No Brownie Points For This Pack Leader…and Maybe Mom And Dad, Too

by admin on January 12, 2011

Here’s one that I’ve never forgotten.  Here’s the scene:  I’m a little girl living in Hawaii.  I am a Brownie, and kids from all the other islands are flying over to my island for a jamboree.  My parents drop me off at the venue, which is a football field in another town, about 15 miles from home.  The jamboree is a blast-everything a young Brownie or Girl Scout would love.  The problem occurred after the event ended.  It’s over, and the kids from the other islands all pile into their buses to go wherever they are going.  Parents are picking up their children from my troop, but my parents haven’t shown up yet.  Apparently the jamboree ended a little earlier than expected or my parents were running a few minutes late-I don’t know which.  So, there I am in the parking lot in this unfamiliar town in my little Brownie uniform.  All alone.  Yes-that’s correct.  My troop leader left me there unattended.  She told me just to wait and she was sure my parents would be along shortly.  Is it just me, or do you think she should have waited with me until she knew I was safely with my parents?  I did then and I do now.

Being a dumb kid, I waited for a few minutes but then decided I might as well try walking home.  I was scared and I remember I was crying.  I started walking and probably got a mile or so down the road when I ran across an old man mowing his lawn.  He stopped me and asked if I was alright.  I told him what happened and told him where I was going and asked him if I was going in the right direction.  He was shocked!  He called for his wife and told her about it.  Luckily these were kindly people and not perverts!  They gave me a cola and called my parents, who by now were frantic with worry…in the interim, they had shown up and found that I wasn’t there and no one else was either.  Mom was home staying by the phone and dad was out looking for me.  This kind couple got directions from my mom and actually drove me home.  We got there right about the same time as my dad, who was absolutely frantic (remember, he’d been out looking for me and didn’t know I’d been “found”).  Needless to say, my parents were extremely grateful and all’s well that ends well, right?

Well, except for one thing.  My quiet, calm, super-polite mother lost it.  She has never told me exactly what happened but she went to that troop leader’s house and made some sort of scene.  All I know is that mom was the new troop leader and remained so until I finished with scouting.

I agree my mom & dad should have been on time, but come one-who leaves a little kid alone in a strange town?  This woman was supposed to be responsible for all of the kids in her troop and she should have stayed with me or at least found a phone somewhere to check up on my parents and make sure they were on their way.  I’m fortunate that the couple that helped me were so kind…when you think of the things some people do to unattended little girls, I could have become a statistic.  It gives me chills to think about sometimes. 0111-11

{ 91 comments… read them below or add one }

jenna January 12, 2011 at 6:27 am

Not just check up with them to make sure they were on their way. She really should have stayed with you the entire time, even if that meant significantly delaying her trip home. Beyond that, if they failed to arrive after a reasonable length of time, she should have informed the authorities and driven her with you, making sure you were comfortable and fed.

Anything less is an atrocious breach of official responsibility as a troop leader and she was rightly removed from her position. I was a Brownie, and so I know how young Brownies are; you should have never been left alone in a parking lot in a strange town. When I was a Brownie, if my parents (who both worked) couldn’t pick me up in time, I was given money to get a milkshake or meal at the cafe of the small town where I grew up (there was only one). The owner and the waitresses knew me and I knew I would be safe with an eye quietly on me while I read a book and had a sandwich. But a parking lot in a strange town? WOW. That is SO not appropriate that I honestly have no words.

Your parents should have been on time, too…though it is not stated why they are late and this clearly took place in the time before cell phones. They could have been stuck in traffic with an accident on the road and no cell phone to call and let anyone know.

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jan January 12, 2011 at 6:43 am

That troop leader was irresponsible and it is unconsionable that she left you alone. I was a leader for 18 years and NEVER left a child alone. I always told the parents in the beginning of the year that if they were more than 15 minutes late in picking up their child, I was taking her home with me and they could pick her up there. That only happened once in all the years I had a troop. To abandon a small child at an unfamiliar place is a horrible act. Good on your mother. I hope that leader was promptly fired.

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lilihob January 12, 2011 at 8:01 am

I think that this was exactly the right result. I wouldn’t trust this woman to care for a goldfish, let alone a troop of little girls.
No one with even a grain of sense leaves a child unattended. If your parents were hideously late, (which I doubt), she should have took you with her and tried to find a relative to take you in. Even if she couldn’t do that, the bare, bare, minimum is to leave you at the local police station with a full explanation.
“this is ……, her parents were due to collect her at ……., I cannot contact them or any relatives, my …..
makes it impossible to stay any longer. Here is my phone no., please feel free to contact me.
Even if your mother did make an awful scene, after the sheer terror she experienced because of this person’s behaviour. I can’t find it in my heart to feel anything but 100% on her side.

