Goodbye, Safety-Obsessive Girl Scouts

Readers enrryzbdan
— As the mom of two Scouts (of the boy variety), I am so sorry to see some troops turning into a morass of red tape, Worst-First thinking and CYA. Time to whittle down the fears! – L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I thought I wouldn’t ever do this, but I think I’m going to have to.  I am easing my daughter out of Girl Scouts.

A friend of mine, a former GS leader, assures me that this is the local group being buffleheaded, not national rules.  But practically speaking, it doesn’t matter.  It’s the local group or no Girl Scouts at all, due to our location.

Around Christmas, I had a dispute with my daughter’s troop leader about letting her walk alone to the pickup point for a caroling excursion, which was just around the corner and across the street.  She said I had to drag the younger siblings out of the house and through the chilly winter weather — seeing as how they really are too young to stay home alone — while I personally walked my eldest to the pickup point.  Or  I could tell my husband that he had to let me have the car for the day instead of using it for work-related trips.  Reason? “Safety.”  Although I held on to my temper (I think), I got the feeling that this person was completely willing to call the cops or CPS or something if I let my eldest walk alone for five whole minutes, so I was willing to give in.  And then the whole thing got weathered out.  Bullet dodged.

A few weeks ago, my daughter’s troop had a meet-up at a store a block from our house.  I told my daughter to courteously ask whether she could walk home on her own, and if not, to call me.  She ended up calling me.  “Safety.”

Last night my daughter had a meeting in an elementary school building.  They dropped their coats in the cafeteria, then went to a small classroom just down the hall.  When my daughter was done with the activity, she wanted to wait in the cafeteria for me to come in and get her.  Not allowed.  “Safety.”

The cherry on the sundae of stupid: Apparently, this whole time she has been forced to take a bathroom buddy to the restroom whenever she needs to go!  All of the girls have to do this, it isn’t just her being picked on.  What.  The.  Frack. She’s 9.

The local Salvation Army runs a scouting program that does none of this nonsense and seems awesome. Hopefully I’ll be able to ease my daughter out of GS for “logistical” reasons.  I don’t want her memories of Scouts to be bitter . (Heh.) – Scout Mom for the Time Being

Dedicated to cossetting kids?

Dedicated to pointless “safety?”

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61 Responses to Goodbye, Safety-Obsessive Girl Scouts

  1. CJ March 3, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    I don’t personally have a problem with bathroom buddies–there are lessons there regarding looking out for others, etc. that I think are valuable.

    But the explanations given, “safety”, show a shallow understanding of what is really going on. I don’t agree with the approach, but we are all living in a culture where volunteer leaders are in a no-win situation. If something happens (regardless of how not likely that is), the liability will fall on them.

    When was the last time something happened, and everyone involved declared it a tragedy with no blame? Even if the parent agrees, you can be sure that if a scout leader lets a child of that age walk home alone, that they will be excoriated should something, however unlikely, happen. That is why these people behave that way–it is out of two things: a) a perception that risk is higher than it really is, and b) self-preservation.

    I’m not saying they are selfish, just acting in their best interests. The social and communal punishment will be life-crippling, even above and beyond their own sadness/guilt. Leaders today (teachers, care-givers, volunteers) no longer have the luxury to either make mistakes or let kids learn independence.

  2. JenW March 3, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    I’ve been a troop leader for just over a year, and I’m just about to throw in the towel.

    I (technically) can’t even take my scouts hiking at the local Nature Center because I haven’t had the requisite 4-hour training in Basic Outdoor Skills (offered approximately 2x/year). If I ever manage to schedule the 12+ hours of camping training, any dads who want to come camping will need to sleep in an entirely different campground.

    As far as CYA…I was recently told by my local Council that all my moms volunteering to chaperone at cookie booths *must* be registered Girl Scout members (a $15 cost) to be covered by the insurance policy in case “anything happens”, or they “drop a case of cookies on their foot.” (Yes, that was the actual example given.) (Also, this was the *third* distinct directive given by two different people regarding chaperones at cookie booths. Apparently even the rule-makers don’t know what their rules are!)

    And then they all wring their hands and wonder why so many girls leave Scouting after 5th grade…

  3. JenC March 3, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    I am planing on looking into an alternative for my now 1 year old girl. All I know about Girl Scouts is that they push cookies. It’s just a franchise squeezing already squeezed parents for more of their dough. I hope I can find something else when the time comes.

  4. Nanci March 3, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    My son’s boy Scout troop does the bathroom buddy thing, although they don’t call it that. The idea behind it is that no boy is ever alone in the bathroom so there are no fears of inappropriate actions between leaders and boys. It’s a rule in response to the cases in the past of boys being molested by their leaders. I have no problem with it, they do so many awesome things in the troop. My son gets to do so many cool things, like shooting, using a knife, and building a fire.

