scouts-l Mail Archive for November of 1999: Re: No Confidence Vote
Michael Bowman (mfbowman@USSCOUTS.ORG
Sat Nov 06 1999 - 10:12:36 CST
This is a perfect opportunity to involve the Commissioner staff in your
District, either your Unit Commissioner or District Commissioner. Both can
act as advisors with a full knowledge of the circumstances to help guide a
good decision on what to do.
So far all we know from the posting is that a Scout has said he is
uncomfortable working with the Scoutmaster which sounds a lot more like
inuendo than any factual information. Why is he uncomfortable? There are a
number of reasons why this could be so ranging from the boy is lazy and the
leader is providing too high a level of challenge to a child protection
issue on the other extreme.
In neither case is it appropriate to have a committee to constitute itself
as a governing entity and conduct "a vote of no-confidence" to determine the
fate of the Scoutmaster. The committee is there to support the Scoutmaster
and while it can recommend hiring/firing decisions, those ultimately belong
to the chartering organization (yes, sometimes the chartering organization
delegates either de facto or de jure authority to the committee chair).
A committee discussion and vote will:
* Polarize the unit
* Stigmatize the Scoutmaster hindering his effectiveness
* Create hard feelings
* Create an evironment where a splinter unit is more likely
* Violate YPT policies, if the issue is abuse
* Potentially create a basis for liability for defamation of character
It may in the short term seem like it is a good way to vent, but in truth
and practice, it seldom improves upon the situation.
What is needed is a less comfortable approach - one involving individual
people talking to each other. Sometimes committee members would rather talk
about someone instead of to someone. This is never good. This is where a
Commissioner can be helpful. This individual can hear out the situation,
talk with the family and find out what the problem is, and offer advice as
to solutions. It may just be that the Scoutmaster is clumsy and
heavy-handed. The Commissioner can coach him along and help him a bit.
Doesn't require a group indictment to fix a minor problem.
On the other hand if the matter is serious, the Commissioner can hold a
great deal of info in confidence without the need to involve everyone and
can go straight to the Scout Executive if there is a YPT issue. If the issue
is abuse the Scoutmaster will be quietly removed from Scouting without much
ado. There is no need in the process to ruin reputations, create animosity,
and make life hard.
And why would a unit decide to cashier a Scoutmaster on the basis of a
single youth's displeasure without more? This Troop wouldn't happen to be
from Salem, MA and be into witch trial re-enactments would it? Again there
is a need to find out what the problem is - what is the cause of discomfort?
Personality conflict? Boy doesn't want to be in Scouting, but is forced to
by parents? Doesn't like authority figures? Doesn't like the way the
Scoutmaster looks? Scoutmaster lacks people skills? Scoutmaster intimidates
without knowing it? Scoutmaster gives wrong cues? Scoutmaster needs
training? Real abuse situation?
I don't think that any leader can be found that doesn't have some flaw. So
if we raise the standard to "can't serve, if there is a complaint" then who
will you get to be a leader? Clearly such a standard would be unacceptable.
The solution is to work with what you have, unless the situation is one
where child abuse is involved (which has not been demonstrated here - a
vague statement of discomfort is reason for asking questions, but not for
unbridled assumptions and unreasoned hysterical reaction). Each person
involved should also be thinking about what happens down the road when the
same youth tells parents again that he is uncomfortable with Ms. X or Mr. Y.
In other words there is a need for fundamental fairness which starts with
finding out enough facts to know what course of action is most appropriate.
Mike Bowman, Vice President
U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.