I was troubled as I read Scott’s post about some of the ridiculous side effects of Zero Tolerance Policies in schools. I thought that served as one more example of thing I would rather not have my kids learn by going to public schools. Luckily for me, my kids have not started school yet and we can be aware of this issue and make decisions accordingly. Little did I think that similar problems would hit closer to home when my workday ended.
After arriving home I learned that two of the boys I work with in scouts were spreading some very malicious and graphic rumors about my next door neighbor – who also happens to be our primary babysitter. If I did not know her I would wonder if the story was entirely accurate. What they said was so hurtful that she wishes she could avoid church, school, and anywhere else that she might run into them.
I have known that one of these two boys has a tendency to pick on people around him but this was worse than I would have expected. The other boy is a bit younger, and was probably following where his friend led. I now wonder what I can or should do about this – besides making sure that the parents of these boys are told. I ask this from the perspective of wanting my neighbor to feel safe in her own neighborhood (not that they were making threats, but emotionally safe) and also what I can do as a scout leader to make sure the boys understand that this behavior is totally inappropriate.
I recognize that there is a certain element of “boys will be boys” to this, but the thing I have come to understand about that phrase is that it is no excuse for bad behavior. What it should mean is that we recognize that young people will make mistakes – that’s part of growing up through our teenage years – and that we should not give up on them when they do stupid things like this. What kind of leadership do we demonstrate if we do not take an active part in condemning their actions and expecting them to do better in the future?