    My daughter was in a Girl Scout troop and the rules and regulations were insane. We could do nothing! So what her troop did was start doing cool things, but not having it be an “official” Girl Scout event. So we would all just happen to have our kids go camping at the same place on the same weekend kind of stuff. We got to camp, swim in lakes, build fires, all things we could not do if they were “official” Girl Scout events. Even having the girls over to swim in the leaders backyard above ground pool had to be off the grid, because as she had not been through official training GS required we hire an official lifeguard for the event. So we just all happened to bring our girls over on the same day to have a pool party among friends, not a Girl Scout swim day!

  5. LisaS March 3, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    My 6th grade daughter still does Girl Scouts, although I have found both the curriculum and the “safety” rules increasingly tedious as the years go by. What has made it more bearable has been that we joined a neighborhood troop that is run by fellow free rangers – and our stated goal is to make our girls confident & self-aware enough that we don’t have to worry about them driving, going off to college, etc. Most girls live within walking distance, and walk unaccompanied to our few meetings – most of the time we are meeting up to go somewhere that requires driving, however. We go camping a lot (and have since 4th grade!), do archery, make fires, cook, canoe, hike … the “buddy system” rules are just part of the organization, but if they have a buddy, they pretty much have the run of the property. The point is to let them lead – we adults go along if we want.

    So my advice is to find a handful of like-minded parents, form your own troop based on those values, and figure out how to minimally follow the rules to have the experience you want (while having the access to Girl Scout insurance, camp properties, extra programs, etc.).

  6. wahoofive March 3, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    The Girls Scouts’ mission is “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”

    Just sayin’.

  7. SKL March 3, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    So, what *is* the benefit of being a Girl Scout?

  8. lollipoplover March 3, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    “The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.”

    My only local encounter with Girl Scouts was at a Walgreens when the parent volunteer(a dad)greeted me in the ichy,embarrassing cream isle (it wasn’t for me!) with his daughter and told me they were selling cookies at the front of the store and wouldn’t I please buy some- the girl spoke not a word. I asked him (it was a dad) who was selling the cookies- the girl scout or the parents? He didn’t understand so I told him I had already greeted the Girl Scouts at the front table (true) and put in an order for Thin mints x 2 with my daughter’s friend and said hi to mom, all the while holding several antifungal creams. I got my change, paid the Girl Scout (they all had a parent right behind them or were *working the store*.

    I miss little girls with wagons dragging it up the hill on our street. If the work of today is the history of tomorrow, why are all the parents doing it?

  9. Ravana March 3, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    I HATED Girl Scouts because they wouldn’t let us do anything but go shopping, do crafts that didn’t involve scissors and “cook” things that didn’t involve heat and that was 40 years ago. “Camping” was staying one day (not even overnight) at a resort!

    I originally lived in an area where there were Indian Guide Princess and I wanted so badly to be one because they went camping, practiced archery and carried knives, but my family moved out of the Indian Guide zone just when I got old enough to join.

  10. Jillian March 3, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    I’m a leader with an alternative Scouting organization. I actually can see the point in these regulations for CYA purposes, but only if they came from National at the direction of the insurance policy. I would have no problems letting a nine year old walk home alone – but would want parental confirmation before doing so, in writing, to ensure that I and my organization wouldn’t get sued if the kid disappeared in the five minute walk. It’s not the kid’s safety I’m concerned about, but the craziness that could result if anything went wrong.

    Unfortunately, the bathroom buddy is the part that makes the most sense to me. We also do have a “no kids alone in the meeting place” policy to avoid any potential inappropriate behavior, which includes bullying from older children. We also have a “2 deep leadership policy” and a required mandatory background check for all adults who lead the group.

    For those of you looking for alternatives to the national Scout groups, we are the Baden-Powell Service Association:

    Our local unit is the 5th Brooklyn Scouts (

  11. Mrs. Smith March 3, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    The red tape is unbelievable! As a first time GS troop leader, I question my sanity on a daily basis. I keep telling myself that I do this for my daughter, but I think she would like me better if I wasn’t so angry when I leave monthly troop LEADER meetings and mandatory training. The administrative tasks I perform are like having a part-time job (in addition to the full time job I already have), and so my planning of fun events for the scouts drops by the way-side. So discouraging. I thought I would make a two year commitment for my daughter, but May is coming up soon and I wrestle daily with the decision of whether or not to leave once the first year is up.

    As a side note, we use the buddy system for bathroom breaks on outings, but not at our regular meetings. I’ve even been known to send my 10 y.o. out to the clubhouse parking lot alone so she can fetch something out of the car. SSSSHHHH…please don’t tell on me.

  12. Donna March 3, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    To my knowledge, our troop does not do bathroom buddies.

