Saturday, July 19, 2014

Real-life Struggles at Scout Camp

Scout camp. We want it to be about fun and skills. New friendships and care-free days and nights. With the only worry being how well the skit that's been worked on all week will be received by fellow campers, and whether the mess hall will cook enough grub for third-helpings. Mostly out of sight and mind are complications, including the complication of discrimination against some campers and some staff members. But for some those complications are constantly just under the surface. And sometimes the complications become the most important thing in their world. To illustrate, here is a concern received from a BSA scout camper, written by a gay kid who works there. A kid who will be forced out of his job this year or next because of the policies reported in the press His concern demonstrates the deeply complicated position that gay kids are in--where they cannot advocate effectively for themselves, and feel compelled to quash advocacy efforts of others to prevent their own precarious position from unraveling. Here are his words (edited to protect his privacy):
I noted your post on the Facebook page of scout camp where I work. As someone intent on moving equality forward, I know you would like to hear how your efforts are being received by those you are reaching out to, in this case the Camp staff and Directors. I was in the office doing work when the Program Director called me in to talk to me about your post. Yup, the Program Director is gay.
The Camp Director is also gay.

I am employed at this camp and I too am gay. I'm also totally out.

I don't broadcast my being gay out of personal preference, but my director, Scout Executive and the entire camp staff know it. None have taken any action against me. It is commonly discussed here, my boyfriend came to visit openly last week, and all is well. In other words, my scout camp, its staff, and my Council are doing what they can to keep openly gay scouts in the program. 

A official public post against the policy by the camp director is simply impossible at this point as it would accomplish little other than many losing their jobs. While the entire camp staff of 70+ strongly supports equality, your post angered many, and in fact caused many to speak out against, and not in favor of the Scouting equality movement.

In this case, your post did little to nothing to move equality forward. If anything, and I assure you of this, it angered several gay members of our camp staff, isolated many supporters of scouting equality, and overall made them far less positive about scouting equality. It brought us farther from our goal. 
It is the first task of the LGBT youth to do what they must to safely achieve adulthood, accomplishing the normal developmental tasks of all adolescents, and eventually achieve independence and stability. For many this requires living a secret life, or coming out only to a select few trusted peers. Others are more fortunate, and can come out more generally. But youth members of BSA are at significant risk if they should come out, lest their status "become a distraction." And many, as in this case, feel they must align themselves against their own self interest to preserve their place in the hetero-normative culture of the Boy Scouts of America.

The task and responsibility of employees, program and camp directors, and scout executives is different. Their task is to build the program, to make it safe for all participants. To mark out danger areas such as ax yards, swimming holes and rifle ranges in the time-tested ways. And also to be clear about the level of support and defense that their LGBT participants and employees actually have. To not be coy or cagey about it. To be straight about it, and uncomplicated, and to speak the truth. If the truth hurts, then it is on them to make the change. Indeed, it is on each of us, as none of us can escape our responsibility in this.

I wish I could explain to this young man that the support he imagines exists for him at his camp isn't really there, not if it is so fragile that my Facebook rating (who looks at those, anyways?) of the camp he works at is damaged by it. I wish he could see how corrosive the effects of these policies are on the souls of all scouts, and how corrosive it is on the leadership in his council and at his camp. I wish I could help him shake those effects off--help him stand up free of the shackles that bind him, that compel him to speak out in favor of his own silence, and that cause him to be complicit in creating the prison that binds him.

This camp like so many others is run by well meaning people who happen to be gay. This cam like so many others another example of the lack of justification of the anti-gay membership and employment policy, A policy predicated simply on animus from the BSA towards gays, and the inconvenience it causes in their relationships with their religious partners. The problem is the policy, not the personnel. The problem isn't what people wish for or their personal attitudes. It is institutional. Institutional bias is established in practice and policy, and wishing for change doesn't make change. Institutional change requires hard work--the work of individuals and groups, internally and externally, and the engagement of legal systems and other institutions as necessary to end the institutional bias, and corruption it causes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Unauthorized BPSA Quick Start: Converting Your Non-BPSA Scouts, Guides, or Other Group to a BPSA Group


So you’re thinking about taking your unit of scouts, guides or other youth group and together becoming a new scout group with the Baden-Powell Service Association. Good for you! It can be a little daunting, but here’s the steps for getting it done. As the leader of your group, in BPSA you will be the Group Scoutmaster (GSM)--and it is part of the role of the GSM to register the group into the BPSA system.