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QueenofAllThings January 12, 2011 at 8:15 am

About 6 years ago, when youngest Prince was 8, I went to pick him up at soccer practice. He was waiting, with a team mate, alone on a pitch dark soccer field (I was perhaps 3 minutes late, having had to pick up the other two princes). The team mate said that we didn’t need to wait with him, and that his mother was coming. I sat with the two of them on the bench for 10 minutes until his Mom came and can’t imagine how scary it would have been for that young man to wait for 10 minutes alone in the dark. I had a little chat with the coach at the next practice.

The Troop Leader did a terrible thing and frankly, the parents of the other Brownies in the OP’s troop should have stepped up too – surely she wasn’t the only Brownie on the island.

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FunkyMunky January 12, 2011 at 8:25 am

A similar thing happened to me as a child. I had just finished a netbal game. Normally my mother couldn’t make it to mine, but got off work in time to see the end of my sister’s game an hour later. The week in question, Sis wasn’t playing. My team were all leaving, and one mother noticed I had no-one with me. She offered me a ride home as we lived nearby and knew each other (she drove the school bus I took every morning). I accepted.
Unbeknownst to me, my mother had gotten off work early (but hadn’t told me or made it before the end of the game). She was really worried, but called home and found me safe. I got the talking-to of my life. However, the really bad etiquette comes next.
My mother had some very choice words with the other mother (who was only trying to help). The other parent blamed me for not telling her my mother was coming (which I didn’t know), and told me never to speak to her again. This woman drove the bus to school every morning, and I was not permitted to speak to her. Not a happy way to start the day for a nine-year-old who was alone and made a mistake. I rode that bus every day for a year without a single word to the driver, who had previously been a friend, and whose daughter was on my sports team. Thankfully, we moved a year later, but I wonder if she would have kept ignoring me all the way through school.

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Sandy January 12, 2011 at 8:32 am

In the mid-60s, when I was young, I attended a Catholic school. This school was not in my parish. My newish suburban parish had more children wanting to attend than they could accommodate. They had an arrangement with a Detroit Catholic school that provided a bus so it was a win-win. All these willing suburban families were filling a school that did not have enough students since the city was decaying around them, and the suburban kids got the chance to attend Catholic school.

My sister was the only bused student in her class. One day her lay teacher had had enough misbehavior in class that he decided the class needed an ad hoc ‘detention’ and he would not dismiss class. Despite my sister’s pleading that she would miss the bus, he wouldn’t budge – he told her that was the consequences of the classes behavior and, tough. Well, I was frantic and told the bus driver he could not leave. He responded that I could get off if I wanted but he was leaving on time. I shut up and stayed on the bus – thinking that if we both didn’t show up my mother would have no idea what happened.

My mother got home from work shortly after I did. She immediately drove to the school — and saw my sister sitting on the steps of the church apparently unhurt and not upset, confident that eventually someone would come get her. Fortunately it was my sister and not me, as I would have done just like the original poster, cried buckets and figured I needed to start walking home. (Since we traveled the route by bus each day I was confident I would have known the way…however it was 15 miles – really not the best plan for an 8 year old).

Instead of picking up my sister and going home, my mother left my sister on the steps and went directly to the convent, explained the story up to the point of having seen my sister. Her question to the nuns was then, “Where is my daughter – she is your responsibility – where is she?”. I have always imagined that scene with delight, assuming she also described the scenarios of what might have happened. Her goal was to make sure that never happened again to any other student.

She succeeded, the bus never left again without all of the students that had attended school that day.

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Just Laura January 12, 2011 at 9:24 am

My father was an assistant Scoutmaster for our local Boy Scouts of America troop. I remember many a time when he would be home late because he sat with a boy who was waiting on his late parents. He said it was the responsibility of the adult in charge to keep the boys safe, and if that meant being babysitter for an hour until parents arrived, then that was that. My mother is an elementary teacher, and she has to do the same thing when there are extra-curricular events (such as a field trip or Quiz Bowl).
Sometimes parents take advantage of these people, and will just show up whenever they want because they know the person has to watch the kid. I’m not saying your parents are like that; from your story, it sounds like this was a one-time event. Perhaps that scout leader had to deal with this behavior before, from other parents. Does that make it right? Of course not – she knew this responsibility when she decided to be a leader.