    As for the other things, my question is why exactly are you asking for permission from an organization for your parenting choices? Of course they will say no for liability reasons. Parents have got to stop acting as if someone else has control of their child’s comings and goings. TELL the leaders what you are going to do or just do it. Don’t ask if it is okay. Obviously walking home requires some communication with the troup leaders, but I never would have even considered asking if my daughter could walk TO a location. I would have just sent her on her own.

  13. DJ March 3, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    I am a Girl Scout leader and my 4th grade girls camp, cook, build fires and have recently learned how to safely use pocket knives. We also do archery and are learning geocaching.

    We do use the buddy system for the bathroom so that the girls get into the habit of staying with a buddy and being responsible for each other so it’s easy to take them camping. We also require checking with patrol leaders for the same reason.

    We have male chaperones who stay in separate cabins, but are fully integrated into the program.

    Yes, Girl Scouts can be full of red tape, but a leader can learn how to work with it and still teach character, confidence and courage. The issue comes when the leader gets paranoid and is fed paranoia by more “experienced” leaders.

  14. Joanne March 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    I confess I almost never followed the rules when I was a leader. I had the same group of girls for 6 years. Their parents were first time Girl Scout moms so they didn’t know if I was complying with rules or not. We camped. My girls cooked their own meals when we camped. (and used knives to cut their own produce for their own meals when we camped). (The first grade/kindergarten troop I had was a little nervous about that but the girls did it). Because I had been a GS camp counselor years and years ago I was able to “test out” of the outdoor classes. I didn’t attend service meetings or most of the ‘required’ things (except CPR and First Aid certification. I did that). I confess, I rarely did the paperwork. They were desperate for volunteers and nobody else would take my troop. I probably lived in a very lax service unit as well because my contact at GS never gave me grief either. Only our very last outing (when my girls were all 8th grade or freshmen in high school) was a ‘resort’ trip. They had suffered through 5 years of my camping I could take them to Great Wolf Lodge once. We had fun. It really wasn’t that big a deal (or as hard as GS wants to make it). The hardest thing was finding a place to meet since I had no ties to schools (no kids of my own), churches (atheist), and the community meeting spaces required $$.

    Having been a scout and been a leader for years and years, it makes me sad that people leave in droves like this. I know GSUSA is concerned about drops in participation. They attribute it to the competition for kids’ attention from technology, after school activities, and all that. I wonder how much it really is that and how much it is the ridiculousness of their books worth of policies.

  15. OPMom March 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    I abandoned the GS back at Daisies. It’s devolved to an army of adorable cookie pushers, getting “badges” for listening to a book about water conservation read., with an occasional (cold) glue craft.

    Young girls already have solidarity, community and trusting relationships. Until about 12-13. See much scouting activity then? I don’t, and surmise it’s because braced teethed, zit cheeked, awkward pubescents don’t move the thin mints so effectively. Shame, that’s when girls need-and fail-each other most.

  16. Krista March 3, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    My daughter’s GS leader always tells the girls “no running!”which makes sense when they are indoors. But one year we were at the service area campout and a few girls took off running down the dirt path. The leader said, “No running!”and I just stared at her. She noticed my look and told me she didn’t want anyone to skin a knee. like that was a terrible tragedy.

  17. Meredith March 3, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    I was a lifelong Girl Scout and we had the bathroom buddy system in place even those many decades ago. As a leader now, I use the same system because 1) it’s one I’m comfortable with and 2) in the hope that it keeps the girls accountable in a building where we are guests.

    If a parent is comfortable with a child walking to/from an event and they sign a permission slip to that effect, I see no reason to not allow it. As other posters have pointed out, it is a big commitment to be responsible for other people’s children and it sounds like the leader in question was not comfortable with that responsibility. Please don’t condemn the Girl Scouts for one leader’s discomfort.

    My experience as a Girl Scout was wonderful with lots of camping, cooking, sewing, and girl-directed activities. My sister did not have such a rich experience. The opportunities for girls today are there. But now, as it was then, so much is dependent on the leader and her willingness to create these opportunities for the girls.

  18. Emily March 3, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    Sad to hear about the state of current scouting. I was a scout until sixth grade or so. I’m 36 now. My scouting experience involved lots of camping, fires, crafts including those with knives and walking to meeting across busy roads. I have a one year old daughter, it is sad she will not have these experiences.

  19. kate March 3, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    When my daughter was in Daisies, they met in a church less than a quarter mile from the school. I was asked if I could pick up 5 girls to drive them, as the rules prohibited the leaders from walking them pretty much across the street. As though they were safer in the van, than walking on the sidewalks in a big group with the leader.

