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Leadership position revocation

Hello,

A scout has had some repeated behavior issues while camping with his troop. Nothing overly serious. The scout has ADHD and at evenings and morning when the meds wear off he can become a nuisance to scouts as he doesn’t listen very well to both scouts and adults. At a certain point the parents were asked to accompany the scout. The parents are involved and supportive of the scout and the troop. Things seemed to get better for a while and that restriction was removed. Then it started to happen again. This scout is also a Den Chief for the pack. After the last trip the committee called the parent in and decided to suspend the scout for one month and instill a permanent rule that parents must attend the campouts. They also decided to revoke his Den Chief status.

As an observer is this appropriate action taken by the committee?

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Which committee? Pack Committee or Troop Committee?

This was all Troop committee.

Personally, I would be concerned that the committee is taking action relative to youth positions of responsibility for anything other than conduct that might result in general revocation of membership. I can see the committee/chartered org saying “This youth is a hazard to others around him/her and can not safely participate in scouting activities,” although it would have to be a pretty significant hazard to motivate me to move in that direction (e.g. threat to life or limb, intentional hazing, etc). We have youth who have various degrees of medical/neurological/psychological impairment in our unit, and I only know of one circumstance where a scout was specifically asked to discontinue participation as a result of being an extreme hazard to others, after various attempts at accommodation of issues had been unsuccessful.

In general, it’s my experience that youth leadership positions are a program-side matter and are generally handled between the SPL and the SM, not the committee. The committee could reasonably establish bylaws requiring that all scouts with special needs (whatever those may be) be evaluated as to whether or not they require a parent to participate with the scout in order to ensure safety (e.g. newly-diagnosed diabetic who needs supervision to ensure appropriate frequency/levels of insulin dosing). I don’t see a blanket policy that would apply to the scouts in general as an issue. I would be concerned if the policy was crafted specifically to apply to this scout. That’s not intended as an accusation, mind, just a general statement of my view on policies.

I would also evaluate the decision based on what, if anything, was requested by the pack. If the pack no longer wishes the scout to serve as a Den Chief, then that’s entirely their prerogative, in my experience. I can see how the two committees might have coordinated on addressing that issue, particularly if they share a chartered organization. I would still have expected notice to come from the SM/SPL (depending on the SPL’s level of maturity and comfort with the issue) to the scout and his/her family, preferably with some indication of specifically what triggered the request and what corrective action would be necessary to be eligible to be reinstated, if possible.

Overall, it sounds like a situation that would be difficult to handle and evaluate, even with all of the specifics. Our unit agonized quite a bit over asking the scout in our case to disassociate from the unit, despite persistent problems. It’s a big step to tell a scout they can’t participate, even in as limited a way as revoking a position of responsibility.

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I would also be concerned that the troop committee took action to remove the Den Chief position without consulting with the pack to see if the pack wanted to change den chiefs.

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As a Scoutmaster I would tell the committee to back off - the Scoutmaster and ASM’s are the adults in Charge of the Scouts - the committee makes sure the unit runs. They are WAY outside the norm here.

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Additional info. The Scoutmaster and ASM attend the campouts and work with the scout. The SM and ASM wanted to kick the scout out of the troop. When they returned they decided to involve the committee to make the decision. The CC is also the CC for the pack. Different CO. The parent was part of the committee meeting as they are also a committee member. Also on previous trips they would call the parent who would talk to and coach the scout and things would get better. They didn’t do that this time. There was no communication until the special meeting was called.

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I was wondering if there was any BSA policy that guides how to react in these situations. Is this type of punishment allowed or restricted?

Generally, the references I would review include the BSA’s Rules and Regulations, BSA’s policies, guidelines and model plans, BSA guidelines and policies related to serving scouts with disabilities, the Guide to Safe Scouting, and the Guide to Advancement. Each of them has pieces of the puzzle to what is permitted and what is not permitted. None of them (and I’m not certain all of them together) have all of the policies that the BSA applies.

