Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU)
Wed, 28 Sep 1994 05:36:31 -0400
In your posting re: More Troop 98 woes, you described adult leaders who
were distracted by family members other than Scouts, who played pranks on
Scouts, and who ignored Scouts on an activity. In my opinion each of
these can present serious problems.
1. While Scouting is a family oriented organization, that does not mean
that all family members are members of Scouting and entitled to
participate in its activities. There is a time and place for family
camping; e.g. Webelos family campouts and Council organized family camping
opportunities. Some Troops may even decide to have a single annual
activity where each family is invited to to a campout. The rub comes when
a leader decides that a Scouting activity is a family activity. What
happens when the Scout leader is tending to family matters and a Scout is
injured due to the absence of adult supervision? What happens when a
Scout is injured by a non-Scout family member (example: Wayward Wanda
plays in the fire, gets a branch on fire and sticks it Sammy Scout's
face)? The Scout leader may suddenly find a host of tort liability
problems resulting from his negligence. Will he be protected by Troop and
BSA insurance? I wouldn't bet on it. These insurance polcies were not
meant to protect against liability for the acts of a non-Scout related to
2. Part of the fun of Scouting is being with similarly aged youth with
similar interests and involvement in age-challenging activities. For a
youth of this age, it stops being fun when complicated by much younger
children. They didn't join Scouting to become acquainted with the
leader's family and its problems. Do this too frequently and you may find
membership ebbing quickly. Scouting activities are for Scouts and a
leader should be devoting full attention to his/her Scouts.
3. Pulling pranks may seem funny to the adult, but rarely is funny to a
self-conscious adolescent. The Scout didn't join to become the butt of
someone else's humor. Its awful hard for a Scout to take a Scoutmaster
Conference seriously when the Scoutmaster is worse than disruptive and
certainly not perceived by the Scout as any source of wisdom. If the
adult wants to go on outings to pull pranks, the adult needs to join some
adult organization where this is part of the outfits accepted behavior.
this behavior on the part of a leader reflects a lack of maturity and
should be evaluated by the Troop Committee and/or Chartered Organization.
If the leader is not mature enought to give good leadership, that
individual should be asked to step down or if serious enough should be
told to leave.
4. Depending on the prank, the action may also be characterized as child
abuse - mental, emotional and/or physical. If it is abuse, then under
Youth Protection guidelines, the matter needs to be reported to the Scout
Executive and its out of the Troop's hands. Most likely the leader's
registration will be automatically suspended or revoked and he/she will be
investigated by civil law enforcement authorities with the possibility of
5. Legal action may also come in the form of a tort lawsuit by a parent
on behalf of a child for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
This is a real cause of action recognized by the courts and a real
possibility. Joint defendant's can include the Troop Committee and
Chartering Organization, whose negligence allowed this tort to occur
and/or who failed to take action to stop it.
6. Similarly there are Youth Protection issues involved in ignoring the
Scouts on an activity. Abuse includes abandonment of minors in almost
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