  20. SKL March 3, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    I would like to think that if the mom clearly stated (in writing if necessary) – in advance – that her child is going to walk alone to and from the activities, they would allow it because the parent’s mandate should relieve them from any liability should anything happen. I think having the kid “ask politely” doesn’t work for two reasons. One, “the 9yo said so” doesn’t avoid liability. Two, when you want to do something you have a right to do, you don’t ask permission. Asking permission is basically admitting that the other person has the right (and responsibility) to decide.

    But I don’t know for sure that it would make a difference.

  21. Vicki Bellamy March 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    Your daughter can continue as an independently registered Girl Scout. She can continue to explore new badges and Leadership Journeys on her own, earn the Bronze, Silver, and the Gold, attend events/camps, participate in online forums and groups, and even travel via the Destinations and Getaways programs.

  22. SKL March 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    My kids’ school has a Brownie troop that meets at 6pm one evening per week. I suppose they chose 6pm because a lot of moms work, and I appreciate them thinking of that. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t work for us. My kids have physical classes 3 evenings per week, including the evening the Brownies meet. Sure, we could drop a gymnastics class, but the troop (and their moms) don’t seem to be having all that much fun anyway. (I see them getting started when I pick up my kids from aftercare.) My kids have asked about joining next year. I don’t know. They will be in 3rd grade, which is probably a bit old to start, and they certainly have enough extracurriculars. Unlike Boy Scouts, I have never gotten the impression that Girl Scouts is viewed as a particularly character- or competence-enhancing activity. Besides, I have zero interest in selling GS Cookies or anything else.

    I’ve looked into some alternatives. Indian Princesses is only for fathers/daughters; I’m a single mom, so that’s out. I’ve heard of a Christian-oriented one, American Heritage Girls, but there are no convenient locations (and who knows that would be any better). I’ve looked at Urban 4-H, but they are too young for it. So I guess they won’t be doing any of those club-type activities.

  23. catherine March 3, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    I’m glad others have explained the bathroom buddy policy. I also remember this from years ago when I was a scout. As leaders, we enforced this policy for the reasons others have mentioned, most especially because the buddy system was already a habit when we went camping.

    We also found it was a tool in our attempts to get a rather snotty group of girls to be kinder to one other. By switching up buddies every meeting, we were able to forestall some of the clique-y behavior we were trying so are to discourage.

    As for walking alone, that’s just a sad symptom of our litigious culture. I was way more cautious with our troop than I was with my own kids. If a kid gets hurt, it isn’t just the parents who decide whether they’ll sue: insurance companies call some of those shots.

  24. Mark Roulo March 3, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    “I’ve looked into some alternatives. Indian Princesses is only for fathers/daughters; I’m a single mom, so that’s out.”

    This seems obvious, but I’ll ask anyway: Have you contacted your local Indian Princess group and specifically asked? I’ve found that local organizations can often be more flexible than the master/national organization. Asking is free … 🙂

  25. lollipoplover March 3, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Donna, you bring up a very good point:
    “Parents have got to stop acting as if someone else has control of their child’s comings and goings. TELL the leaders what you are going to do or just do it. Don’t ask if it is okay.”

    This happen 2 times with my youngest daughter at school when they held her back and sent her to the office because she wasn’t walking right next to her older sister who usually walks or bikes with her and friends and they meet up down the path to gather their group. They called me and asked what I wanted to do as she was alone (well now she is because you held her back!). I told them to let her go and never to hold her back again. That’s not their job.
    I also spoke with my daughter about speaking up and telling them she would meet up with everyone-which she now does.
    They’ve also told her she wasn’t allowed to leave until she zips up her coat and she reminds them that she will if she gets cold but she’s fine, thanks for your concern.

  26. freeman March 3, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    very nice!

  27. hineata March 3, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Am not quite sure why you need to tell the leader how your daughter is getting home? My girls turn up however they like, and just take off at the end of the night (the bulk of them are picked up by parents) and unless they’re hanging around waiting for mum and dad we wouldn’t be ‘worried’ about them.

    Thought we had too many dumb regs, but obviously not. My teenage son joined my husband cooking for the camp I couldn’t attend last year (stuffed leg) and I don’t remember either of them signing any forms.

  28. SOA March 3, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    It is mostly Cover Your Ass that causes these things. No one wants to be sued or held responsible if something happens on their watch. To some degree I understand.I am more cautious with other people’s kids than my own. I know that sounds crazy but I know what my kids can and cannot do. I may not know as much about other people’s kids. I also am agreeing to return their children for the most part as they left them with me, so I am going to be more careful than I would any old normal day with my own kids.

  29. Donna March 3, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    lollipoplover – This discussion reminds me of a conversation I was present for (not really a part of, but sitting right there) between some parents after school near the beginning of the school year. At one point, one mother randomly asked some other parents “what grade are kids allowed to walk to school by themselves?” My interjected comment of “schools don’t actually have the authority to tell you how your child must get to and from school” was met with a blank look.

