Observations on the Jumpin' Jim Commissioner Hypothetical
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU)
Thu, 4 Aug 1994 01:03:26 -0400
A few have requested my thoughts on the hypothetical involving Jumpin' Jim.
I put together my thoughts last Sunday after Randy started the discussion,
but before the rest of the responses started rolling in. There were a lot
of great ideas and thoughts, that I haven't included here. These are just
the things I was thinking of when I raised the question. To those who
contributed, my thanks -- I know I learned a few things. Anyway,
apologizing in advance for length, here is what I came up with:
1. As the ADC in this situation, you have probably realized that you need
to find out a lot more before you or the Commissioner's Staff can be
effective in this situation.
2. Your first problem is to advise Jumpin' Jim on what to do immediately or
he'll probably figure out something on his own and it may be guns ablazing
(to borrow from Freemason). You can make him part of the crisis team in
this situation by laying out your plan of approach and asking him to help
you in the fact-finding with specific areas (maybe limited) before action
3. As ADC you can tell Jumpin' Jim that your plan of action is something
like this (more comment on the hypothetical after this):
a. Fact-finding - answer as many of the important questions as you can.
1] Jumpin' Jim can go through the records with the District
Training Chairman to see which troop leaders received
what training at what time. This should probably be couched in
terms of reviewing all units that Jumpin' Jim has to avoid
singling out the old troop. Or it can be a special project to
review all of the units in your service area with Jim leading
the charge. Won't hurt to keep it general and non-specific and
can avoid rumors.
2] Jumpin' Jim can continue to go to the next meeting or two and
listen and ask a few questions that are not accusatory, if he can
work them into conversation (this is a judgment call); e.g., he
can find out which leaders were on the campout, where it was,
dates, and get a feel for what boys were there.
3] You may want to check around to see who knows the SM or any of
the ASMs and see what the grapevine says. This needs to be pretty
subtle, because you don't want to signal that the Commissioner
Staff is on the hunt - its not.
b. Team review - That's you the ADC, your Unit Commissioner, the
District Commissioner and the Senior District Executive (especially if
you suspect that YPP issues are involved). Review the facts known
and not known. Tell Jumpin' Jim that the team will develop a team
plan at this point with specific responsibilities for each player
and reassure him that you are not going to overstep into his
relationship with the troop (you don't want to anyway).
c. Actions decided by the team. Suggest to Jumpin' Jim that these
actions may include more questions that he will have to ask, contact
with the SM, contact with the Committee Chairman, or the Chartered
Organization. However, stress that the questions will need to be
pursued in a definite order. It's a good time to point out that, if we
get to far ahead of ourselves when can polarize the situation and
find that the Chartered Organization is backing the SM until death.
4. Now here are some of the questions that I thought needed to be answered
when I designed the hypothetical (and I know that there were a lot of other
good questions raised in discussion that should be added):
a. Who were the adult leaders and other adults present at the Campout?
b. Was the Scoutmaster there?
c. Who was in charge and when?
d. Were any of the other leaders present trained?
e. When was the last training for each?
f. Have any of those leaders attended YPP Training, if so when?
g. When did this Campout take place? (Was it recently or a long time
h. Where was the Campout?
i. Was it within 50 miles of the troop's meeting place?
j. If not, did the troop get a tour permit? (If they goofed here,
their liability could have been much greater, if something went
wrong or had gone wrong - this gets attention)
k. What did the Scouts plan as the activities for the Campout?
l. Who approved the Patrol Leader's Council's plan for the campout?
m. Did the PLC's plan include Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and/or
n. Regarding D&D - its popular among early teens as a game - what
do you know about it? Does it teach any Scouting values? Is it
appropriate for a Scout activity? (You may need to use your
resources to find out more, before you are ready to take this on)
o. Did any of the alleged events take place?
p. What were the circumstances?
q. If they did take place, which adults, if any knew in advance?
r. Did any of the adults know about these activities when they
were taking place?
s. If they did, what did they do?
t. Was their action an appropriate resolution (meaning you really
don't need to add more)?
u. Is the adult leadership now aware of the problems, if the
allegations are true?
v. What has the adult leadership done since the campout?
w. Is their post-campout action an appropriate response?
x. Has the SPL or any youth leader taken action (I've seen an SPL
take a whole troop to task after an event for poor conduct without
the SM asking)?
y. Was any Scout hurt?
z. Was any Scout molested by an older Scout?
aa. What has been done?
ab. What still needs to be done?
5. Depending on the answers to these questions, you as the ADC will have to
decide who needs to be involved at what stage in the resolution of any
problems discovered. You may decide that unit has discovered its problem
and addressed it appropriately. If so, it wouldn't hurt to just to run it
by your District Commissioner and District Executive, just in case
something else comes of the events that you didn't know about (nobody likes
6. Assuming that there are problems that need to be resolved, as the ADC
you probably will want to involve both your District Commissioner and
District Executive in the process. However, you don't want to get too
many folks involved. The more people involved, the more who talk, the
more the rumors and pretty soon you no longer have any control and damage
is being done. Back to the main point here. You want your District
Commissioner involved to give you support, advice and act as a sounding
board. He will want to be involved, because he's responsible for every
unit's health. Because he will not in all probability have any relation
to the unit, he can give impartial and independent advice and help make
sure that emotion doesn't get ahead of reason. Because of the potential
for YPP problems and perhaps other policy issues, the DE needs to be aware
of what you are doing. The worst thing that could happen is for you to
develop a great plan only to find out that a distraught parent has called
the DE and that he's already confronting the Chartered Organization's
Institutional Head, the Committee Chairperson or SM, based on a very
one-sided view (So much for all your hopes to do it right). Instead show
him that you have a good grasp on the situation and that you are going to
help him get to the bottom of the situation. There are things he can do
to make your job easier too; e.g. records in the Council Office,
information on prior complaints (if any), ideas, knowledge about Council,
Regional and National policies, etc. In most cases the DE will be
relieved that you are going to do some of the tough stuff and happy to
have input. (We all know that no DE, DC, ADC or UC is perfect and that
some may want to jump the gun, but this is going to happen anyway, so why
not do your best to cut down on the chances or minimize the risk by taking
the team approach? Once folks acknowledge team membership they're less
likely to take independent action.)
