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Youth Protection is Scouting’s Highest Priority and Obligation

History of the Boy Scouts of America
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A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent – The Scout Law

I read the story published this week with great pain, in no small part because I deeply believe in the Scouting movement. Over the past century, our movement has helped millions of boys and girls move from childhood to ethical adulthood. Lord Baden-Powell founded our movement as a way of building world-wide friendship and ending the horror of war. Scouting is an important part of American and world society.

I cannot comment on the situations discussed in the media. I was two years old during the reported incidents. My heart grieves for these women, and for anyone who is the victim of abuse. One incident – anytime – is one incident too many.

However, I can say without question that Scouting has learned a great deal in the almost forty years since the reported incidents occurred. Since then, law enforcement, psychologists, educators and other experts have become more sophisticated regarding abuse and its prevention, and Scouting has worked hard to update its own Youth Protection programs as society continues to reflect those lessons.

I trust our program. My son is an active Tenderfoot Scout here in Great Falls, my nephew is a Webelos Scout in Los Angeles and my daughter is looking forward to joining a Venturing Crew next year.

Today Scouting utilizes a broad range of tools which I believe will keep our children safe and ensure the safety of the millions of other youth actively involved in Scouting programs.

Youth Protection Training

Every parent is informed of BSA’s youth protection policies at the time of application and must review youth protection materials with their child as a requirement of membership. No exceptions.

Every registered volunteer and paid staff member in Scouting must be trained and certified in Youth Protection to be an adult leader. No exceptions.

The BSA utilizes an award-winning, internationally recognized Youth Protection Training, which covers policies and procedures for interacting with youth and the prevention, identification and reporting of potential abuse. Certification in that training must be re-accomplished at least once every 24 months. No exceptions.

The Lewis and Clark District will be holding a guided Youth Protection Training on Saturday, October 8 at the Scout Office in Great Falls for prospective leaders and any parent or interested person, regardless of whether they are involved in Scouting, are welcome to take the training in person, or on the Internet at myscouting.org.

Background Checks

Our volunteer application process includes local and national review; with every volunteer and paid staff member in Scouting also undergoing a national criminal background check to make certain that there is nothing in their history that raises any red flags regarding their contact with youth or their suitability to serve as a leader. All registered volunteers and paid staff are checked. No exceptions.

Two-Deep Leadership

The “flagship” of our Youth Protection policies, our two-deep leadership policy requires that at least two adult leaders be present at any activity. One-on-one contact with youth is prohibited. No adult may ever be in a tent alone with a child that is not their own. Merit badge classes, hiking trips, counseling sessions, anytime an adult in our programs has contact with a youth it may never be one-on-one – someone else must be present. No exceptions.

While adhering to two-deep leadership may make it more logistically difficult for our adults to plan activities, it helps see to it that abuse just does not happen while Scouting. Those difficulties can be overcome through planning. In any case, all Scouting activities need to be well planned and safe.

Scouting Education

We also teach all Scouts the three R’s of Youth Protection – recognize, resist, report – to help ensure their safety, wherever they are. Youth in our programs learn to recognize situations that place them at risk and learn that anyone can potentially be a danger. They learn to resist unwanted and inappropriate attention. Scouts are taught to report any attempted or actual abuse to a parent or other trusted adult.

The safety of our youth in Scouting is the absolute highest concern and priority of the Boy Scouts of America. Here in Lewis and Clark District, I would like to assure any parent considering whether Scouting is right for their child that all of us involved in Scouting take our obligations here very seriously.

We work hard to make our programs safe and fun, and we hope that you and your child will experience the many benefits of Scouting. If you have any questions about Scouting or its commitment to youth protection, please feel free to contact me anytime. I may be reached via email at chairman@lcmtbsa.org, or on the phone at 868-8982.

Aaron Weissman is the Chairman of the Lewis and Clark District, which comprises Great Falls, Cascade, Fort Benton, Choteau, Fairfield, Belt and surrounding areas. He is a recipient of the District’s Award of Merit, the Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 1026 and was the District’s Cubmaster of the Year in 2009. More information on Scouting’s commitment to Youth Protection can be found at scouting.org/bsayouthprotection.

Published in The Great Falls Tribune, September 11, 2011