For example, there is a policy document referenced in the BSA Rules and Regulations document that addresses revocation of membership, although in that sort of case I would reach out to at least my DE before taking a step of that severity. As far as I know, this document is a restricted document only available to professional staff, probably because they want units to involve the professional staff before taking a step of this type.

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Agree that it’s the SM/ASM’s job. I do think informing the committee and certainly the COR is a good idea as a matter of courtesy and documentation to show that the SM/ASM was not acting out of spite, anger or frustration.

I think suspending a scout is appropriate if done as a last resort. A parent or guardian needs to be informed early in any behavioral issues and given a reasonable number of opportunities for the inappropriate conduct to be worked through. We’ve had some situations where we have required the parent to attend all meeting and outdoor events in case we need to get them involved in a disciplinary issue. We had some that we asked to take a short break to decide if they can act within the scout law or not.

You also have to take into consideration other parents and scouts complaining about a scout causing problems. We certainly don’t want to run off any families because one scout is making the experience unpleasant for others.

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Suspension is a reasonable action. In general, I tell the youth that we are giving them a period to consider if they want to be a scout or not. I think the first three words of the Scout Law, a scout is, make that clear.
Say, for example, the scout was verbally abusive to others. A scout is kind. Therefore, one who is verbally abusive cannot be a scout.

I think the SM/ASM’s initial response (expulsion) might have been too harsh. We direct-contact leaders can often be too close to a situation. But, that’s why we have committees to give us feedback. They were absolutely right in modifying their initial decision based on the committee’s review.

At a certain point, a scout is going to have to rely on his own abilities to rectify his fugues of bad behavior. It is perfectly fine to acknowledge to a scout that he likely will have a hard time doing this than other scouts. As he matures, he can fess up to other scouts about how hard it is. But, he should also be brave enough to ask his fellow scouts to hold him to a high standard. How that works will depend on the boys. There might be a time out. If it’s in the middle of a competition, a patrol might need to take a pause and risk losing points. The game that everyone is playing might have to end. Or, the scout might have to be suspended again.
But, the bottom line is those aren’t empty words that your scouts are saying at the beginning of every meeting. They layout the standard to which they agree to be measured.

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It’s the SM’s job to handle the youth program. Once parents get involved, I think the troop committee needs to be involved. I would be very hesitant to allow any single leader the decision-making authority about who can and cannot be a member of the unit.

We had a similar situation last year at summer camp. The SM dealt with the discipline issue immediately at the camp, but afterwards when it was time to discuss the issue and future steps, the committee chairperson and the COR (that’s me, by the way) were involved in determining what we felt was an appropriate reaction to the issue, and the three of us met with the Scout’s parents.

That went a long way in de-escalating the discussion, and let us focus on the behavior issue in general, and what we could do (both the troop and the family) to help the youth be more successful. So far, it’s been a real success story, IMHO. We were able to put together an action plan that everyone agreed with and supported, and let the youth continue to participate in almost all of the troop activities.

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Good to hear. It doesn’t always turn out positively for everyone. I’ve seen many times where we’ve lost a scout who doesn’t want to face that criticizm. But, the other scouts feel safer knowing that we take these things seriously.

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A scout has had some repeated behavior issues while camping with his troop. Nothing overly serious.

I am concerned that the behaviors are nothing overly serious but the scout is being dressed down and bounced out. Isn’t Scouts a place where kids can fail in safety?? Yes we ask them to live the Scout Oath and Law. Who amoung us is without fault? They are young. They are learning. They will make mistakes. Isn’t it our job to support them and guide them and mentor them and coach them? I think continuing to have the scout’s parents involved is a good direction rather than bouncing out a scout. I believe this is exactly the youth that needs scouts and positive adult interaction the most.

The job of the adult committee is to support the Scoutmaster with administration so the SM can provide the program. This feels like overstep on the part of the adult committee. It scounds like the scoutmaster needs the support of the parents during outings.

Is anyone catching this scout doing right/good/living up to the Scut Oath and Law? Is he being acknowledged for what he does right or only his failings?? Is the scout engaged in the process of change or is he simply being told what to do? How can the SM and adults encourage and nuture the good choices without crushing him for his poor choices?

