Re: National Bulletin - Selecting Leaders
Bruce E. Cobern (bec@PIPELINE.COM)
Thu, 9 Jul 1998 16:25:28 -0400
> From: Bob Caron <Robert.Caron@UMB.EDU>
> Date: Thursday, July 09, 1998 11:54 AM
> Time out! There are a few things here that don't seem to make sense,
> don't mean just the specific things this bulletin covers.
> One. Starting this year in Massachusetts, and I would guess in a number
> other states already and probably more to come, there is a new law
> background checks. Councils are required to run background checks on
> staff, paid, unpaid, permanent, temporary, office, camp, and so forth
> considered part of Council/District and have contact with youth. Both
> volunteer wife who teaches a nature class at Cub Day Camp and my 17 year
> son who is a paid camp staffer had to sign release forms authorizing the
> Council to request a criminal history check on them. I would bet that
> next year or two this will be extended to all volunteers to the unit
> Without getting into the debate of how we got here, this seems to be the
> irreversible trend in all parts of the country. The states are latching
> the Councils as they are the incorporated entities with the BSA name and
Well, my understanding is that this is probably a result directly or
indirectly of a federal statute that has or will mandate such background
checks for all youth related personnel, paid or volunteer. I believe the
current hang up with the federal statute is funding and the current
attitude toward unfunded mandates. There is also concern in the
non-profit community about how the cost of a background check, with
fingerprinting, for example will be covered and whether it is fair to ask
the volunteer to cover the cost and, if not, where the organization is
going to come up with the money. I agree that this will probably spread
and quite rapidly in the next few years.
I agree that this will likely also filter down to the unit level, but I
disagree that it will be the council that will be targeted with this
responsibility. The unit volunteers "work" for the CO, and I believe it
will be the CO that is responsible for this process.
> Two. We are supposed to have that infamous BSA National provided
> coverage and backup in case of incidents that arise in this area
> misfeasance, hanky-panky). I find it hard to believe that National,
> its insurance providers, (and by extension its Councils) can continue in
> position while relinquishing the duty of qualifying its volunteers
> Are we to lose this coverage and support next?
The BSA liability insurance has always covered the CO and is PRIMARY with
regard to the CO. It has been that way for years, and through all this
time it has ALWAYS been the CO's responsibility to screen ITS leaders. I
see no reason why all of a sudden there would now be a problem with having
the CO continue to accept this responsibility. Especially since much (if
not all) of this liability coverage is self-insured by the BSA, to the
best of my knowledge. Thus, there might not even be an outside carrier
there to complain about being "on the hook" for decisions made by the CO.
You talk about relinquishing the duty of qualifying volunteers. Well, the
council and national never had that duty with regard to unit volunteers.
That has ALWAYS been the CO's responsibility, and is what led to the
national PTA advising its chapters not to sponsor units, even though the
BSA insurance is primary to the CO. (A decision which I believe was based
on a lack of understanding of the BSA insurance.) All that the council
ever was supposed to do (there may be councils that did more) was make
sure the names did not appear on the BSA's list of people who had been
removed from Scouting. Any further check was the responsibility of the
That is why there is a different set of signatures required for unit and
council positions. That is also why, theoretically, a merit badge
counselor, even though he is registered in a troop, is supposed to fill
out ANOTHER adult application (without fee) to be part of the district
merit badge counselor list. That is because as a district merit badge
counselor it is the COUNCIL which is responsible for approving him, so it
behooves the council to do its own check and not rely on the check that
might have been done by the unit.
> Three. WE are the volunteers, meaning part-time, spare time. THEY are
> professionals, meaning full-time, dedicated. Who more logically should
> background checks and other processing and qualifying of leader
> Sure, the unit committees and commissioners can make sure the forms are
> out and other paperwork shuffled in a timely manner. But qualification
> background checks of leader applicants take time, must probably be done
> the business day, and should be consistent. That seems to me to suggest
> full-time staff function.
But it is not the unit that needs to spend this time, it is the CO, many
of whom are organizations which have employees who could be tasked with
running the necessary checks. Besides making some calls to the names
listed on the application, what background check are you talking about?
If is a run of the name through state files, isn't the some total involved
in that process the filing of a form with the state asking them to do the
check, after having the applicant sign that form. How much time does that
actually take? It is the actual calling of the references that would take
the time and, frankly, if I were the head of the CO, I would want to have
that conversation personally, and not rely on what someone else tells me
he heard from the person. I would want to evaluate the confidence I
should have in what I was hearing personally.
Overall, as several people have said, I don't see this as much more than
recodifying what really was already existing procedure.
Bruce E. Cobern
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City