  30. Earth.W March 3, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    Our schools in Sydney have a rule where they have to send little kids in pairs to the toilets for safety in the primary school system.

  31. hineata March 3, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    @SOA – no, that doesn’t sound crazy. I am definitely more cautious with other peoples’ kids than my own. I would imagine most people are like that. It’s as you say, the little ‘unknown’ about children you don’t live with.

  32. Vanessa March 3, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    My daughter was a Girl Scout for six years, and while I got sick of it at times, I have to admit her troop leader was pretty good about having the girls do things, including cooking, using knives and starting fires. They did use bathroom buddies while camping, but not during normal meetings, and I helped sell cookies and chaperone numerous events without ever undergoing official training or a background check. I think a lot depends on the troop you’re in and who’s leading it, because I would see some leaders at the big events who were VERY intense and by the book, like it was their career or something.

  33. Willow March 3, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    Since stories posted on this site are anecdotal, I think the mom’s experience of frustration with her troops hypersafety is totally valid and I hope she finds the experience that is right for her daughter. (Although I think a permission slip allowing her daughter to walk home would have solved the issue, at least in my council.)


    The hatin’ on Girl Scouts in the rubs me the wrong way, since Girl Scouts, and GS camping in particular, at least has the potential to be one of the strongest forces for a Free Range philosophy within the context of the “Cover Your A**” culture we teachers and other youth workers sadly MUST operate in. Unfortunately, many people’s bad experiences of scouting is colored by a bad experience with a leader or other adult, which is why GS tries to train quality volunteers and which is why it’s so important to get involved rather than to complain about “what it’s become” — or at least do a little research.

    I’m a lifelong Girl Scout and have worked for my local council as both a volunteer and a part-time staff member for 8 years, primarily running outdoor programming activities and camping. Yes, Girl Scouts is safety conscious and always has been, and yes, there are often rules about things like taking a buddy, which we try to teach kids to always do not because of predator paranoia so much as creating good habits for being in the out of doors, camping at night, and looking out for others. It might seem silly when going to the elementary school bathroom down the hall, but the social habits of being a good friend still apply. Sometimes the rules might seem like overkill, but there’s usually a good reason. For example,we don’t allow open-toed shoes most of the time at camp, but that’s not an attempt to be overprotective, it’s just common sense. Ever gone on a hike in flip flops? Or gotten poison ivy between your toes? 🙂 No bueno.

    The idea though that Girl Scouts aren’t “allowed” to do any dangerous stuff is not true, though. We offer SO MANY high adventure activities — kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding — and life skills like fire building and cooking that kids just do NOT get to do in their hyperprotected, over-teched lives. We teach skills gradually and give kids more and more responsibility until our teens who stick with scouting are Counselors-in-Training, Gold Award-earning world changers who are independent and strong far before their coddled peers. In my opinion, the real reason so many girls leave after 5th grade (besides general over-scheduling) is their leaders haven’t done the best job of plugging them into all the activities that are available to them.

    Sadly, particularly at camp, we do have to live in the realities of a litigious world and cover ourselves. Yep, we do check IDs when parents come to pick up their kids from camp — because we really have had the wrong custodial parent show up and try to take their kids. And heck no, you can bet no one is getting on a horse unless their waivers are signed. You KNOW how fast we’d get sued if the wrong parent’s kid got bucked. Et cetera, et cetera. Camps are a fragile thing these days financially, and in order to preserve them for the girls they serve we have to protect ourselves. Responsibility for someone else’s child means looking at things from a different light than you may with your own.

    So, moral of the story — yep, Girl Scout is very safety conscious, and we have to be. But we also are teaching girls to be independent, courageous, and confident like just about no one else…you can just trust that our helmets are on and inspected and our forms are signed. 🙂

    (Note — totally not saying that GS doesn’t have problems, I’m a voice for positive change on many issues, but GS + Free Range = buddies for life!!)

  34. Lindsey March 3, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    This is like the special program I am in school! I am not allowed to go to the bathroom by myself! And Im in HIGH SCHOOL! And I have to be supervised 100 percent of the time!

  35. Lindsey March 3, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    This is like the special program I am in school! I am not allowed to go to the bathroom by myself! And Im in HIGH SCHOOL! And I have to be supervised 100 percent of the time In school!

  36. Jessica March 3, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

    Has anyone had experience with Campfire USA? I’ve only heard of it because of my grama saying she used to lead Campfire Girls (it’s for boys and girls now) but I’ve never heard of anyone actually doing it.

  37. Hazel March 3, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    “All I know about Girl Scouts is that they push cookies. It’s just a franchise squeezing already squeezed parents for more of their dough.”


    *falls over laughing*

    I’m sorry, I’m a terrible person.

