Re: Units Living Together Hel...
Michael S. Holmes (HolmesWCW@AOL.COM)
Sat, 17 Dec 1994 09:52:30 -0500
John Waidner writes that he can't understand that Scouting was thrown out of
the schools and wonders if it was a local decision. No, it wasn't local.
Several years ago the National PTA organization (I'm not sure of the exact
title) notified all affiliates that, if they sponsored a unit, they were
legally liable if anything happened to a boy or girl. The BSA tried
desparately to convince local chapters that they were fully covered under its
own insurance and was successful in some cases. In others the units were
I believe that this is a particularly sad development for several reasons,
not the least of which is that it has caused a splendid organization, the
BSA, which has an unparalleled record for safety, to become caught up in the
attempt to reduce the risk to its clients to ZERO. In this it is not alone.
Because we live in such a litigious society, all organizations, including
our governments, have become entangled in webs of rules and regulations
designed to protect them from lawsuits. The sad fact is that none of this
will protect us from being sued. (That goes for PTA's as well, which is
ironic, since it may have given its members a false sense of security by
advising them not to sponsor BSA units). The most that we can do is to
continue, as we always have, to provide a safe environment in which our boys
and girls can learn the lessons of Scouting without circumscribing their
activities to the extent that this education becomes impossible (and to
provide good insurance coverage if, by chance, someone is hurt or injured).
After all, to some extent it is precisely the risk of discomfort and, yes,
even injury, that makes our outdoor program work. We expend a lot of effort
to take youths out of their comfort zones -- home, neighborhood, friends,
family etc. -- and put them with other Scouts in a potentially unpleasant
situation -- the "wilderness." In order to stay warm, dry, safe and well fed
they have to learn the lessons of citizenship, character development and
physical fitness. They must be self-reliant; they must learn to follow and
to lead; they must learn to work together. The incentive is that, if they do
not, they may well spend some miserable days and nights in the woods being
cold, wet and hungry. We leaders are present to step in where health and
safety become issues. But if we so limit the activities in which our youth
may engage so that there is virtually no risk, I believe the outdoor program
may become meaningless, for our purposes.
I realize that I have rambled on, but I was involved in the original PTA
problem, and it has caused me to think seriously about its implications ever
since. I would like to hear some feed-back from you, my fellow Scouters.
How can we provide a program that is effective without allowing the youth to
manage some of the risk, rather than doing it all for them?
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City