Re: Bullying - is it our problem?
Darla Keller (C60DJK1@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Thu, 15 Dec 1994 19:33:00 CST
re: Bullying, is it our problem?
It definately is our problem. I have 3 incidents to share with
you. The first involves a 13 year old boy who brought a gun to
school to protect himself from gangs. The second involves a Webelos
Leader that has been removed from Scouting because of bullying her
Scouts. The third involves sexual abuse.
We'll just call him "Joe", though that's not his real name. Joe was
excited about starting high school this past fall. He told me he
wouldn't be real active in SCouting for a few months because he was
playing on the football team. I said no problem, I'll be expecting
you back after the season.
In the next few months I didn't see Joe. Much happened during that
Joe started at high school. A new boy moved into town. There were
not enough lockers available, so Joe being a friendly kid volunteered
to share his locker with the new boy. As it turned out this new boy
was a gang member. Rival gang members began harassing Joe because
they thought Joe must be a gang member too. Joe was beat up several
times while walking home from school. Joe told his parents, his
parents reported these things to the school administrators.
The school principal sat down with the gang members harassing Joe
and laid down the law. They were to leave Joe alone.
The situation grew worse. Older gang members who were not students
anymore got into the action. No one would walk home with Joe
because it was too dangerous. Joe was beaten more. He didn't talk
to his parents or school officials because he thought that had only
made things worse.
The new boy told Joe he had friends that could protect him. Joe went
one night to meet these "protectors", they were another gang.
He was told if he joined that gang he would be protected from other
gangs. During the night, Joe witnessed these gang members committ
two violent crimes. Joe wanted nothing to do with them.
Joe felt helpless. His life had been threatened more than once.
Each day after school he would check all the exits to see which one
offered the safest passage. Going home each day became a gauntlet.
The situation made Joe's life a nightmare. His grades plummetted.
He was depressed and uninterested in anything. His parents knew
something was deeply wrong, but Joe wouldn't talk about it.
One day Joe took his father's semi-automatic handgun to school. He
didn't like guns, it was for his locker-mate. On day three another
student saw the gun and reported it. Joe and his locker-mate were
Joe's mother said that he looked relieved when she saw him at the
jeuvinale detention center. She cried as she talked to her 13 year
old son on a telephone unable to touch him through a thick window.
I testified at his Expulsion Hearing before the school board. I knew
some members of the school board. I was also a former staff member a
his high school, and knew the administrators. I spoke as a character
witness. Joe is a very nice kid, conscientious, kind, not at all
physically agressive. He always helped the younger boys.
Joe was expelled for the year from school. He is on a one year p
probation, and a 90 day homestay, (he can't go outside his home with
-out his mother or uncle in attendance. He is not allowed to be
involved in any outside activities including Scouting until after
January 2, 1995.
When I said my testimony, Joe was my audience. He needed to know I
still believed in him. That I still think he is a good person. He
made a foolish mistake. He was very lucky someone didn't get shot.
I agree with the school board, you cannot allow a boy to bring a gun
to school and go unpunished. Joe understands this now and is taking
his punishment. The school administrators didn't know the problem
was continueing. If Joe had gone to them again he could've received
Joe plans to become involved in Scouting again after January 2, 1995.
He is ready for his Star BOR. The frightening thing is that if this
could happen to Joe, it could happen to anyone.
I work as a Scoutmaster and also a District Commissioner. I received
a report from our council that a Webelos leader had physically
handled a boy during a field trip. I contacted the Pack's sponsoring
organization to alert them of the problem and met with their Exec.
Board to discuss the problem.
I called the parents of the boys in the den. The boys indicated past
abuse had taken place. The boys had been silent until the incident
scared them into talking. Parents were upset.
I talked with former leaders and found that there had been a previous
incident 4 years earlier. The Webelos leader had been counseled and
warned about future violations resulting in her removal. Her den was
monitored for the remainder of the year without further incident.
