A Scout is kind, so let’s make sure the BSA remains a safe place for all

Note from Bryan: October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Each Wednesday this month, the BSA Youth Protection team will share important reminders about what each of us can do to prevent, recognize and report bullying as we work to make Scouting a safe place for all.

  • Week 1 (Today): The BSA is a safe place for all
  • Week 2 (Oct. 11): Encouraging Scouts to move from bystander to upstander
  • Week 3 (Oct. 18): What to do when bullying becomes serious
  • Week 4 (Oct. 25): Concerns for risk of harm and suicide

This first post comes from Jim Wilson, national Youth Protection chairman.

Jim Wilson, a volunteer, is chairman of the National Youth Protection Support Committee.

A Scout is kind, so let’s keep the BSA a safe place for all

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and I’d like to remind all our Scouting parents and leaders that a Scout is kind.

With all the issues young people face in 2017, it’s more important than ever for all of us to be vigilant about bullying prevention. We must remind and reteach our Scouts the concept of “a Scout is kind”.

The idea that a Scout should treat others as he or she wants to be treated is woven throughout the programs and literature of the Boy Scouts of America. When a Scout follows the principles of the Scout Oath and Law, bullying and hazing situations should never occur.

However, as Scouting leaders and parents, we may feel uncertain about how to handle bullying when we see or hear it happening in or out of Scouting.

Because of this, we may respond in ways that don’t make the best use of the opportunity to teach a Scout the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. We all acknowledge that bullying among children is inappropriate. It is aggressive behavior that is intentional, and involves an imbalance of power and strength. This makes it important that we handle bullying appropriately.

Scouts, Scouters and parents must not stand by during instances of bullying. Sadly, this happens too often because of a lack of understanding of the subject.

There’s good news, however. The BSA has a number of recommended and required practices, policies and procedures. A significant amount of information on the subject continues to be developed and made available.

We’re working with several nationally recognized experts and organizations to make sure that our focus on bullying prevention is clear and visible in all that we say, do and practice.

To that end, the 13th edition of the Boy Scout Handbook now includes a specific chapter on Personal Safety Awareness. The chapter, which starts on page 394, addresses bullying and hazing from both sides of the issue.

Please pick up a nearby Handbook and review this chapter. I challenge you, as leaders, to help our youth understand what “a Scout is kind” means.

Thanks for helping the BSA be the safe place that our parents expect and our youth deserve.

– Jim


  1. Don’t forget…exclusion is a form of bullying. Short, curt, or angry responses from an SPL is unacceptable. Conspiratorial activities is group bullying. If it resembles early stages of Lord Of The Flies, it’s gone too far.

  2. Let’s ensure that the professional staff follow this too. The letter from Scouts for Equality describing how they were treated at the 2017 National Jamboree was extremely demoralizing and should give the BSA leadership plenty to reflect on. Let’s stop playing lip service to equality just to stop losing sponsorships and actually live the values that we teach.

    • I interacted with the leadership team at their area and with SFE at Jambo very frequently and honestly a lot of whats in their letter is exaggerated or even just plain false.

  3. And yet we have the Order of the Arrow, where joining requires that a boy be popular and an “initiation” (a concept that, in itself shouldn’t exist) includes a secret “ordeal” requiring among other things, not speaking for an extended time, regardless of situation. How is this not endorsing bullying and hazing at an official level? And how do these despicable components improve Service to others, which assumedly is the purpose of this secret society?

    It is time to remove this closed aspect and open OA to interested scouts without the elitist attitude and abuse to those who would like to just serve others.

    • The OA is a society for honor campers; it’s about those scouts who contribute the most to the troop. It’s NOT a popularity contest, and the ‘Ordeal’ is applied equally to all participants in the OA. It is not bullying or hazing in any way.

    • Even scouts who speak are still allowed in., the nomination is important because every scout thinks they ate a true scout but they are not. I agree it is sometimes a popularity contest, but it is important that there is a challenge to thier claim, maybe have a set of requirement instead like becoming an eagle does? Getting referrals from people who can vouch for them, doing community service hours beyond thier rank requirements etc…

      But the no speaking rule it awesome because it stops them from whining which they should not be doing anyway. Hopefully working in silence teaches them how to work together when they cannot always communicate verbally and to narrow thier focus on the task at hand.
      The meager lunch teaches them that this is not about getting a “free lunch” and that they may be needed to work hard with little or no thanks or food. I feel like these “test” also weed out the sash and dash scouts who don’t want to truly be a part of a service orientated group they just want to day they are. I’M one is making the scouts do anything, if they want to go they can go.

      The scouts that are true scouts become amazing men who do great things because they are not afraid to work hard, get thier hands dirty and be a little hungry. It’s not for everyone and that’s fine, fine what you do best, and do it.

      Do unfair things happen… oh yes and bravo to the adults who step in to correct it but the fault is not the program it is with parents too lazy to raise thier scouts properly.

      Scouting will not raise your child but it can reinforce good values and morals that you have already raised your child with.

