. Try taking each aside for a Scoutmaster conferance tell them (one by one) what is expected of them to advance. Give them one warning then the next time the show up without a uniform send them home.

This is an isue in many troops, some only require full uniforms once per month with a class b (troop t-shirt) for outings and informal meetings.

Older scouts like to bend the rules, Venture Crews get to pick their own uniforms and many decide to wear only a crew t-shirt. Temper your demands with wisdom

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Thanks for the input and support.

My dad was my Scoutmaster, I knew exactly what I was getting into. Matter of fact he and I had a little "Scoutmaster conference" before I took the job. Made me feel like I was 15 again. It was a good feeling too, made me miss being a Boy Scout.

 

My demands? Well, all I am asking is that the Troop obey the uniform rules as printed on pages 12 and 13 of the hanbook, nothing more and absolutely nothing less. I see nothing that indicates that Troops even have an option to do anything other than what the book states in regard to uniforming. Just because other troops choose to disobey the rules doesn't mean that it's ok for us to continue the cycle. I won't be a part of it.

 

My big delimma now is that I have recieved several calls from other Scouts and parents and all they want to know is if I will "kick him out." Apparently the majority wants this and that disturbs me as I believe in redemption and giving the boys the chance to be forgiven and make it right. It almost seems like blood-lust to me.

 

Sounds like it's time for another SM minute on forgiveness and charity.

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My 2 cents worth, there is no RULES on page 12 or 13 of the handbook about wearing uniforms, only suggestion that it will make you a better scout.

 

From Page 152 of the Scoutmaster Handbook, 2000 edition.

 

A Boy Scout is not required to have a uniform in order to be a Boy Scout.

 

The next sentence is:

However, troop leaders should set a good example by wearing the uniform.

 

Mike, I do not think you can require a scout to wear a uniform, but I believe that you can use it to stop advancement of the scout for not showing leadership especially if he is an older scout and not setting a good example for the younger scouts.

But, please be careful this could be a very slippery slope!

 

I have brought this point up here b4 and have been told I was mistaken, please read the Scoutmaster Handbook, and give me your thoughts on what it says.

 

 

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Well I'll have to look that up but here is my reasoning regarding what is stated in the Boy Scout handbook.

 

Page 12- "...Old or new, wear your uniform proudly whenever you are taking part in Scout activities. ..." I see nothing about should, ought or you might want to in that statement. It tells the Scout to wear the uniform in definate language with no amiguity. That quote is not taken out of context, there is nothing on that page that gives the scout the option of not wearing a uniform.

 

Page 13 describes the official scout uniform (tan shirt and all) nothing else is granted the title of uniform. There is no Class A or Class B language so anything other than what is descibed in not a uniform. There is also more definate languge here in the form of "...Wear full uniform for all ceremonial and indoor activities, such as troop meetings, courts of honor, and most other indoor functions. ..." Once again, this is definate language instructing the scout when to wear the uniform. The only optional language here is the following "The uniform should also be worn during special outdoor occasions, such as Scout shows, flag ceremonies, and special times at summer camp." Now there is some abmiguity but when taken in the context of the entire passage it's intent is clear and that is to wear the uniform.

 

The last sentence on the page is the only place I have seen that tells the Scout when he is allowed to not wear a uniform. "For outdoor activities, Scouts may wear troop or camp T-shirts with the Scout pants of shorts."

 

Definate statements in a textbook or handbook are to be taken as fact and are tantamount to rules. When a science book says the earth revolves around the sun it is not a suggestion that the earth might want to consider revolving around the sun but may take alternate thursdays off.

 

One of my Assistants brought the issue up to the Roundtable and they agree with me 100%. My Council agrees with me 100%. Every Scoutmaster I spoke to agrees with me 100%. You are one of three who disagree and that includes my challenge scout. Can we all be wrong and you right? Could be, it's happened before.

 

Questioning our firm held beliefs should make them stronger or make us realize they are false and in need of correction. Dan I see nothing to support your position but I will check out the Scoutmaster's handbook and will post back with my thoughts.

 

I do appreciate your input, thanks.

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I think the part about not having to have a uniform is for scouts that can't afford the cost of a complete uniform. If a kid only has enough money to buy the hat, that's enough uniform for me. However, if they have a uniform, which is the case here i believe, it should be worn at the appropriate occasions.

 

In our troop, if this occured, he would have to answer to the PLC and possibly the committee where he could be excluded from further troop meetings until he changed his attitude. I would hope that the uniform issue wouldn't make it that far and would do everything possible to make sure the boy realized that as one of the 8 points it is important and will be followed.

 

Mike, have you laid out your concerns in a SM conference where you pointed out that an unscoutlike attitude will not be tolerated at all? What position did this boy hold in the troop prior to the old SM's departure?

 

Thanks & Good Luck

 

YIS

Quixote

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I agree with Quixote about the cost issue and his secario but cost is not an issue here and even if it was the troop repeatedly states that if a Scout can't afford a uniform then one will be provided and we also have an experienced unform bin that anyone is welcome to dip into at anytime.

 

The Scout was a PL (if I remember correctly) and Life when I assumed leadership. He's been stagnant for my entire tenure. He also happens to be my past SPL. He wore the uniform off and on while SPL (although not always completely) and was asked each time to wear it completely. As soon as his term was over he quit wearing the uniform.

 

SM conference? How about 2 in 2 weeks?

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Mike,

Stick to your guns! If you back down then you will be challenged on everything.

 

Good Luck

 

Ed Mori

Scoutmaster

Troop 1

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Ok Dan I checked it out. (page 152 Scoutmasters handbook)

 

Yes it does say that a uniform is not required to be a scout but then it goes on to tell of several ways to get uniforms and encourage boys to wear them.

 

The general message I get from this is that if a scout can't afford a uniform he can't be kicked out because of it but if he has a uniform he is expected to wear it properly and proudly. It looks to be a reminder to Scout leaders to be sensitive to the economic means of some of our scout families.

 

If uniforms were optional the Boy Scout handbook would say so as that is the only scout book most boys read but instead the handbook says in very clear language to get a uniform and properly wear it.

 

Economics are not the issue here it is a senior scout who refuses to obey the rules of the troop.

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I've had boys or parents question the uniform requirement. I tell them that until they can show me where the book says the uniform are optional, we will wear it.

 

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