Adolescence is an often difficult, unstable time and adolescents tend towards actions and attitudes that we find upsetting. Recent research points out that much of the chaos of adolescence is owing to a period physical brain development we are only now beginning to understand. One can draw the reasonable conclusion that people in their adolescence are not willfully refusing to act on more mature and reasoned thinking but that they are actually physically incapable of doing so at times.
I do not mean this to absolve everyone of a given age group of responsibility for their actions or imply that we should shrug off bad behavior with a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude. But note that modern judicial systems do treat minors differently from adults under the assumption that minors lack a fully developed cognitive system to control their behavior.
Over time I have dealt with Scouts who were caught bullying, fist-fighting, smoking cigarettes, stealing, cheating, lying and a couple who have been charged with crimes. One way or another we have worked with them to deal with these problems and a good many of them went on to become Eagle Scouts. In more than two decades as a Scoutmaster I have never kicked a boy out of our Troop.
Last night I spoke with a Scout and his family who had been ‘asked not to come back’ by the troop across town. Without going into too much detail this sixteen-year-old Scout was involved in an altercation at camp last summer and subsequently expelled from his troop some time afterword. He sought us out and wants to be a Scout again.
Here’s a Scout with all the requirements for Life rank completed being shown the door. He’s had four Scoutmaster conferences, four boards of review, worked with at least a dozen merit badge counselors and served in a position of responsibility for at least four months. In other words he’s demonstrated the ability to achieve, to successfully work with his fellow Scouts and leaders for three or four years.
To my mind at this age you always get a second chance and often a third or fourth chance. Logically if this Scout is a bad guy (the evidence of his advancement above being evidence to the contrary) and he is given another try there are two possible results; he acts out again and he’s proven to be a bad guy or he changes and now he’s a good guy. If he’s a good guy who acted poorly and given a second chance the result is that he remains a good guy or makes another mistake and we look at the feasibility of a third chance.
My instincts and the evidence I was given tell me that this Scout is not a threat to safety. He is a bit of a loudmouth and a little brash (imagine that at sixteen!). Naturally he’s welcomed to continue Scouting with us. I’ll go so far as to predict that he will go on to become an Eagle Scout some day.
Have you ever expelled a Scout from your troop or granted a second chance that you regret? I’d be interested to know. What would you have to have heard to turn this Scout away?