Have you ever been sued? Let me assure you; it’s not a pleasant experience. The purpose of this Chapter is to help you avoid finding your name to the right side of a “v.”
This chapter will address three areas: 1) youth protection; 2) safe activities and 3) travel.
There are now five Catholic Dioceses in bankruptcy arising from litigation related to youth protection. Plaintiff’s lawyers in these cases tell me we’re next on their hit list. There are at least three things you can do to minimize that risk: Adult Registration; Youth Protection Training and Old Fashioned Common Sense.
First, every adult youth leader must register with the Boy Scouts before he serves in his or her calling. Why? First, the Prophet says so. Second, the Church has a contract with the Boy Scouts of America in which the Church agrees to register our adult leaders. Third, if something happens, we have insurance protection from the BSA if the leader is registered. Finally, the BSA maintains a data bank of pedophiles. If a Bishop who fails to register an adult youth leader with the BSA and that adult youth leader is on that national pedophile list, that Bishop invites not only catastrophic litigation in the event that something goes wrong, but the specter of a jury award for punitive damages if he didn’t follow church policy on this subject.
Youth Protection Training
Too often in America, our youth are subject to sexual, emotional or physical abuse or worse. Scouting should be a safe place. The Boy Scouts of America offers state of the art Youth Protection Training on the web. Just look at the Council web sites under training. This 45 minute training provides a summary of what is abuse and how do we recognize it, what we must do when we discover it, and what we can do to avoid being falsely accused of abuse. If you don’t have a computer, this training is offered at Round Table. Remember, it is a criminal violation in Illinois not to report abuse when you have reason to know it exists. Every Bishop should insist that all adult youth leaders – male and female – take this training. It could save some abused youth and it could save you a bundle. Also, in the National Learning Center (See Chapter on Training) the BSA has special Venture Youth Protection Training as well.
Here are a couple of tips on how to avoid being placed in a compromising situation.
1. Never be with an unrelated youth alone, even driving a youth home from a church event.
2. If you must counsel with a youth, do it in plain site of others.
3. Keep the door open.
4. Have a second trained leader present.
5. Never sleep in a tent or hotel room with unrelated youth.
6. Avoid off color jokes, showing youth provocative material and offensive touching.
7. Treat other people’s children as you would have other adults treat your children.
8. Don’t shower with youth at scout camps.
9. Sounds stupid, but don’t take pictures of youth in compromising positions.
First, the Boy Scouts of America publishes a book which is enclosed with your materials entitled Guide to Safe Scouting. Read it and understand that some safety engineer has studied this problem at length to reach his or her conclusions. A Guide to Safe Scouting lists activities that your unit should avoid. For example, the Boy Scout of America ban a) sky diving, b) paint balling and c) snow tubing. Please don’t rationalize your units participation in these activities by saying they are Aaronic Priesthood activities as opposed to scouting activities. The Church policy is the Boys Scout policy. The Guide to Safe Scouting also tells you under what parameters boys can engage in archery, fire arm use, swimming, boating and canoeing and climbing. Adequate supervision is our first line of defense.
Additional bulletins are available at www.lds.org, Look under young men’s program for a series of releases which supplement Guide to Safe Scouting.
Finally, how often do we read of a single or multiple drowning during a scout activity where the scouts jumped into a river or the ocean and were trapped by a rapid current or tide or a scout dived into two inches of water with a rock bottom and broke his neck? The Boy Scouts of America have developed over the years a protocol for safe swimming and aquatic activities. The training for safe aquatics is found in the National Learning Center that can be found in the lower left corner of the NEIC.org home page. When followed, risk to your young men is minimized or eliminated. Make yourself familiar with these protocols.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Never, never permit boys to ride in the beds of trucks. Deacons make poor projectiles. Every year, church youths die in these types of accidents and everyone was preventable. No one should ride in a motor vehicle unless they are in proper seat belt systems for each vehicle occupant. There are no exceptions.
When traveling within the territorial limits of your council or going to your council’s summer camp, there is no need for a tour permit. If you are going on an activity that is less than 500 miles, but outside the council, you must have a local tour permit. This form is available on line from both your council’s web site as well as the national web site Scouting.org. Having a permit guarantees you that the Boy Scout. insurance will be there is something should go wrong. Also, the permit forces you to check to make sure your drivers have licenses and liability insurance. Finally, it alerts the professional staff at council to give you guidance should your activities include aquatics, fire arms or rock climbing or repelling. If you are going more than 500 miles, you need a national tour permit which is also available on line.
Make sure that all motor vehicles are in good repair and the drivers are responsible. There should be two adults in every vehicle. Avoid marathon road marches. Youth are not to drive on scouting activities.
There is nothing wrong with getting permission slips from parents. They should know what the risks are and where their youth are going.
Finally, scouting activities may require medical clearance. Please check with the council as to what medical forms both your boys and leaders need. Also, wherever you go, make sure you have a good first aid kit and train your boys in first aid.
Safety should be a first priority. The suggestions contained above are not exclusive. Your Bishops may have additional risk management guidelines in addition to those listed above. Heed them.