    *still laughing*

  38. Betsy in Michigan March 3, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    A year or so from now, it will be okay to let her know why you left (she needs to know what your family values are). Respectfully explain how you feel about non-freeranging,and that some well-meaning but misguided adults, etc., etc. I do like the line someone here provided: “who decided that children are fragile and stupid?”

    I’m all for the “buddy system”, but if they start introducing this for toileting during the regular school day, too, I’m going to puke. It’s a (presumably locked) SCHOOL building, for crying out loud! I was a Girl Scout 40 years ago – bathroom buddies are only for camping! I’m pretty sure that children will recognize that difference. I’m sure glad my daughter’s troop leaders didn’t get THAT memo! (I really am astonished at the letters defending that practice. Does the buddy need to hand them tp,too, and make sure they wash their hands? Dang, that’s a slippery slope!).

  39. SKL March 3, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    I could totally see a buddy for going potty while camping – my camping memories from childhood always included an outhouse full of spiders! 😉 Who wants to go into that alone?!

    (Actually, I probably did kuz bugs don’t scare me, but I know someone (who shall remain nameless) who wet herself because she was afraid to go to the outhouse at night.) 😛 Ah, memories!

  40. Aliza Burton March 3, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    I understand what you are saying about not letting your daughter walk 5 minutes from home, but maybe someone could pick her up on the way? Why not carpool?

  41. LadyTL March 3, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    @Willow – The problem is many Scouts cannot afford to go to the expensive camps just to be able to do fun things. Most people understand why big camps need to be more concerned about litigation but there is very few good reasons for that same level of precaution to be taken in the actions of the troop. Girl Scouts shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to hike a trail, learn about campfires or cooking when it can be done locally for a faction of the price but won’t have waivers for a backyard, local park or home kitchen.

    Also it is really easy to have a bad troop leader. I was forced out my my troop growing up and now so is my sister due to clique behaviors. Oddly enough it was at the same age of 13. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss what is clearly a widespread attitude towards Girl Scout troops as just oh they are just doing it wrong. These aren’t untrained volunteers but trained leaders who are taking Girls Scouts just in the wrong direction.

    Also there is alot of fluff things in girl scouts and it seems to skew towards that more and more as the CYA gets more dominant on the local level.

  42. everydayrose March 3, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

    “Parents have got to stop acting as if someone else has control of their child’s comings and goings. TELL the leaders what you are going to do or just do it. Don’t ask if it is okay.”

    Yes yes yes! So much this. I deal with this stuff a lot with my girls and it drives me crazy. Right now it’s with the YMCA. We live across the street and about half a block down and every Friday night my daughter will walk over to meet her friends for ‘late nights’, some thing they do for 13-20 year olds every week until midnight. At midnight she’ll send me a text to let me know that she’s on her way and then she shows up at home a few minutes later. Works great, except for the fact that they haven’t been letting her leave the last few weeks without calling me first and getting my permission. It’s infuriating. My daughter told me that the kids who get picked up get walked out to their parents. 13 to 20 year olds. It’s insane.

    Two Fridays ago they called again and the woman very rudely told me that they ‘don’t like it’ that she walks home, and that I need to send a note with her from now on. So I sent a note last week. I told them that my daughter is mature and responsible and is capable of walking across the street to get home without my holding her hand. I said that I appreciate them letting her leave from now on without the harrassing phone calls and the judgement. I’m sure they didn’t like that any more than they like her walking home but you know what? I don’t give a damn. They need to do their jobs and leave me to do the parenting of my child. And if they’re going to be jerks then they should be prepared to be called out on it.

    NOBODY is going to tell me what my kids do or do not need to do for their safety. I will not sit here quietly and accept losing more and more of the control over my life and my kids lives.

    As far as the girls scouts go…meh. I was a girl scout all the way through elementary school and I don’t remember anything about it except how much I disliked it. I was extremely shy and finally worked up the nerve to quit when I was around 10 or so. I did check it out with my girls once a few years ago but it felt a little too Christian-y for me. Too many mentions of God and meetings in churches and whatnot. Plus I have no plans to sell cookies for them. I don’t even like eating cookies. So I just never followed through and don’t feel like they’re missing out because of it.

  43. Beth March 3, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    Without knowing how many Girl Scouts have been molested and/or attacked while going to the bathroom at their meeting place, I disagree with the bathroom buddy business for routine meetings indoors.

    Even as an adult, I’d prefer to do my business in the bathroom without anyone listening. Maybe it’s just me; I don’t know. But as a tween or young teen, I know I would have really preferred to hold it than have someone with me, who might not even have to “go” and is just hanging around the sinks waiting!

  44. Kenny Felder March 4, 2014 at 5:59 am #

    Make sure–politely, but clearly–that the girl scouts know why you are leaving. One person of course will not make a difference, but if they hear the same story enough times, they will stop and think. Mass groupthink got us into this, and it is essential if we are ever to get out.

