My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members

I loved being in Boy Scouts. Scouting gave me my first experiences with leadership, taught me important practical skills, led to strong bonds with good friends, provided positive adult role models, and helped inspire my life’s focus on environmental advocacy. It also taught me why the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members is wrong.

Despite not being so good at tying knots, my time in scouting included holding a long list of positions. The last one was Troop Guide. I was older than most of the troop, but I was so close to completing my Eagle Scout badge that I decided to stick with it. The Scout handbook describes the Troop Guide’s duties:

The troop guide is both a leader and a mentor to the members of the new-Scout patrol. He should be an older Scout who holds at least the First Class rank and can work well with younger Scouts. He helps the patrol leader of the new-Scout patrol in much the same way that a Scoutmaster works with a senior patrol leader to provide direction, coaching, and support.

There was a more specific reason for my assignment. The troop had a problem with some of the younger Scouts being teased and treated badly. It was the sort of common behavior you’d expect from boys that age, but it did cause a couple of scouts to leave the troop. The Scoutmaster wanted me to help set the tone for the older Scouts and stick up for the younger kids.

I don’t remember teasing the younger Scouts before then, but I wasn’t paying much attention to them either. I hung out with the older guys. Socializing too much with the newbies wasn’t cool.

I started spending more time talking with the new Scouts after accepting the position and tried making them feel welcome in the troop. Once or twice I gave the older kids a hard time about their teasing. After that, everyone started rethinking their behavior and things got better. I think I did a good job.

It was a church-sponsored troop and I heard about a comment one of the younger Scouts made in Sunday School class. The students were asked to name people who stand up for justice. One of them said my name. He may have been playing teacher’s pet since my mom was giving the Sunday school lesson, but I was very proud to know someone thought of me that way because of how I acted as Troop Guide.

If there were any gay Scouts in our troop they kept it a secret. Back then, I was naively unaware of how much a teenager might go through by coming out of the closet. The killing of Matthew Shepard confronted me with that reality years later. Continue reading My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members

Repeated Harassment is Not Bullying, It’s Stalking. Let’s Prosecute It That Way.

When teens, preteens and children harass each other, even when that harassment rises to the level of utter cruelty and violence, we have this desire to give it a cutesy name that suggests the idea that this is “just something that kids do.” There is nothing cutesy about the repeated, willful and malicious following and/or harassing of another person. I use that description for this kind of behavior because it both fits what some people refer to as bullying and also is the most common description for stalking.

What we refer to as bullying is not a one-time act. If it were a one-time act, it would be mere simple assault and/or battery, or perhaps not a crime at all. No, the behavior we are really talking about when we refer to bullying or stalking is repeated and unwanted acts by one person or group against another person or group for the purpose of creating an ongoing climate of fear for the target person or group. There are many reasons a particular person or group can be singled out for harassment. It can be because the target person or group dresses a certain way, acts a certain way, is of a certain economic background, nationality, religion or ethnicity, or is perceived to be a member of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered) community.

Horrific Stalking of the LGBT community

The young members of the LGBT community and those who are perceived to be members of that community have experienced and endured some of the most vicious stalking behaviors of any group. Suicides of LGBT children who have lost hope of their lives ever becoming better have become a nearly weekly occurrence. The stalking of these children needs to be stopped. Ideally, all children and all people should be educated and receive training, much as the military has given to its members, that the members of the LGBT community are human beings, equals, and should be treated as such. Regrettably, the government does not have the right to compel people outside of the military to receive such education and training. The only thing the government can do is prosecute unlawful behavior.

All 50 states as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice have some sort of legislation against stalking. Some call it criminal harassment, some call it criminal menace, and some come right out and call it stalking. All of the laws would easily encompass what has been mistakenly referred to as bullying.

The purpose of rebranding this behavior to call it stalking is twofold. First, whatever the anti-stalking laws are called in each state, they should be used to stop anyone, including teens and even younger children, from making the lives of other people miserable and unbearable. There is no reason for this to be allowed to go on. No one has the right to treat anyone else this way. Second, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph, there is not enough of a negative connotation to the term bullying. Stalking, on the other hand, has a huge creep factor to it. No one wants to be labeled a stalker.

What schools and others should do when they encounter this behavior

The first time a child or group of children or teens are identified as engaging in stalking behavior, they should be sent to the principal or headmaster’s office if the behavior is at school, and their parents or caregivers should be contacted and informed that any additional reports of this behavior will result in a referral to the police. Teachers, administrators, students and parents should be briefed in advance that this is the school’s policy on this behavior. If the behavior is not at school, the police should be called by anyone witnessing the behavior or the victim or victims parents and the perpetrators should be brought to family court to address the illegal acts. Again, first instance is a warning; any future reports should result in prosecution.

Schools, the police and family courts must be trained to treat this behavior as the serious crime that it is. It is time to once and for all protect our children from becoming the victims of this cruel behavior. Continue reading Repeated Harassment is Not Bullying, It’s Stalking. Let’s Prosecute It That Way.