For a few years now, the Boy Scouts of America has done background checks on new adult leaders in troops, packs, and crews. When the organization first began doing this I thought it was a bit extreme, but I have gotten used to the idea. I have also noticed that others groups, clubs, and even schools now do the same thing for their volunteers.
Will background checks work to keep out the rift raft and troublemakers? I am sure it will help, but nothing is one hundred percent foolproof. It does sound like it has stopped some “undesirables” from holding Scout leadership positions. Unfortunately, it is also stopping some good people from holding a leadership role due to mistakes made early in their lives.
For example, I had a father who was very active with the troop. He worked well with the boys and they respected him. He was a good assistant scoutmaster. Unfortunately, when the council did a background check on him the council found that he had made a few wrong choices in his life over twenty five years ago. and then denied his application. This gentleman had straightened out his life a generation ago, has raised a fine family, and had already proven himself to be a good troop leader, but the BSA says that he is no longer good enough the be an assistant scoutmaster. (And no, I am not going to write here what his record showed, even though I know because he and I have talked about it.)
In this example, I think the background check has backfired against the local troop, and thus the BSA. This policy is actually keeping a good man out of the program. It makes me wonder how many more times this has happened around the country. Don’t get me wrong though, I happen to agree the background checks are a good idea, but I also think we need to take a look at the current character of the person, not just what happens to be on record from a generation ago. After all, people do change. They learn from their mistakes.
Or are we now going to teach the boys that once they make a mistake we should hold that against them for their entire lives?
I have been a scoutmaster in Scouting for over 25 years, so the background check has not been done on me yet. Last week I did receive a letter from the National Office asking me to complete a form because they are now doing the checks on all adult leaders. I can mail the form in, or I can do it online.
I am not worried. I have never been arrested, never done drugs, never been part of a political demonstration. I have never even got a speeding ticket. I am just an ordinary law abiding citizen of Minnesota. Always have been, always plan to be.
However, when I think about it, would this not be a dandy way to get out of being a scoutmaster after all these years? Hey Bubba, pass me a bottle of beer and give me the keys! It is time to get a record. (I am kidding, of course.)