Let’s say a Scout loses something — perhaps his Boy Scout Handbook, troop cap or camp chair — and you find it.
A. Return the item to him right away, with a quick, discreet (but in full view of others) reminder that he should keep a better eye on his stuff?
B. Give the item to his patrol leader or senior patrol leader and let one of them return it to the Scout with the same friendly, discreet reminder?
C. Keep the item until he can “sing for it” in front of the whole unit, thereby shaming him into never making the mistake again?
The right answers are A or B.
If you said C — singing for the lost item — the BSA’s top volunteer in charge of Youth Protection asks you to rethink that practice.
April is Youth Protection Month, making this a good time to tell you that singing for a lost item is bullying, and bullying isn’t allowed in Scouting. Read more in this Ask the Expert.
The BSA’s Youth Protection team received the following note from an area director:
I am trying to answer a question for one of my local councils that relates to what I believe is a bullying issue. The gist of it is this: A unit doesn’t understand why it is not OK to single a kid out in front of other Scouts and make them sing for their lost item instead of just dealing with it individually.
While you and I both know that is a form of bullying and harassment, this group would like to see something in writing that states this kind of behavior is unacceptable.
Good question. You can consider the below “something in writing.”
It comes from Dr. Jim Wilson, none other than the national chairman of the BSA’s Youth Protection Committee.
This is a great question. You are absolutely correct. Singling out a Scout in front of other Scouts is inappropriate and can be damaging to that Scout. I would suggest following up with the Scout to see if he is OK. Also, the Scout’s parents should be informed, if they haven’t been already.
This practice is actually promoting an environment of harassment and bullying. It can put the Scout at greater risk of being bullied, encourage other Scouts to single out and bully others, and create a cycle of bullying (in which even those who were bullied start bullying others).
In fact, it is recommended even in bullying situations not to single out anyone publicly, including the person who engaged in bullying behavior. It’s better to address the situation after everyone has had time to cool off.
I suggest you check out the information sheets available in the “Bullying Awareness” section of the Youth Protection website.
Also, we draw upon information and materials available from StopBullying.gov, which has additional bullying-prevention resources that may be helpful for you.