Re: False Accusations of SM
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Mon, 8 Apr 1996 01:23:18 -0400
In a couple of messages forwarded by Olan Watkins, Ted Thomasson related
that he had found himself in the lonely position of defending himself
against charges of "emotional abuse" by a parent and asked:
"Why would anyone put themselves and family in such a risky situation?"
Whether we are interacting with youth in Scouting or just in the
neighborhood we always face the risk of a false accusation by a child or
parent that can be devastating. So why do we do it?
We do it because we believe that by helping youth we can help shape a
better world for the future. We do it because of the smiles on the
bright faces of young people as they experience the rewards of
achievement and the pleasure of knowing that they have grown in a
positive direction. We do it because we know that without the
opportunities provided in Scouting and Guiding that these same youth may
never have the chance to grow to their fullest, or worst may end up in an
association with an unsavory crowd that will lead to worse things.
If good people can no longer help youth because of the fear of litigation,
then the results are fairly predictable. These same youth will be
"helped" by others of doubtful character into less desirable pursuits.
Unfortunately, there are always a few parents out there ready to follow a
personal agenda and a few that are going to take a fairly one-sided view
of whatever their child says, no matter how troubled or unreliable this
child might be. As leaders we can take precautions by following YPP
guidelines and having two-deep leadership. These precautions will help a
leader prevail against charges that are unfounded or malicious. However,
nothing can prevent a parent from bringing a complaint anyway.
When this happens BSA is in the awkward spot of having to act with a
primary duty to protect its youth. This means that the Scout Executive
has to decide whether to keep the leader or whether the circumstances
warrant removal pending the resolution of the complaint. Keep in mind
that BSA as an organization could become a target too, if it fails to act
on a complaint. The result is that the accused leader is likely to be on
his/her own. For this reason it is a good idea to carry personal
liability insurance, usually available with a homeowner's/renter's
The sad thing is that the scoundrels that perpetrate such injustices
usually walk off and leave the victim poorer. The remedy of a lawsuit is
not always an easy one because their is the risk that the media will play
the case against you and that in the end more harm than good will result.
I am not sure that there is a good solution to this problem or an easy
Speaking Only for Myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
a/k/a Professor Beaver (WB), ASTA #2566, OA Vigil Honor '71, Eagle
Scout '67, Serving as Deputy District Commissioner for Training,
G.W.Dist., Nat. Capital Area Council, BSA - firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City