We all know that Camp is fun and a learning experience for campers and staff alike. And that is how it should be. However, there is a serious side to camp as well, particularly in the socialization of our youth. As a camp owner, director or supervisor we cover the spectrum of the good and the bad. Typically though, once summer begins, we are in the "bubble" - the world becomes just our camp and our people - where things are generally all good.
But what about when the outside world intrudes into our bubble even before the summer begins? If you have not personally dealt with the following scenario already, you almost certainly know another camp person who has.
This is the situation of an incident (or multiple incidents) of a student being bullied at school (in person or via social media) by a group of other students in his class. Parents were informed and meetings held as the school interceded. The school appropriately handled the situation and over time, the incident faded as the school year came to an end.
For you, this boy or girl is a returning camper to your day or overnight camp, and as it turns out, since many campers come from the same school or area, so are some of the boys or girls that were a part of the bullying incident(s). Through either your camp forms or direct conversations with your camp parents, you become intimately aware of the bullying incident.
So now the question becomes, what do you do in response? Must you do anything other than keeping an eye on things? Do you inform your staff (beyond your administration) with consideration for concerns of privacy and labeling? What is your responsibility, and perhaps more to the point, potential liability, if any, should another incident happen at your camp?
There are of course many considerations in this fact intensive hypothetical. My advice is, now that you have direct knowledge of the situation, you have to do something. Start by gathering as much information as possible about the situation before the start of summer. You should be proactive to a point and prepared to be reactive as necessary.
1) set up your cabins/groups with proper consideration for the situation; 2) bring certain staff into the know with the intention of them monitoring the children involved for flare ups or other incidents; 3) communicate to the parents of the children involved by letting them know the steps you are taking at camp and keeping them updated throughout the summer; and 4) particularly at the start of summer, be vigilant when grouping these children in activities, and be sure to have adequate supervision.
Other considerations as summer progresses:
1) Discuss with your Admin and have a plan for dealing with situations that may occur, big or small; 2) be prepared to speak directly to parents in response to their ongoing concerns and 3) train staff how to deal with the situation by appropriately treating the campers throughout the summer and appropriately reacting should another incident occur.
We live in a world of hypersensitivity and, in my opinion, overuse the term "bullying." However, with the issue of young people not understanding the consequences of their actions and more than ever being able to act anonymously, incidents of this nature are on the rise. You cannot sit idly by once you are aware of prior incidents.
If you want to discuss an effective camp strategy, better understand your liability and potential exposure, or discuss how to best train staff for these situations, Abrams Camp Consulting is here to assist. Contact us today!!