During the transition, the thing to keep in mind is to maximize the excitement and fun and to minimize the hassle and uncertainty. Perhaps the best way to do this is to agree together to get this done, collect the funds to accomplish it, and then bulk-register the membership and bulk-order the manuals and uniforms. Of course, having each individual register themselves and order their own kit works too--the fun part of being a Group Scoutmaster is that you get to decide (with input as needed from others).

Note: These are the minimum steps for porting a fully functioning group across.

Budget Note: Sometimes budget considerations are primary--in which case the cost of handbooks, uniforms and neckers can all be deferred. Not being uniformed doesn't prevent a group from taking shape, and planning a way to raise money for uniforms and books make great initial projects for your new Group.

10 Steps Forward--March!

1. Choose a name. Time estimate: 4 minutes. Your unit name can be based on the unit name/number from your old association, or you can make up something new. Here are some example names to consider--follow a similar form:

55th Cascadia
98th Rainier
69th Rangers

Pro Tip: Take as much time and consult as many people as needed to choose your name. Check out names on Scout-Finder. The 4 minute estimate is basically provided for entertainment purposes only--unless you ALREADY KNOW what the name should be. Remember, it is a number in the ordinal form (-th, -st, -nd) followed by a word or short phrase. The word or short phrase should be something memorable and/or local. It might be geographical or geological or historical or patriotic. The number might be based on your prior unit number, latitude, longitude, postal code, date, or lucky number, etc. Prefer shorter numbers to longer numbers. The number should be a whole number--so sorry, can’t use Pi (grin).

2. Familiarize Yourself. Time Estimate: 2 hours. Browse through the BPSA website, review each of the programs (Otter, Timberwolf, Pathfinder, Rover). Read the Rover handbook (quickly, don’t get bogged down--you already know most of this stuff. This is your high-level review).

3. Register Yourself. Time Estimate: 5 minutes. Here is the Rover registration link: You’ll need to have at least two adults registered to be a functioning scout group--might as well register the second adult now. Add 5 more minutes per adult. Cost per adult: $20

4. Register Group Charter. Time Estimate: 3 minutes. Here is the link to register a group charter: Note: there is no requirement for a charter organization--as the GSM you are the charter holder. Cost for Charter: $35

Congratulations, with two adults registered and your Charter application complete, you are now a BPSA Scout Group. Depending on which part of the country you live in you’ll want to immediately reach out to your region Commissioner. Not sure who that is? Just ask one of us we’ll help you get it sorted out.

NOTE: Be aware that the registration system may not (yet) send information back to you. So whenever you register anyone be sure and keep a separate copy for your own records.

5. Register the remaining adults. Time Estimate: 5 minutes each. This is easily accomplished if you have their information in-hand prior to starting. All registered adults register as “Rovers.” NOTE: All adult registrations are provisional pending completion of a background check that will be completed by the Cost per adult: $20

6. Register the remaining youth: Time Estimate: 5 minutes each. This is easily accomplished if you have their information in-hand prior to starting. Cost per youth: $20. Here are the age-breaks for each section:

Otter: 5-6 years old
Timberwolf: 7-10 years old
Pathfinder: 12-17 years old
Rover: 18 years old and over

7. Order Manuals. Time Estimate: 10 minutes: Scout handbooks can be downloaded in PDF Format for free, of course everyone loves having a physical copy. I recommend the spiral bound--save two bucks and buy in bulk orders of 10:

Timberwolf Handbook - Spiral Bound $16.00 each
Pathfinder Handbook (A5 Format) - Spiral Bound $14.00 each
Rover Handbook (A5 format) - Spiral Bound $13.00 each
8. Get uniforms. Time Estimate: 2 hours. For getting it done quickly I recommend getting sizes for everyone and buying in bulk. You’ll need to order hats, shirts, various badges and pins for each member. The quartermaster usually takes 10 days to three weeks to fulfill each order and get it delivered to you.

Rovers Cost
Rover or Pathfinder LS Shirt for men $34.00 each
'B-P Service Association' Name Strip $0.75 each
WFIS Badge $1.00 each
BPSA Hat Pin $4.00 each
Green Beret $12.49 each
Pathfinders Cost
Pathfinder LS Shirt for men $34.00 each
'B-P Service Association' Name Strip $0.75 each
WFIS Badge $1.00 each
BPSA Hat Pin $4.00 each
Red Beret $12.49 each
Timberwolf Cost
Recommended LS Shirt for Timberwolves $6.00 each
WFIS Badge $1.00 each
Timberwolf Six and Otter Den Flash $0.50 each
Recommended Ball Cap for Timberwolves - Small $6.00 each
Otter Cost
Recommended LS Shirt for Otter $6.00 each
WFIS Badge $1.00 each
Timberwolf Six and Otter Den Flash $0.50 each
Recommended Ball Cap for Otter - Small $6.00 each

Additionally, you’ll want to order your custom group flash. it will cost you $60 for 50 patches, at this link:

NOTE: You will likely want a “round brown” campaign hat for yourself--but that’s an additional $55.