  45. SOA March 4, 2014 at 7:38 am #

    In our middle schools students are just not allowed to use the bathroom unless it is during one of the scheduled bathroom times where the teacher walks you down there to go. Yep. Started kinda going that way when I was in school and when I went back to substitute 10 years later had gone completely into that. They locked the bathrooms during class times. I as a substitute did not have a key so I could not even go to the bathroom when I wanted during a break. And I had to find someone to open the door for the students with me since I did not have a key.

    So that is probably even worse than going with a buddy. At least with a buddy you can go when you need to. This way you never go. I would never poop at that age if another girl was standing there waiting on me. I would either go when no one else was in there or hold it till I got home. That is how a lot of girls are because they are so self conscious about everything relating to their bodies. Which is not good for your body to hold it, but policies like this will make them hold it.

  46. AJ Kuperman March 4, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    My daughter and I just left our troop that she has been a part of for 7 seven years and that I was the co-leader of for 5 years. I would say in response to Willow that you live in an awesome council and they are lucky to have you! Our council also provides the opportunities you talked about but as a leader who has a background in the Boy Scouts high adventure co-ed program, Venture Crew, I found the process through which one would get trained to be an insurmountable obstacle. For two years, I tried to get certified as a canoe instructor (even though I have years of experience) and was bounced between administrators until finally I was told that they didn’t want to pay for the guy who would teach the training. When I offered to pay the guy , I was told no with no explanations. That is just one example of the crazy around here. Also, your experience in GS depends on your leader and the other families involved. Since the girls were in third grade I fought at every meeting and camp out to have the girls take care of cleaning, cooking, and activities. After fighting this uphill battle for too long, my daughter and I decided it was enough. We do camping on our own and in a year she will join a local venture crew.

  47. SOA March 4, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    I remember having a really good time at Girl Scout camp. I was just a Brownie so whatever age that was like 3rd or 2nd grade I think. I did not however like the meetings that much. The scout leader running it was the mom of a friend of mine but she was really bad about showing blatant favoritism to her own daughter over the other girls. I don’t remember details I just remembering it bothering me and it bothered my mother too. I quit after a year or two.

    I don’t mind the cookie sales. I am a cookie lover so nothing makes me happier than a Girl Scout at my door. That is one time I will open the door to people that were not expected. I went to every house in our neighborhood trying to sell cookies when I did it and no one would buy any. I did it myself. I think my mom waited in the driveway or whatever and let me do the talking. I was so disappointed about it she felt bad for me and ended up buying 50 boxes herself so I could get the special patch. We had cookies for months.

    I tried really hard and it was not my fault my neighborhood was full of a bunch of grumps.

  48. Warren March 4, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Really, locked bathrooms is schools, and parents allow this to happen? Can only go to bathrooms during designated break times?
    These are not schools they are prisons.

    As employers these rules are not allowed, as employee’s have rights. It is actually a health and safety issue. So I am sure the same would apply to schools here in Ontario.

  49. Shana Cuddy March 4, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    I was never in scouts, but I did go to a summer camp every year that mostly focused on outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, rowing, etc. These would involve lots of excursions, and lots of opportunities for kids to go off with a buddy or in groups but without adult supervision to do things like take one of the canoes out or go on nature walks or hikes. The camp is still in existence, but from what I’ve heard the kids aren’t allowed to do much of anything anymore due to safety, they have to keep all the kids together supervised at all times, and no more hiking up the tiny nearby mountain or swim competitions across the pond even with adults then. Sounds like a whole bunch of no fun.

  50. Katie G March 4, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    4H is another good alternative. It can be almost anything any group wants it to be- clubs for animals, for “stitchin’ and stirrin'”, even for robotics! Unfortunately, that’s also a disadvantage for families who move frequently- you may or may not find in one area what you’ve found in another. Still, it’s a framework with reasonable ways of doing things.

  51. SOA March 4, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    Warren: main reason why I hated middle school. They do teach the kids like jail birds. I had more independence in elementary school than I did in middle school.

    They also had fun things like no locks on the bathroom doors so you had to try to hold the door shut and still get your pants up and down and wipe with the other hand which was tricky. Don’t even get me started on dealing with feminine issues that way. They also often did not have paper towels or soap available in the bathrooms. My mom raised hell about it but nothing changed.

    This was not an inner city school either. This was a middle class suburban middle school.

  52. Linda March 4, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    I have to wonder if in this case, “safety” is a code word for “liability”. Either way, the result is the same :/

    I do think it varies by leader, but again, that doesn’t help you.

  53. Warren March 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    So you just concede to the red tape and work with it, despite the insanity of it, the inconvenience of it and the cost of it?
    Do you not see that this red tape you say you can work within is not going to go away or lessen, but will only grow and become more costly?

