I truly enjoy working with youth in the outdoor environment thru the program that Scouting offers. While admiring the sagacious appearance that the additional grey in my beard provided me, I had remind myself the prior weekend’s experiences would help the boys grow in character.
At the beginning of this Boy Scout camping trip, I was approached by one of the new female leaders that a barely teenaged boy in the Troop had came up to her and told her that she was “hot” and that he “wanted to make love to her.” She had told him that comments like those were totally inappropriate to someone more than 10 years his senior. We both hoped that was the end of it. Instead, she presented me with a note that had been tacked to the female’s cabin door which said “I love you <name>.” At this time, an 18 year old male leader and myself had a talk with this lad .We used the phrase sexual harassment and highlighted that we had no tolerance for this and that it had to stop. The rest of the weekend was free of any incidents like this and the situation seemed under control.
After a busy day on Saturday, things were beginning to die down. Most outdoor play had ended and the boys were in their cabins winding down. As we were sharing the adult male cabin with leaders from another Troop who were early to bed types, I was in the female cabin chatting and playing cards. We were interrupted by a knock on the door. It was a leader from the other Troop along with a boy from his Troop and a new boy from mine. He presented the boy from his Troop and showed us a slightly bloody scratch on his neck. He then said that the boy from my Troop was right next to the other boy and admitted to slashing him with the knife that was then presented to us. It was a plastic mess kit knife with a serrated edge similar to the ones provided with airline food. While the two boys, the injured boy’s leader, and the two leaders I had been chatting with were listening to the boys detail what had actually occurred, two other adult leaders appeared and “warned” us that “before we said anything else,” that they were off duty police officers. It appears that these boys had been playing together during the day. The younger boy from my Troop was out in the woods that night with the plastic knife in his pocket. The other boy snuck up on him and jumped out at him. He responded by lashing out with the knife which then caught him across the neck and scratched him. The injured boy was quick to down play the issue. The two boys shook hands sincerely and returned to their respective cabins, one to clean his wound and go to sleep, the other probably not to sleep at all from the state of sheer terror he appeared to be in after he realized what damage he could have done. The adults then discussed things a bit longer. The leader from the other Troop said he also thought the incident was an accident caused by not giving proper respect to a plastic knife and that both out Troops could use this incident as an educational tool. He seemed satisfied with how the situation was being handled. The cops, however, kept the knife as “evidence”.
At our Troop meeting we used the knife incident to educate the boys that even plastic knives can be dangerous. We extended the ‘license’ needed to carry sharp objects to extend to these knives also. Our ‘slasher’ had already been notified that he has lost his right to carry sharps and that to earn it back he would have to teach knife/axe/saw safety to a new boy in the Troop.
That same night, out juvenile harasser presented his usual behavior problems which caused the meeting to go long. At the end of the meeting, the young son of the woman who had been the object of his harassment came up to me and said that <harasser’s name> had said something to him that upset him. He had come up to him when he was alone and whispered to him “Your mom is hot”. He got another even sterner talking to by me and two other female leaders. To add to this, he must be accompanied by an adult leader in the Troop wherever he goes. Any misbehavior will result in his being sent home for the duration of the event. He will loose his tail when I am convinced that his behavior has improved.
Now the head of our committee is getting involved. A bigger deal is being made out of the knife incident than the harassment. So far I have held off the firm suggestions that our charter owner and the Scout council be notified of the knife incident. This is a young boy who made a stupid mistake (not respecting a plastic knife) and those involved believe that he has learned his lesson and we will not see any more problems of this nature from him. While I do not think the council would do anything, I do fear our charter owner would want to dismiss the boy out of fears of liability.
The harassment case was basically left for me to deal with. This boy is already close to being expelled from the Troop for his behavior. I am hoping we can work with him a bit and straighten him out. He has had a rough life with his dad in prison for armed robbery. We may be his last chance and I am not yet ready to say we have done all we can. At the same time, we cannot have him bringing down rest of the Troop.
Hopefully these matters can be dealt with by those of us who deal directly with the youth and emotional or fearful Troop leaders who were not involved in these incidents will cease their attempts at outside influence.