Often times there was no second adult in attendance during abusive
incidents. The Webelos leader denied any previous problems, she said
she had been stabbed in the back by others in her pack who accused
her of wrong doing. Out of 14 Cub Scouts she had worked with, 8 had
quit over the years. Of the 6 remaining, 4 said they would quit, one
was undecided, and the final boy was her own son.
I informed her that she was immediately suspended as a leader in the
BSA. This was followed with a registered letter from the council
sent the following week. I have a leaders meeting with the pack
tomorrow night to discuss the situation and reorganize the pack.
The woman removed served as both Webelos Leader and Cubmaster.
We'll call him Jim, that's not his real name. Jim is a nice kid.
He joined Scouting in another troop. His parents were divorced, he
lived with his mother. He liked Scouting. He was a good Scout.
The sexual abuse did not occur through Scouting, but through his
"Big Brother". Let me say now that I think the Big Brother/Sister
program is great. It pairs children with adults as a type of role
model for the absent parent. Jim's Big Brother had a problem. He
sexually abused Jim. Jim had a terrible time with this. He kept it
a deep dark secret, telling no one.
Even after Jim's first suicide attempt, no one knew his secret.
After his second suicide attempt, he was institutionalized for 6
months in a psychiatric ward. Eventually they drew the truth out of
Jim. Finally the healing process could begin.
I knew Jim through the Order of the Arrow. Jim was on the Executive
Committee and I was one of the adult advisors. Jim had troubles with
his fellow troop members after the first suicide attempt. He felt he
needed a new start. Someone recommended to Jim that he join my troop
and start fresh. I have previously worked as a counselor for
emmotionally disturbed teens. I had worked with suicidal kids before
Jim. (Actually I've worked with 4 as a Scoutmaster, each is a whole
The important thing was to get Jim back involved in life, settingg
new goals, looking forward to good things rather than focusing back
on the horrible past. Jim got involved. He became a lodge officer
in the Order of the Arrow. He attended Philmont, Boundary Waters,
and a special trip to the Copper Canyon region of Mexico. He became
an Eagle Scout. For a time, he even worked at the hospital where he
had been institutionalized, helping others to cope. He became an
Eagle Scout about 5 years ago. He has since moved out of the area,
but remains registered as an Assistant Scoutmaster with my troop.
sometime drives down to help me on troop activities.
As much as we would sometimes like to, we can't follow the boys
around as body guards. But there is something we can do. In fact
it is what we do in Scouting. We can teach them. Arm them with the
correct knowledge. It isn't 100 percent effective, but it's about
the best we can do.
Each year I have a youth protection night at my Troop meeting. We
show the video "A time to Tell", produced by the BSA to educate boys
about the problem of sexual abuse. It emphasizes the three "R's"
In all three incidents I've described much suffering could have been
avoided if the situations had been reported immediately.
At our youth protection night after the video is shown we conduct an
answer/discussion session which is led by a school counselor or a
youth officer from the police department.
Boys must understand that if they are the victim of abuse it is not
there fault, they shouldn't be ashamed, and they should report the
incident to a responsible adult whom they trust.
We can't solve any problem until it is identified. We must educate
the boys to recognize a problem and emphasize the great need for
them to report it. It is also important that WE can recognize the
symptoms of a problem. We must be vigilant in providing a safe
program free of any abusive behavior or threats of abusive behavior
from Scouts, Leaders, or anyone else. We are a part of the system
that safeguards todays youth. They need to trust us.
Bullying - Is it our problem?
Yes, it is very much our problem. Anything that affects our youth
should concern us as leaders.
I just looked at the clock, and I'm about to be late for a meeting.
I've probably said enough of this subject anyway.
YIS, Cliff Golden
Three Fires Council, Illinois BSA
I am interested in hearing what other leaders do to educate their
scouts or even intervene on problems.
Today more than ever before boys need Scouting. Gangs, Drugs, and
violent behavior was not the problem 20-25 years ago that it is
today. At least not in my town of DeKalb, Illinois.
I am located about 60 miles west of Chicago, and big city problems
seem to be moving west.
This issue is important.
I look forward to some good input on this subject.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City