Table of Contents
- How Does This Relate to the OA?
- What is Bullying?
- Types of Bullying
- How Bullying Is Experienced Differently
- How To Prevent Bullying
- How Scout Leaders Can Interrupt and Respond to Bullying
- How Adults Should Support the Scout Being Bullied
- How Adults Should Address Bullying Behavior
- Youth: If you encounter bullying
Have you ever been bullied? Did anyone ever hurt you physically or make threats verbally or spread rumors about you? Unfortunately the answer is probably “yes.” That’s bullying. Bullying happens, especially among young people, but it shouldn’t and we can reduce and prevent it. This sounds like a topic which isn’t necessary to talk about in Scouting, especially not among the National Honor Society of Scouting, but unfortunately that is not our reality. Many Scouts have experienced bullying in Scouting spaces, both as the target, and the bully. This goes for youth and adult members of the OA. The Order of the Arrow and the Boy Scouts of America take bullying seriously. There is no place for bullying, hazing, or any other form of harassment in the BSA or OA. Period. The OA has prepared this webpage to help our members understand how to identify, interrupt, and prevent bullying wherever and whenever it occurs, whether that be in a chapter meeting, on the trail, or online.
How Does This Relate to the OA?
Preventing bullying is central to the Mission and Purpose of the OA. You read that correctly, preventing bullying is central to the Mission and Purpose of the OA. We recognize the most honorable Scouts and Scouters in the BSA, and help them develop as leaders and responsible citizens. That is impossible if anyone in our Order feels unwelcome or unsafe. Bullying is not compatible with Scouts having fun, and is counter to our purpose of developing responsible citizens and leaders.
As members of the OA we are obligated to act as a friend to all, and a brother to every other Scout. There are no exceptions.
What is Bullying
The BSA defines Bullying as:
harassment or aggressive behavior that is intended to intimidate, dominate, coerce, or hurt another person (the target) mentally, emotionally, or physically. It is not “just messing around,” and it is not “part of growing up.” Bullying is a form of victimization, not conflict. It is no more a “conflict” than is child abuse or domestic violence. Bullying is prohibited in Scouting. All forms of bullying violate the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
Types of Bullying
Verbal—Name-calling, belittling, taunting
Social—Spreading rumors; destroying or manipulating friendships; excluding or ostracizing the target
Physical—Hitting, shoving, kicking, using physical coercion, intimidation through gestures
Criminal—Assault; sexual aggression
Cyberbullying—Using digital technology such as social media, cell phones, etc., to engage in these kinds of behaviors
How Bullying Is Experienced Differently
Unfortunately, bullying is a common occurrence in America. Recent studies have found that about 20% of children between the ages of 12 to 18 experienced bullying. Those numbers are much higher for young people with disabilities, or who identify at LGBTQ+, or who are racial or religious minorities.
Scouts with Disabilities
Scouts with disabilities and special health needs, such as epilepsy or food allergies, also may be at higher risk of being bullied. Bullying can include making fun of someone because of their allergies or exposing them to the things they are allergic to. In these cases, bullying is not just serious, it can mean life or death.
One reason children and young adults with special health care needs might be at higher risk for bullying is lack of peer support. Having friends who are respected by peers can prevent and protect against bullying. Creating a safe environment where Scouts from every ability level can interact helps reduce the instances of bullying drastically.
While trying to deal with all the challenges of being a teenager, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teens also have to deal with harassment, threats and violence directed at them on a daily basis. LGBT youth are nearly twice as likely to be called names, verbally harassed or physically assaulted at school compared to their non-LGBT peers. Their mental health and education, not to mention their physical well-being, are at-risk. With each instance of verbal or physical harassment, the risk of self-harm among LGBT youth is 2 ½ times more likely. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth are also four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. These are all factors exacerbated by bullying. Scout leaders can reduce and mitigate these risks by not tolerating bullying and abuse, and setting a tone of inclusivity by taking actions as simple as respecting the pronouns and preferred names of Scouts.
Race, Ethnicity, National Origin, and Faith
Bullying targeting young people based on outward appearances is tragically not uncommon, and can have serious negative outcomes. For example, black and Hispanic youth who are bullied are more likely to suffer academically than their white peers.
Religion and faith can also be a subject of bullying. In these situations, bullying may have less to do with a person’s beliefs and more to do with misinformation or negative perceptions about how someone expresses that belief. For example, Muslim girls who wear hijabs (head scarves), Sikh boys who wear patka or dastaar (turbans), and Jewish boys who wear yarmulkes report being targeted because of these visible symbols of their religions. These items are sometimes used as tools to bully Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish youth when they are forcefully removed by others. Several reports also indicate a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh bullying over the past decade that may have roots in a perceived association of their religious heritage and terrorism.
How To Prevent Bullying
A safe and supportive Scouting climate can help prevent bullying. Safety starts in the Unit. Scouts should also feel and be safe everywhere when Scouting—in the dining hall, at program areas, in restrooms, on a bus, and on athletic fields. Every Scout can work together to create a climate where bullying is not acceptable.
In general, Scout Leaders can:
- Establish a culture of inclusion and respect that welcomes all Scouts. Reward Scout when they show thoughtfulness and respect for peers, adults, and the camp.
- Make sure Scouts interact safely. Monitor bullying “hot spots” in and around the facility. Students may be at higher risk of bullying in settings where there is little or no adult monitoring or supervision, such as bathrooms, playgrounds, and the dining hall.
- Enlist the help of all leaders. All leaders can keep an eye out for bullying. They also help set the tone at the facility. Messages reach kids best when they come from many different adults who talk about and show respect and inclusion.
- Set a tone of respect. This means managing Scout behavior progressively.
- Create ground rules.
- Develop rules with Scouts so they set their own climate of respect and responsibility.