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Chloe January 12, 2011 at 9:31 am

This seems to be more of an issue of your old troop leader lacking common sense, rather than etiquette. Any responsible adult would know better than to leave a small child all alone in a strange town. Thank goodness the people you ran into were kind hearted people. You lucked out.

Hopefully your mother taught the old troop leader a thing or two when she went down there !

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Erin January 12, 2011 at 9:38 am

Your troop leader absolutely should have stayed until your parents arrived, and I bet your mom handled it more politely than I would have!

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Harley Granny January 12, 2011 at 9:42 am

What a horrible thing to happen to a child.
You were very brave to try to walk home yourself. Smartest move ever??? No but you were a child…all you knew was that you needed to get home.

I say “so what” that your parents were running late. Those kind of things happen.
Your troop leader was in charge of you and should have stayed with you until your parents got there.
Or heave forbid taken you home herself.

I don’t blame your mother for coming unglued.

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T January 12, 2011 at 10:07 am

When my sister was in pre-school, my parents were late picking her up. Her teacher left her sitting in the classroom by herself and turned the lights off. My dad found her in the dark and alone. Fortunately, she was inside a building, not outside, as this wasn’t the best neighborhood.

On the flip side, a few years ago, I taught grad school admissions test prep and my class was all 20-somethings. Class let out pretty late, around 10pm, and we met on a school campus. One evening, I was walking to my car and saw one of my students waiting for a ride. This was a fully grown woman, but I waited with her anyway because that was the right thing to do. It was late and dark and there weren’t many people around. I wasn’t about to leave her sitting there, even if it was just for 10 minutes, by herself.

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Michelle P January 12, 2011 at 10:08 am

My mother had somewhat of the opposite situation. When I was fairly young (adolescent), I was involved in an academic group after school. We got let out, and my mother was there to pick us up. There were two other kids we knew only from school, siblings, whose parent wasn’t there. My mom knew who their mother was, but didn’t really know them. She offered for them to come with us, and she would take them to our house or just sit in the warm car (it was cold out) and wait for their mom. They got in the car, and we started for the exit of the parking lot. Just then, their mother came walking around the corner. Mom rolled down the window and called for her, jokingly saying “Hey, I’m kidnapping your kids! Here they are!” We all laughed and they got out. The mom didn’t laugh, however. Later, my mother told us that the mom had been furious and chewed her out. My mother asked her what should she have done, left them there?? Unbelievable.

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Sarah January 12, 2011 at 10:18 am

When it comes to the safety and wellbeing of a child, I’m afraid there are no etiquette rules. I’d rather apologize later than mourn. There are 101 reasons why people are late and usually at the worst possible time. In no way should you think of your mother as rude – she probably had the worst-case scenario playing out in her head.

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karma January 12, 2011 at 10:24 am

Hmmm. I may be the voice of dissent here somewhat, but I would argue that the *majority* of the fault that day lies with your mom and dad. Why would they drop a child as young as a brownie off at a mega-event 15 miles from home and leave her there hoping other adults supervised? To me that is incredibly irresponsible on so many levels. How could they so vastly underestimate what time the event was over, to the point that the parking lot had cleared? That’s more than just a twenty/thirty minute oversight. They absolutely should have verified who would be supervising you, what time to pick you up, and what location to return to before leaving that day. That is basic parenting 101.
No doubt that the leader should have been read the riot act. She had no business leaving without ensuring that all children in the troop were with an adult of some sort. That is an unforgivable oversight.
However, your parents do not get a free pass from me. At the end of the day, you are THEIR child and no one else’s. They bear more responsibility than anyone, including the stupid leader, for what happened that day.

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Louise January 12, 2011 at 10:29 am

She’s not just an irresponsible Troop leader, she’s an irresponsible adult. No sane adult thinks it’s OK to leave a small child alone in a parking lot in a strange town (heck, I wouldn’t do it in a kid’s own town). I bet that sucked all the fun out of the day you had at the Jamboree. Bless that kind couple who helped you, OP.

As for your parents, well, I dare say it isn’t polite to go nuclear on people. But I completely understand why your mom went over there and gave that Troop leader a piece of her mind. If it meant no more kids were left on their own, it’s worth it.

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LovleAnjel January 12, 2011 at 10:34 am

I can’t believe the troop leader did that! I’m glad she was deposed, she didn’t deserve the spot.

@Just Laura
Knowing that parents will take advantage of the teachers/administrators who will stay with kids until their parents show up, the local school district has imposed a $5 per minute fine for the wait time (it starts about ten minutes after school lets out). It seems to keep that behavior to a minimum.

