Re: PTA and recharter
Ed Darrell (EDarr1776@AOL.COM)
Wed, 27 Nov 1996 15:45:48 -0500
Bob Taylor in Poulsbo, Washington, wondered about the phenomenon of PTAs
dropping charters for Scout organizations.
This is an issue of misunderstanding. Please spread the good words.
First, you may want to check archives of this list to find other similar
threads. I raised the issue about a year ago when our Cub Pack was dropped,
and at least one other significant thread popped up since January.
Second, it is important that we protest such actions to the local boards of
the PTAs. They make the decisions, NOT the national PTA.
Third, the justification suggested from the national PTA is that local PTAs
may assume some liability for leaders who abuse kids. Without dealing with
the liability issue for a moment, isn't it about time we stood up to such
scare mongering, and pointed out that what we lose in youth programs is of
much greater value than any sense of "not being sued" we could ever get?
These are the parents of the kids, sponsoring another organization of mostly
parents who get training to prevent child abuse. It is gut level dumb to
think that a PTA's dropping sponsorship does the kids any good, and we
shouldn't let our local PTAs fall into such a trap.
JUST THE FACTS: The facts are that in 1989 (or thereabouts -- I've not
pulled out my file) the National PTA got concerned (I'm not sure why), and
got an "insurance specialist" to review the BSA's insurance policy. The
expert said that the policy does not protect a sponsoring organization for
"intentional" acts, and since child abuse is an intentional act (in most
cases), he said COs could be hung out to dry if there were a suit. Since the
national PTA organization does not cover local organizations, and since most
local organizations carry no separate insurance (according to this guy), PTA
board members would personally be the targets of such suits.
BSA protested to the PTA, and made some of the modifications in insurance
suggested by the PTA's expert. PTA refused to change its recommendation in
1989. I have found several PTAs relying on notices from their state
organizations dated 1989 to drop sponsorship.
PTA issued a softer letter in 1990 or 1991, as I recall, but I have not found
a local organization that has that letter. I got it from the national PTA.
You might want to check to be sure your local chapter is working from 1996
documents, just in case there's been a more recent softening of the policy.
However, I think the original PTA policy is off the mark. PTA's concern is
that the CO's "selection of leaders" of the Scout unit will confer liability.
National PTA asked that the National BSA sign off on local leaders, on the
line of the volunteer application where the COR signs now. Understandably,
BSA refused that request, and everybody's heels dug in. I suggested to our
council's chief executive that someone reopen discussions with national PTA,
it has not happened to my knowledge.
I chased down the PTA policy with the Texas PTA, PTA's lobbyist in Washington
and their national counsel in Chicago. From the materials they sent me, it
appears to me that their expert thought local councils each to be separate
corporations not functioning under a federal charter, and he based his
recommendations on what he would tell franchisees of a national chain. On
specific points I don't think the analysis works, but I was unable to make
headway with the PTA people I spoke to. ("Federal charter? What's that?
I've never heard of such a thing." I spent some years working on the Senate
staff, occasionally with charters. The people I spoke to at PTA didn't know
how such things work.) They do not see the analogy or parallels between the
national charters of the American Red Cross, to pick one example, and the Boy
Scouts of America. Alas.
But I will tell you that the material from national PTA makes it clear that
the sponsorship decision is made at the local level. For our Pack, the
decision was made in executive board on the basis of the "suggestion" alone,
and ratified by the membership with what I considered to be inadequate
discussion. The board took great offense that I questioned their actions and
refused to reconsider. Four local organizations volunteered to step in at
recharter time and we didn't push the issue any further. I wish I had known
about the issue 60 days earlier.
TO STOP PTAs FROM DROPPING UNITS:
1. Be nice to the PTA. Smile a lot. Don't call them idiots. They are
trying to be responsible.
2. Join the PTA, write a letter to the local president saying you want the
PTA to sponsor Scouting. Get other parents in your Pack or Troop to do the
same. These organizations are quite democratic.
3. Ask for assistance from your district executive, and get what you need to
understand the issues. If the DE can help, get her/him in front of your PTA
board to explain, early.
4. Inform yourself to be expert on the issue. Get all the information you
can on BSA's insurance coverage, including a copy of the signup stuff. There
was a videotape out from national in 1994 discussing the issue. I understand
it's very informative, though I've not seen it myself. Be able to explain
BSA's "two deep" leadership policies. Be sure you practice two deep.
Get a copy of the PTA "suggestion." Get what you can from BSA. Get a
trainer for the child abuse prevention course to give a presentation to the
PTA board. Remember to remind them that this training goes away as a
protection during a lawsuit when sponsorship ties are cut. (It is a defense
that you did what was possible to prevent abuse, even if your prevention
efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.) Frankly, having more parents trained
to prevent child abuse should be quite a help.
5. IF the PTA moves to drop sponsorship, get your committee and all the
parents to attend the board meeting to urge the PTA to support developing
good citizens from kids. IF it goes to the full PTA, show up in force, speak
against the idea and vote it down. In an age when some schools feel they
need metal detectors to prevent weapons from getting in the door, it ill
behooves a parent group to kick out a group of Cub Scouts when the mission is
to eliminate the need for the metal detector, no?
6. IF the PTA drops sponsorship, consider your alternatives. The school
itself can assume sponsorship. Many local organizations will jump at the
chance -- check with your local Rotary Club, Lions Club, JayCees, Chamber of
Commerce, and local churches. Many packs and troops are chartered to a
"Concerned Parents" organization, which is often just the parents of the
Child abuse is real, and it's a lot more prevalent than we'd like to think.
The existence of Scouting fights against it. The methods and practices of
Scouting fight against it. Let's stop doing the wrong things for the right
reasons. PTAs who drop sponsorship of Scouting do not advance the cause of
preventing child abuse.
Ed Darrell, Duncanville, Texas
[I apologize for the length.]
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City