- Use positive terms, like what to do, rather than what not to do.
- Reinforce the rules.
- Be a role model and follow the rules yourself. Show Scouts respect and encourage them to be successful.
- Make expectations clear. Keep your requests simple, direct, and specific.
- Reward good behavior. Try to affirm good behavior four to five times for every one criticism of bad behavior.
- Use direct feedback, and do not publicly reprimand.
- Help Scouts correct their behaviors. Help them understand violating the rules results in consequences: “I know you can stop [negative action] and go back to [positive action]. If you choose to continue, then [consequence].”
How Scout Leaders Can Interrupt and Respond to Bullying
Sometimes Scout leaders try to correct bullying behavior by asking the parties to “talk it out” or via mediation, but inadvertently that can make things worse. Remember:
- Mediation may be very upsetting to a Scout who has been bullied. Facing the person who bullied them may make the Scout who was bullied feel worse.
- There is no evidence that conflict resolution or peer mediation stops bullying.
- The message to a child who is bullied should be, “no one deserves to be bullied, and we will do everything we can to stop it.”
- The message for children who bully should be, “your behavior is inappropriate and you must stop it.”
How Adults Should Support the Scout Being Bullied
- Listen and focus on the Scout. Learn what’s been going on and show you want to help.
- Assure the Scout that bullying is not their fault.
- Know that Scouts who are bullied may struggle with talking about it. Consider referring them to a school counselor, psychologist, or other mental health service.
- Give advice about what to do if the bullying occurs again.
- Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied scout. The Scout, parents, and Unit may all have valuable input. It may help to:
Ask the Scout being bullied what can be done to make him or her feel safe. Remember that changes to routine should be minimized. He or she is not at fault and should not be singled out. For example, consider rearranging patrol composition or seating plans for everyone. If bigger moves are necessary, such as switching patrols or bus routes, the Scout who is bullied should not be forced to change.
Be persistent. Bullying may not end overnight. Commit to making it stop and consistently support the bullied child.
Avoid these mistakes:
- Never tell the Scout to ignore the bullying.
- Do not blame the Scout for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
- Do not tell the Scout to physically fight back against the person who is bullying.
- Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse.
Follow-up. Show a commitment to making bullying stop. Because bullying is behavior that repeats or has the potential to be repeated, it takes consistent effort to ensure that it stops.
If a Scout bullies or physically harms another Scout, an incident report should be filed with the BSA as a membership infraction. https://www.scouting.org/health-and-safety/incident-report/
This helps the BSA be aware of the issue and support the unit leader with the tools they need to correct the issue and avoid additional harm.
How Adults Should Address Bullying Behavior
- Make sure the bully knows what the problem behavior is. Young people who bully must learn their behavior is wrong and harms others.
- Show Scouts that bullying is taken seriously. Calmly tell the bully that bullying will not be tolerated. Model respectful behavior when addressing the problem.
- Work with the bully to understand some of the reasons behind their behavior. For example:
- Sometimes children bully to fit in. These kids can benefit from participating in positive activities. Involvement in sports and clubs can enable them to take leadership roles and make friends without feeling the need to bully.
- Other times young people act out because something else—issues at home, abuse, stress—is going on in their lives. They also may have been bullied.
- Use consequences to teach. Consequences that involve learning or building empathy can help prevent future bullying.
- Involve the person who bullied in making amends or repairing the situation. The goal is to help them see how their actions affect others. For example, the bully can:
- Write a letter apologizing to the Scout who was bullied.
- Clean up, repair, or pay for any property they damaged.
If you Encounter Bullying In-Person
- Never leave fellow Scout out of games or activities
- Treat everyone with respect (use kind words and actions)
- Watch for Scouts who may not have friends to play with and include them in experiences
- If you witness bullying, interrupt it, but only if you feel safe doing so
- Tell an adult right away if we ever see someone bullied or worry that someone might be bullied
If you encounter bullying online
- It is important to keep yourself safe. If you feel like you need to, hide negative accounts from your feed.
- If you see bullying or negative comments online, report these violations of terms of service to the platform and to a trusted adult.
- When posting yourself always respond with positivity and information. Lead with compassion and kindness and try to foster understanding.
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying, and adults should take the same approach to address it: support the Scout being bullied, address the bullying behavior of a participant, and show children that cyberbullying is taken seriously.
- Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
- A Scout exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.
- A Scout hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device.
- Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
- A Scout starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
- A Scout becomes withdrawn or depressed, or loses interest in people and activities.
Because cyberbullying happens online, responding to it requires different approaches. If you think that a Scout is involved in cyberbullying, there are several things you can do:
- Notice – Recognize if there has been a change in mood or behavior and explore what the cause might be. Try to determine if these changes happen around a child’s use of their digital devices.
- Talk – Ask questions to learn what is happening, how it started, and who is involved.
- Document – Keep a record of what is happening and where. Take screenshots of harmful posts or content if possible. Most laws and policies note that bullying is a repeated behavior, so records help to document it.
- Report – Most social media platforms and schools have clear policies and reporting processes. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it to the school. You can also contact app or social media platforms to report offensive content and have it removed. If a child has received physical threats, or if a potential crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.
- Support – Peers, mentors, and trusted adults can sometimes intervene publicly to positively influence a situation where negative or harmful content posts about a child. Public Intervention can include posting positive comments about the person targeted with bullying to try to shift the conversation in a positive direction. It can also help to reach out to the child who is bullying and the target of the bullying to express your concern. If possible, try to determine if more professional support is needed for those involved, such as speaking with a guidance counselor or mental health professional.
If a Scout is bullied because of race, ethnicity, or disability, and local help is not working to solve the problem, contact the BSA’s Member Care Contact Center at 972-580-2489, or send an email to @email.