    • Yes everyone agrees that the OA election CAN BECOME a popularity contest. BUT a good OA election oversight person from outside the Troop, and a STRONG VOICE from the Scoutmaster and OA Adults observing must be done to enforce that the election is NOT a popularity contest. I’ve been there and done that. It still is somewhat a popularity contest, but honestly any scout that is a jerk to his friends and gets away with it will NOT make it through the elections I observed. Scoutmaster has final say on the scouts going for election and final say on who is elected. Think of it as a veto and it SHOULD be done wisely.

      NEXT: As an adult going through the Ordeal and Brotherhood levels in the last few years, the events over the weekend have oversight from adults in your district and council. Yes you cannot have just anyone in there, but there are independent eyes watching all the time. They specifically stated their job is to provide oversight to the events, and the oversight is to prevent bullying, hazing, and to help in keeping the event official and fair. We Ordeal candidates were quite tired and as and adult I was happy others were looking out for everyone.

      The ordeal is not bullying nor is it hazing. You work for a day, and from my experience as an adult/parent/leader it was similar to yard work at home on a weekend. Working outside from 8 am to 3 pm to complete a task is not hazing. Talking is officially not allowed, communicating safety instruction and giving direction was done as needed. No chit-chat so that everyone was able to focus on working together without using their voice. Believe me we communicated without voices often. It was interesting and it works.

      I looked up the definition hazing an it is “humiliating tasks performed for initiation”. On it’s face the OA ordeal is not hazing. The tasks are mundane, hard work, and everyone I mean everyone in camp is doing hard work for the day. Nothing done is humiliating, therefore I strongly disagree with your comment and misconception that the OA is based on hazing/bullying.

  4. Physical bullying and loud aggressive verbal harassment are easy to recognize as inappropriate.

    Let’s also remember that being passive aggressive is still being aggressive and detracts from the Safe Haven. All forms of passive aggressive create hostile situations and environments. Playing the victim is a form of being passive aggressive and is contradictory to both the safe haven and leadership and personal development methods of scouting. This is true among scouts and volunteer adult leaders. Scouting needs to be a safe haven for the unit volunteers as well.

  5. It would be great if this chapter of the Boy Scout Handbook could be made available to Cub Scout families and Leaders who aren’t using or even thinking about the Boy Scout Handbook yet. Is the content of this chapter available anywhere besides buying a Boy Scout Handbook?

  6. My son recently experienced different form’s of bullying in his Troop by several Scouts. He was called a racial slur, he was isolated, he was insulted about his rank advancement, he was picked on to fight another Scout, he was constantly singled out by his PL compared to other patrol members to perform undesirable work duties at camp more than anyone else in the patrol. My son brought this to my attention, which I gave it to the Scoutmaster and my Son’s concerns were met with resisting comments about his reactive behavior to the bullying instead of addressing the actual bullying that was happening towards my son. The Scoutmaster agreed that these things were bullying, but the Scoutmaster would not acknowledge that my Son was bullied. The Scoutmaster actually blamed my Son for being bullied. This is a very common experience when someone raises a serious bullying concern, they are tagged as the one causing the bullying and the one that is actually instigating the bullying, which he was not. I am an Eagle Scout and it was a terrible experience to watch my Son getting bullied by other Scouts and not getting any support from the Scoutmaster as this was not my Scouting experience and it goes against the Scout Oath and Law. I was also an ASM in this Troop, and I witnessed some of these bullying things that happened to my son, as well as other Bullying situations that had negative affects for other Scouts in the Troop. I tried to personally address my Son’s bullying situation to get them fixed but was faced with denial by the Scoutmaster and Senior Troop Leadership. There is no question that my Son reacted poorly to being bullied, and he needs to mature to respond in a more appropriate manner. But, my Son did not instigate the bullying, he actually tried to work with the other Scouts to stop, but made it worse. It is appalling that my was blamed by the Scoutmaster for being bullied based on his reaction. This is wrong and the Scoutmaster refused to accept that my Son was bullied as reality.

    My Son’s bullying situation was never settled with the Senior Troop Leadership, and we had to leave the Troop that my son chose to join after he earned his AOL and Bridged to Boy Scouts, and have to leave the many dear Scouting friends he made during this time. This situation has surfaced a reality that there are some Adult Scouting Leaders who have no skills and are not properly trained to deal with serious bullying situations.

    We are a resilient family, and we have picked ourselves up and brushed ourselves off from this situation. We are moving on, we have prayed and forgiven those who have trespassed against us and we have a positive mind-set for Scouting and our future. We are moving forward and are looking to find a new Troop that my Son can complete and fulfill his dream of becoming and Eagle Scout.

    I hope this series on bullying in the Scouting Magazine can help others not experience what my family endured. I am looking forward to reading the next series of articles on this subject, so that I can learn as a Parent and ASM to help my Son and other Scouts and Scouters to cope better, properly address, and work through bullying situations in a proper Scouting way and manner that can happen in the Boy Scouts of America. Thank you!

Join the conversation