Scouting has always taken personal safety seriously, and has implemented safety training in many facets of the Scouting experience. First aid requirements are a part of virtually every rank advancement and merit badge. Early on, Scouts learn about the safe use of tools, especially the use of knives, saws, axes and other sharp instruments and are constantly reminded to maintain a safety circle. Scouts learn fire safety and train in such subjects as waterfront safety, climbing and hiking safety, food handling and preparation, etc. Safety is an essential component to a successful scouting experience, and we ask families, adult leaders and all scouts to participate in helping to assure the safety of all engaged in Scouting.

Families play a central role in assuring a safe Scouting experience. At each level of the Scout’s experience, parents are asked to review safety considerations with their Scout, guided by age appropriate materials included in each handbook. These discussions help to create an appropriate awareness in the scout about personal safety and personal space, how to respond to situations that may cause concern, where and how to seek help if needed, and how to look out for fellow scouts and others.

Fundamental to personal safety in scouting is the Youth Protection Program, informed by experts and carefully designed to provide a wholesome and safe experience for every Scout. Each registered adult leader is carefully background checked, both upon initial registration and repeatedly during the adult’s registration period. All registered adults are required to complete Youth Protection Training which must be renewed every other year. This training is also required of scouts who work in our summer camp programs. Training focuses on methods to assure youth safety and addresses signs of abuse, bullying, cybersecurity and other hazards, requirements to report suspected abuse and ways to address it. Training is open and available online to all including parents and family members.

Youth protection guidelines require that a youth is never in a situation alone with an adult, either in person or online. Youth are placed in age cohorts at the Cub Scout level, and tenting and other activities at the Scouts BSA level require that scouts be within two years of one another, and that males and females may not tent together. Shower and restroom facilities must provide privacy and separate facilities are made available for males and females, youth and adults. The “buddy system” requires that each scout be accompanied by another Scout during outings and activities so that no Scout is ever alone in the woods or in an activity. These, and many other rules and procedures, are outlined in the BSA’s Barriers to Abuse documents and are designed to protect the safety of each participant in Scouting.

As the summer camping season approaches, it is reassuring to know that personal safety, youth protection, training and careful screening of adult leadership lie at the center of the scouting experience. For more information, consult the Youth Protection guidelines, training and materials made available online by the BSA or reach out to adult leadership within your Pack, Troop or Crew. Keeping a Scout safe may not be one of the points of the Scout Law, but it is certainly embedded in expectations that a Scout is Trustworthy, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, and Brave, among others.

Paul Shrode

The seventh in a series designed to help Scout families, Scouts and those new to Scouting better understand what Scouting is, how it works, and how to get the most out of the experience.