Safety in Numbers


As we headed home from a recent church youth trip, one of the van drivers sent out an alert via GroupMe that he was the only adult in his van. His assigned copilot had ended up in the wrong van, leaving him technically in violation of the church’s Safe Sanctuaries policy (think Youth Protection for youth groups), which requires two unrelated adults in each vehicle. So we all stopped at the next interstate exit, got everybody in the right seats, and continued on our way.

Policies like that can seem like overkill–until something happens. In our case, we came home to learn that the married owners of a local youth dance school had just been arrested for sexual abuse of one of their students. Two girls on our trip were also students at that school and knew the victim.

You’ve probably heard the old saying “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” I think it’s equally true that eternal vigilance is the price of safety for the young people we serve. Short of extreme emergencies, we shouldn’t cut corners or take shortcuts–even if that means recruiting a reluctant volunteer to spend a night at summer camp or making an unscheduled stop on the interstate.

It’s also essential that we keep up with changes to BSA policies, including an important one that’s taking effect this fall. Here’s the language from the BSA’s updated Family Scouting FAQ document:

Effective, October 1, 2018, two registered adult leaders 21 years of age or over are required at all Scouting activities, including meetings. There must be a registered female adult leader over 21 in every unit serving females. A registered female adult leader over 21 must be present for any activity involving female youth. Notwithstanding the minimum leader requirements, age- and program-appropriate supervision must always be provided.

Note the explicit inclusion of meetings here, as well as the fact that 18- to 20-year-olds will no longer count for two-deep leadership.

As Scouters, we have no higher purpose than to keep our Scouts safe. And that takes eternal vigilance.

Need some great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at


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