  54. CrazyCatLady March 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    What exactly does the “bathroom buddy” do to save kids from abuse?

    My neighbor’s son had to do that in school. It turns out the other kid was sticking his finger up the butt of my neighbor’s son. So much for saving a kid from inappropriate behavior.

    Nope, you can’t trust anyone, so you might as well teach the kids how to go to the bathroom on their own…and when and how to say “NO!”

  55. CrazyCatLady March 4, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    4-H is not better when it comes to some of this stuff. I just had to do a mandatory training to know when and how to report stuff. For fair (a week long) all parents must be at the fair grounds the same time as their kids. Yes, that makes sense for the little kids, not for the ones who can drive themselves. The groups all appear to want parental involvement for each meeting. Gone are the days of the kids getting dropped off and the kids doing the meeting.

  56. everydayrose March 4, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    “I tried really hard and it was not my fault my neighborhood was full of a bunch of grumps.”

    Or maybe your neighborhood was full of a bunch of people who didn’t want to be coerced into buying something that they didn’t want. I’ve never bought girl scout cookies or fundraiser crap and I never will. Not even when the schools try to force my own kids to sell. It’s always a bunch of overpriced junk that I don’t want in the first place. No thank you.

  57. Warren March 4, 2014 at 3:50 pm #


    Your comment just proved that you are a grump.

    It is not about buying crap cookies, it is about helping. So ya you are a grump.

  58. Emily March 4, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Off-topic, but….”crap cookies?” Around here, Girl Guide cookies are pretty popular. People know they’re only available at certain times (vanilla and chocolate in the fall, Thin Mints in the spring, or maybe it’s the other way around; I’ve seen it done both ways), and they’ll deliberately buy multiple boxes and stockpile them. That said, the Girl Guides here have just as many insane rules, regulations, and over-the-top background checks as the Girl Scouts seem to have over in the States, but they do make good cookies. Maybe not “five dollars a box” good (which is what I think they’re going for now), but they’re way better than “crap.” Just writing that is making me want a frozen Thin Mint.

  59. Erica Kain March 4, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    As a Girl Scout leader of 9-year-olds myself, I would NEVER treat my girls with so much disrespect.

    I EXPECT our girls to do things by themselves — because how else are they going to learn to be “courageous and strong?”

    You see, each troop’s experience is entirely dependent upon the leader. If you get an officious wiener of a leader, you’re going to have a bad experience. But if you get a Free Range Leader (and the vast majority of us ARE!) you will find your girl rappelling off of cliffs, and handling scary moments of all manner with grace.

    It’s easy to be a troop leader who just does crafts and caroling and obsesses over safety. But that’s not why most of us go into Scouting. We go into it to teach girls to be courageous and strong indeed, to handle things by themselves. I spend a lot of time convincing parents that their girls can handle things like knives — and encouraging them to let the girls do things by themselves, like sleepaway camp.

    Please don’t flush the baby away with the bathwater when it comes to scouting — keep the faith, scouts and parents, stay strong and FREE RANGE!

  60. SOA March 4, 2014 at 11:13 pm #

    I am with you on most fundraiser stuff being crap. I won’t sell most of it either. Girl Scout cookies though are very popular around here. So people actually do like to buy them. If you don’t like the items they are peddling you can always just make a donation instead. I gave the GS a $10 bill to pay for my $8 cookies and just told her to keep the $2 for her troop because I was not sure if she had change or not.

    I am not a fan of people disturbing me at home either, but for cute kids I try to be more friendly.

  61. Suzanne March 8, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    It is really sad to hear that some gs troops are turning so many against scouting with their over-cautious ridiculousness. I can’t imagine any rationale for any of the things listed in the post. If this were one of my scouts I would have verified with mom that she was told to walk home and sent her on home (assuming it was not dark outside). I would have had another girl wait in the cafeteria with her to rejoin the group and confirm pick-up. The only reason I would have done this is – if she got tired of waiting and decided she should walk herself home or whatever (kids get wired ideas sometimes) I am responsible for knowing where she is, having another girl confirm she was picked up is wise but she could wait in the cafeteria. I can’t imagine sending them to the bathroom in pairs at that age but I also don’t know the layout of the building they are in. If it is a school after school hours, I don’t really see the need if it is some other place it might not be a terrible idea. One thing I noticed, this complaint is lacking some details that support her claims and it fails to speak to the fact that the leader is just a mom who is volunteering her time (and quite a bit of time to be the leader) she is doing the best she can do to try to please everyone and she will never please all of the parents. Cut her a little slack, if you don’t agree with her then by all means take your daughter out of her troop because she probably doesn’t need the stress of you complaining about everything she does. Could she be less cautious? Sure, she could but she is responsible for those girls and if you don’t trust her decisions then don’t worry about easing out, just make the switch.