Can you reframe his behavior in your mind from that of attention seeking to that of relationship seeking? How we view his behavior and choices may make a substantial difference in how we approach and engage this scout.

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I think we all need to keep in mind that this is a child with a disability and not just a Scout with a behavior problem.
Not listening and being a bit of a nuisance describes most of the Scouts I grew up with as well as many of the ones in our unit. If this Scout is having trouble at Troop events, think about the struggles he is probably having at school. Think of the additional pressure placed on this family now that their child has been suspended from his Troop.
Many young people with ADHD would love more than anything to be able to conform to behavioral standards but they simply can’t. This is as frustrating to them as to anyone else involved, and perhaps moreso, because they experience it in everything they do.
In my opinion Scouting should be an outlet for this kind of young person, not a place where he finds himself unwelcome. I hope that being suspended from a cherished activity and social outlet and demoted from a leadership position haven’t had a severe impact on this young person’s self esteem.

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I wonder if a low dose med can be given to child to get him through the scout meeting or function he is participating in. As a parent of an autistic child and an ADD child, I can understand the frustration from all sides. I dislike very much medicating children and was able to get around that by choosing home schooling versus traditional school for my ADD child. My autistic child was medicated in the middle of her Freshman year of high school due to depression. I wonder if scout could have a special care taker assigned to him whose job it is to help child through those moments when he may not make a good decision. It would seemingly have to be a patient adult as that is a lot to ask of a teenage scout. Kids with disabilities can be tricky to handle and I think, do benefit from peer interactions and having one on one structure with an adult. They can also be very insightful kids.

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I had a scout who was pretty far out along the ASD spectrum, and what we found worked best was having one of his parents present to help evaluate where he was in terms of his responses. The parent was in a better position to determine if it was an issue that could be addressed by “tuning out” of events for a little while, by refocusing the discussion/event, or if the scout really wasn’t going to be able to re-collect himself and had to leave before something triggered a full-scale meltdown that might impact the scout for much longer than just the remainder of the event/day.

I would be concerned about a non-parent (youth or adult) taking on a role like this without some pretty immediate parental availability. Ultimately, the parent would have to make a decision about whether or not the scout needs more than just a change to their interaction. As much as we love our scouts, youth and adult leaders aren’t (generally) qualified to make those sorts of calls.

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@MoniqueSchaefers, @AndyConner, and @StephanieBauer make good points about what could be done. But none of those are arguments to that a suspension should not be done. It is true that scouting better suits the youth who is not fitting in school or sports very well. But it also suits the youth whose abilities play out over a time frame of days, not hours or even periods (as in most class and sports).
We’ve had youth with ADHD, learning disabilities, conduct disorder, and mood disorders. They all have very hard rows to hoe. Some do. Some do not. At the end of the day the SM has to decide if the scout is even trying to work his row. Does he/she apologize when things go too far? Is he/she trying to make up for it when the hard work of other scouts is undermined? Is he/she honest to other scouts about the condition? Are they able to help him/her de-escalate at least a little when triggered? Only the SM and the committee can determine if too often the answer to those questions for a particular scout is “no.”

You’ll know pretty quick if removing a scout makes other scouts feel safer. (If not hopefully the other scouts will talk to you about not being fair.) What’s unknown is if a suspension will help the scout re-think his/her actions and motivate a stronger internal fight to keep some urges in check.

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Brian, help us out. You are saying this Scout has repeated behavior issues especially at camping events but nothing overly serious…Correct? It’s seems either the SM and ASM are overreacting or his behavioral issues at camping are more serious. Is it just the part about not listening or is it more? For the SM and ASM to actually want him removed from the Troop is serious. Could you expand on while they wanted to kick him out of the Troop?

@WilliamC @BrianCiccariello Let’s exercise some discretion here, and keep it a little more generic. Discussing how to handle a problem Scout is fine, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to delve into specifics about any particular Scout, their family, or their medical and behavioral issues.