Archive for May, 2011

Privacy, Safety and Names of Scouts in a Public Forum

May 2, 2011


It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so. -Will Rogers

With the flurry of activity last winter to make sure all our Scouters had completed Youth Protection certificates for re-chartering, I was reminded of some things I learned (awhile ago) in Scout Training that we never quite got around to implementing.  One of these was how we handle pictures of Scouts in the newspaper.

As I remember it, we were told in Scout Training that BSA Youth Protection Policy and the Guide to Safe Scouting permitted only a Scout’s first name and last initial to be published in the newspaper.  I’ve been through Scout Training a couple different times in a couple different Councils under a couple different positions.  So I can’t blame anybody in particular, or nail down any training material in particular.  But it stuck in the back of my head because I immediately noticed when full names appeared in area newspapers.

Now this year, I was the Scouter the local paper got in touch with to arrange photo shoots for Scout week.  I really appreciate the local weeklies promoting Scouting and our Scouts, so I didn’t want to create waves.  However, I did want to make sure I followed Boy Scout Policy and the Guide to Safe Scouting.  So I told the newspaperman I could only give him First Names and Last Initials.  He was, to say the least, not a happy camp photographer.  I told him it was Boy Scout Policy and I would give him the reference if he wanted it.

So I came home and googled the then-current edition of Guide to Safe Scouting online.  Search, search, search not a reference to releasing names to the public or media.  Hm.  Looked for my printed edition of the Guide to Safe Scouting, but I think I gave it away to a new leader awhile ago.  Hmm.  Tried to remember my password to login to Youth Protection training (no luck, too many passwords!) Hmmm.  Tried to Google several key words, and found some Troop and Pack-specific policies to such effect amid alot of other clutter (e.g. Pack 471 Atlanta Area Council, Troop 711 Gulfstream Council) but nothing “official”.  Hmmmm.

It being late in the day, with impending press deadlines, I turned to the Scouter Twitterverse for help.  My @JohnScout Scouters List are a great group of guys and gals around the Scouting world.  So I posed the question:

@JohnScout I’m looking for citation for #BSA “policy against releasing the names of its members in a public forum”? @BoyScouts ?

I received some interesting replies.  A couple Scouters (@ScouterAdam, @arlenward) echoed my question.  A couple others reaffirmed that they thought it used to be there but “It’s not there anymore”.  A couple others referred to discussions about other causes for concern (Abuse of online photos in the New York Times, US FTC COPPA privacy rules).  Yikes, the last thing I want is to run afoul of federal pornography statutes!  Alot of the concern in the community is with online photos and stalkers and such, but with the rise of Facebook and self-tagging (at least at the Troop level) my concern at this time is more limited.

So, finally, I put a call into our Council Executive.  We were between District Executives so I called the Big Guy himself.  Had to leave a message.  Missed the press deadline.  The Council Executive did respond by email later.  His explanation, in part:

The policy of the Boy Scouts has not changed. The policy is 
that: no photos or names of Scouts should be published without 
the expressed signed consent of the parents of Scouts under 
the age of 18.

There are lots of very specific reasons for this but the 
two most basic and important are: 
privacy issues and safety issues.

There was some more, but my Council Executive never gave me permission to use this much (he’s a busy guy and doesn’t do email much, but that’s another post…)  That said, the new BSA Health Forms do very prominently contain media releases so all of our Scouts (at least at the Troop level) should have those for camp, and younger guys should have at least the Parent Release as part of annual renewals.

*  *  *

I was reminded of this question the other day, when I saw a tweet for the new “Boy Scouts of America Social Media Guidelines“.  Jackpot!  In addition to reminders that all communication between Scouts and Scouters should be in a “public forum” (e.g. don’t email w/o a cc: to mom or dad, and don’t even THINK about Chat), there’s this reminder to the Scouts:

  • Do not give anyone online your real last name, phone numbers at home or school, your parents’ workplaces, or the name or location of your school or home address unless you have your parents’ permission first. Never give your password to anyone but a parent or other adult in your family.

Aha, there’s the “No Last Names” thing in print!  However, it doesn’t directly address Scouters identifying Scouts in the media, social or dead tree print.  It does go on to discuss aspects of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, which should be required reading for all Scouters online or not.

The bottom line seems to be:  Don’t put pictures in the paper without written parent permission.  And then it’s still not a bad idea to be more safe than less.  As in all things, Be Prepared.




SM Minute—The X Words

May 1, 2011

Scoutmaster Minute—The X Words

There are two X words the we use frequently in Boy Scouting—eXperience and eXample.

You learn Scout skills by eXperience.  We know that the way to learn is by doing.  When we go on camping trips, you get the eXperience you need to master your skills.

When you start to teach other Scouts what you know, you set the eXample.  But much more important than teaching Scout skills is the eXample you set in your life.  Do you always wear a clean uniform at Scout meetings? Are you careful with the language you use?  Do you always finish your work before playing?

Remember to think about the two X words every day.

(from Troop Program Resources, p.18)