Pro Tip: This goes quickly if you have head sizes and shirt sizes for each person, and if someone can cover the costs to make a bulk order. Otherwise each individual can certainly order their own as they’re able, and the GSM only worries about getting their personal uniform and the custom group flash.

Reminder: Not being uniformed doesn't prevent a group from taking shape. Planning a way to raise money for uniforms and books make great initial projects for the new Group.

9. Design and order your Neckers. Time Estimate: 20 minutes. (Or reuse your old ones if you have them--of course you must cover any non-BPSA logos). Instructions here: Cost is $16 each, or even better get your local quilting bee to make them at about half the cost. Note that “official” dress neckers have a prescribed design that is noted in the link (above)

10. Assign adult leaders to each of the Sections--and have them plan for meetings at least twice a month for each section. Perhaps you only staff a Timberwolf section to start--that’s cool! Grow the other sections as you are able. Meetings can be held out-of-doors at local parks. Second best is in a members home or at a local meeting hall or church, etc.

Accept Responsibility

BPSA does not provide insurance. You may want to seek insurance for your scout group, or rely on your homeowners coverage. Or partner with an existing neighborhood organization such as a club or church and benefit from their insurance. Eventually group insurance will be provided by BPSA, but it isn’t available yet.

High-level Cost Estimator

I've included this high-level cost estimator to help figure out the basic kit costs for your unit. The estimator includes the uniform, neckerchief, handbook, and membership costs, per person, as well as the group flash and charter fee. As always it's possible to not include uniform and handbook costs up front:

Section Cost Number Subtotal
Rover: $115
Pathfinder: $115
Timberwolf: $ 49
Otter: $ 51
Group Flash + Charter: $ 95 50 patches
Total: $ 0


You’re now ready to hold your first Group scout meeting in the Baden-Powell Service Association. You don’t have to wait for your uniforms, neckerchiefs and handbooks--you can get started right away. You have a wide world of traditional scouting fun ahead of you--between getting your uniforms squared away and preparing new unit banners and signage, learning your scout handbook and sharing all the skills and proficiencies, you've got the whole year and more ahead of you to get things sorted out. The best part is you've made the transition to fully inclusive, traditional scouting. It's a big step (ok, 10 steps!) but it's something you can be proud of and not feel the slightest bit complicated about.

See you around, scout!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Seattle Public Schools to End Affiliation with BSA

Chief Seattle Council and the Boy Scouts of America have refused to end their discriminatory membership and employment practices. They have instead opted to accept that Seattle Public School (SPS) must end its affiliation with BSA. See prior posts at:
Implementation details are expected to follow, and will be posted as they become available. It is expected the youth will experience little operational change to their outdoor program as curricula, insurance and other course materials are readily available from other sources. Chief Seattle Council was unavailable for comment.

Here is the letter received today:

Dorsey, Larry
To: Geoffrey McGrath
Cc: Sechrist, Calandra; Ruiz, Bernardo; Boy, Ronald D

Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Mr. McGrath,

Thank you for working with Seattle Public Schools in your efforts to make our schools better.  Over the past few weeks we have conducted many meetings and have done a great deal of investigation regarding your concern.  As you can imagine, every course is structured with many layers from personnel to supplies so there are a number of issues that are being considered as we conduct this inquiry.  Further, as you may know, we are in a transitional period as our Superintendent has accepted a new position and we are in the process of hiring a new Superintendent for our District.

With that said, I would like to give you an update on the current status of this investigation and the next steps for the District.  At this point, we have concluded that we shall advise our Superintendent to end any affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America in relation to credit-earning courses.  We will continue to follow federal law and allow organizations to use our facilities after school hours pursuant to our facility use policy. We are currently working with our Risk Management and Curriculum and Instruction departments to determine the instructional material and insurance needs of an outdoor recreation credit-earning course.  We will keep you updated on the progress and thank you again for your cooperation in this matter.


Larry Dorsey        
Ronald D. Boy
Assistant General Counsel
Seattle Public Schools
John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence
2445 3rd Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98124
(206) 252-0114

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
George Orwell
Your comments and concerns are welcome--add them to the comment section below. I'll do my best to research answers to specific questions and welcome other's research as well.