How to hold one-on-one Scouting conversations while following Youth Protection guidelines

expertlogo1You’ll often find Mike Walton at his nearby Wendy’s restaurant — but not because the Tennessee Scouting volunteer is a fan of the Baconator.

It’s because Walton sees Wendy’s as a safe, public place to meet with Scouts about their Eagle Scout service project.

Walton, wearing his field uniform, meets with the Scout for about 30 minutes to discuss the young man’s project plan. For a teenager hoping to become an Eagle Scout, this meeting is an important step in the process toward Scouting’s highest rank.

Like the Scoutmaster conference, this discussion works best as a one-on-one conversation. That raises questions of Youth Protection, with its prohibition of one-on-one contact between adults and youth members.

Walton satisfies this mandate by requiring that a parent, the Scoutmaster and/or a committee member also be present at the restaurant.

“They sit in tables or booths with eyesight to me and the Eagle candidate,” Walton says.

But when Walton explained this process to fellow Scouters in an online forum, some took exception.

“They said, ‘you’re in violation because there wasn’t another registered Scouter with you’ during the discussion,” Walton says.

Not true; Walton’s actions were appropriate. And to be sure, I checked with the BSA’s Youth Protection team for the latest edition of Ask the Expert.

The questions and the expert’s answers

The answers come from Michael Johnson, BSA Youth Protection director, and Paula Rhea, Youth Protection coordinator.

Question: Must another registered adult or Scout observe the one-on-one conversation with the Scout and leader, even in a restaurant or coffee shop?

Answer: The BSA’s Barriers to Abuse state: “In situations requiring a personal conference, such as a Scoutmaster conference, the meeting is to be conducted with the knowledge and in view of other adults and/or youth.” The policy does not state another registered adult or Scout must be present. Conducting such a meeting with other adults/Scouts — registered or not — fulfills the policy requirement.

Question: Would performing a conference in a crowded restaurant dining area meet the standard for “no one-on-one” conversations?

Answer: As stated in the quoted policy above, a restaurant/coffee shop setting with other parents, Scouters or Scouts present is permissible.

Question: Is there a prohibition keeping a Scout from having such a conversation over video conferencing, such as Skype?

Answer: The same rules outlined above apply. The presence of adults (parents), Scouters and/or Scouts within visual range would make a Skype conference permissible.