What to do when you spot bullying — and your next steps if it becomes more serious

This guest post was written by Jim Wilson, national Youth Protection chairman.

Sometimes, no matter how much we learn and teach about bullying, it still happens.

Sometimes what starts out as hazing, name calling, or seemingly “playful” actions escalate into serious bullying situations.

What happens then? What actions do we take? How do we resolve the issue?

The following are some of the tips that can help Scout leaders, parents and “upstanders” respond quickly and effectively:

  • Immediately stop the bullying, and control the situation. Separate the bully and the target.
  • State what behaviors you saw or heard that are unacceptable and against the Scout Law.
  • Support the bullied youth in a way that allows him or her to regain self-control and feel safe from retaliation.
  • Do not require Scouts to apologize or make amends during the heat of the moment. Let things cool off!
  • Immediately notify parents or guardians of both the target and the youth who bullied of what occurred. Address the parents’/guardians’ questions and concerns, and inform them of next steps.
  • To seek further help, contact the “Scouts First” Helpline for Abuse and Youth Protection: 1-844-Scouts1 (1-844-726-8871)

If the bullying gets worse and you need additional help, consider the following if:

  • Someone is at immediate risk of harm because of bullying. In this case, call 911.
  • Your Scout is feeling suicidal because of bullying. Contact the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Your Scout’s leader is not keeping your Scout safe from being bullied. Contact your local BSA Scout Executive through your council service center.
  • Your Scout is sick, stressed, not sleeping or is having other problems because of bullying. Contact a health professional.
  • Your Scout is bullied because of his or her race, ethnicity or disability, and local help is not working to solve the problem. Contact Boy Scouts of America Member Care at 972-580-2489.

All adult leaders and youth members have responsibility here. Everyone must act in accordance with the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

Let’s ensure that hazing, discrimination, harassment, bullying and cyberbullying have no place in the Scouting program. Any of these could result in revocation of membership.

For more information, see BSA’s Guide to Safe Scouting and Youth Protection resources.

President Theodore Roosevelt said it best: “Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.”

Let’s make sure we do what’s right where bullying is involved.

– Jim

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