7. Now that you have a team assembled and know what questions to ask, what
are you really going to do? Situations like this always require a lot of
judgment and each of us sees things a little differently. So please
realize that there are many right answers depending on the circumstances.
As a minimum I think we can probably all agree that the situation needs to
be followed to a conclusion. If we can get Jumpin' Jim to understand that
we don't fire SM's or any other leader and can get him to calm down, he
can be our best asset. He can be coached to have a very private
conversation with the SM. He can use several approaches. He could start
by alluding to a problem similar in nature that he's heard about
elsewhere. This approach has the advantage of not being accusatory and
allowing the SM to raise his own questions. However, it has the danger of
being too thin, if the SM already knows about the problem and suspects
that this is the issue. Another approach is ask the SM for advice on what
the UC can or should do, given that he has been presented with some
allegations that he's not sure about. This allows the SM to explain
misunderstandings, if there were any. Suppose for example that the Scouts
were trying to do a Nickolodean style event and all the new guys in the
new patrol lost the tug of war and got drug through peanut butter and moss
- no hazing, just "clean" fun. It wouldn't do to have made an accusation
only to have the peanut butter on your own face. Pardon the unforgiveable
pun. On the other hand Ivan may reluctantly welcome the opportunity to
figure out the mess (especially, if he wasn't on site) or at least to tell
you that he has it under control (we can decide later if it is under
control). And there's always confrontation. Not usually the recommended
approach, but if we end up with pretty strong evidence that something is
really amiss and get a wire brush from the SM, we may have no other
choice. The downside is that we know will also have to involve the
Committee Chairperson and/or Chartered Organization. This could lead to a
stalemate, if not carefully handled.
8. Now what? Well, if we decide the problem is still real, we need to
figure out what needs to be done. Here it pays to demonstratively place
trust in the real decision makers. We can let the Committee Chairperson
know what we know and what our concerns are and ask for him/her to address
the issue. A good many Chairpersons will do just that and pretty fairly
too. After all their son's welfare is at stake too.
9. Suppose we get the wire-brush from the Chairperson? There's always
the Chartered Organization, but this is a step that demands extreme
caution. The Chartered Organization wouldn't have approved the SM, ASMs,
etc., if it didn't have a lot of confidence in them. Before you go this
far, you'd better really have your facts straight and not have a handful
of allegations that are unsupported. If you really don't have a strong
case, you could end up alienating them and they could decide its too much
trouble to charter a unit. The boys get hurt and the problem still isn't
10. Now its clear after walking through these possibilities that maybe
another approach would be to focus on making sure that all of the leaders
have current training including YPP. It might also be useful to invite
the SM to participate in SM Fundamentals instead of taking him on. You
know the old wisdom that nothing teaches like having to teach others.
11. One other thing that I have deliberately left until last, because the
facts were not meant to directly suggest a true YPP problem is the issue
of YPP. If we find that the information gives us reason to believe that
abuse or molestation did occur in the hazing, etc., at any point in the
resolution process, then it is mandatory for the Scout Executive to be
informed and he in turn must contact appropriate youth protection agencies
in the jurisdiction(s) involved. If this is so, it will have a profound
effect on how the matter is resolved. >From that point on, the Scout
Executive will have to run the show. There is no way that you want to
interfere in any State investigation or inquiry. In fact, if you do, you
may be subject to criminal sanctions. Once the flag goes up on this
issue, the Commissioner Staff will still have a role to play in assessing
leadership, training, etc., and in working with the Chartered Organization
and Committee to help keep the troop on its feet, but this will have to be
coordinated with the Scout Executive.
12. Remember that this was a hypothetical situation and solution. Each
situation you confront in the Commissioner's Service will be unique. And
while there are some things that we can learn from an exercise, each
situation also will require judgment. And finally, I must also remind the
list that in formulating the hypothetical and the hypothetical
solution(s), I am not speaking on behalf of the BSA and am simply offering
my own observations for the purposes of discussion. In a real situation,
I would be the first to strongly urge you to discuss the matter with your
District Commissioner and District Executive and to obtain any
professional advice warranted.
I appreciate your contributions, ideas and thoughts on this case. I think
that we all profit from the many different viewpoints on the SCOUTS-L List
and this is no exception.
Yours in Scouting, Michael F. Bowman, a/k/a Professor Beaver
Deputy District Commissioner Exploring, GW Dist., NCAC, BSA
Speaking only for myself, but with Scouting Spirit . . .
____ mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU ____
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City