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Yvaine January 12, 2011 at 10:36 am

The troop leader should have stayed. Her behavior was against etiquette, common sense, and if I recall correctly, official Girl Scout policy too.

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Patti January 12, 2011 at 10:51 am

With twenty-three years of schoolteaching under my belt, I’ve seen more than my share of kids unattended for whatever reasons. Most parents pick their children up on time from events like ballgames or field trips but occasionally something will happen that will delay a parent or times were miscommunicated or something. It’s just one of those things that I forget about ten minutes after it happens.

I would never leave a child unattended. It’s just plain common sense. Even in my small, rural school things could happen. You just never know.

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Margaret January 12, 2011 at 10:56 am

I agree that the child should not have been left alone. Some kids can handle waiting by themselves, some can’t, but certainly if she was going to have to wait alone, someone should have known about it first. Since it wasn’t planned for her to wait there alone, someone should have waited or taken her somewhere safe (e.g. police station).

However, what’s with all these posts that she was “just lucky” that the people who helped her were kind? Most people are kind. It’s sad that so many people are buying into the notion that any stranger is a pedophile, because then people are afraid to help. What if the elderly man had thought, “gee, that kid looks like she’s in trouble. But I better not talk to her, or people will assume I am a pedophile” and instead of helping her, ignored her and then she really got hurt. It is not “JUST LUCKY” that she was unharmed — that’s the most likely result when a stranger helps a child. Yes, there was a one in a million chance that she’d be picked up by a pedophile, but that makes it 999,999 in a million that she would be helped by someone. (AND NO, THAT IS NOT AN ACTUAL STATISTIC, but think about how many children there are and how many are stranger abducted — it’s a rare, freak, terribly tragic event).

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NINA January 12, 2011 at 11:31 am

We moved to the Florida Keys when my daughter was 7. We wanted desperately to ride the bus to school. The first day, with misgivings, I put her on the bus. We lived at a destination resort on a 40 foot motor yacht. Unfortunately, the phones were not working on the seawall where our boat was docked. The bus dropped the kids off around the corner at a tiki bar (yeah, a bar) called Dockside.
At 2:15 I walked around the corner to make sure I was on time to meet the bus. The bus came, aMy daughter wasn’t on the bus. I nearly had a heart attack. I asked the bus driver where she was. The bus driver shrugged. I went into Dockside to ask if I could use the phone. They said no. I ran back to the resort, nearly hysterical, and called the school, who told me “she’ll TURN UP EVENTUALLY” believe it or not. Wrong answer to give a hysterical mother. It turned out she’d gotten on the wrong bus and wound up in Grassy Key, 10 miles up the road. She had the good sense to stay on the bus and wound up at the high school. She eventually turned up back at Dockside, crying but safe. Needless to say, she never rode the bus again. The nonchalance of all of the authorities concerned terrified me.

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EveLGenius January 12, 2011 at 11:35 am

My father is late to EVERYTHING. He will someday be late to his own funeral, and nobody will be surprised. I was in the marching band in high school, and after halftime at every game, we would be dismissed to the parking lot, where we would get out of our uniforms, the large instruments would be put on the bus and taken back to the school (the field was shared with another high school, and located about 10 miles from our school), and we could either leave or go back in to the game. I hated football, so I always wanted to be picked up after halftime. My father promised to pick me up, but was late Every. Single. Time., which is made worse by the fact that he was usually listening to the game on the local radion station. The band director couldn’t stay- he had to get the busload of large instruments back to the school where the parents of the students responsible for those instruments were waiting. Other parents knew Dad would show up eventually, so while they occasionally asked if I was OK, they mostly assumed I was fine. Mostly he was only 15-30 minutes late, but sometimes I’d sit in the parking lot until the game was over. The worst one was when he didn’t arrive until over an hour after the game was over. Remember I’d been sitting there, alone, in a parking lot with no security guard, since just past halftime. If there’d been a phone I would have called the police. If there’d been even a roving security patrol, I would have asked them to phone the police. There was nobody. To this day, Dad does not realize how hurt and scared I was, or how lucky I am that I’m not a statistic of some sort.

I wish somebody had made a fuss.

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Daisy January 12, 2011 at 11:37 am

Many years ago, back when dinosaurs walked the earth and dirt was new, I was a Brown Owl. After that, I was a Girl Guide leader, and after that, leader of our church’s social group for teens. I would never, ever have left a child alone anywhere. I waited, or I took the child home myself. Many times I continued waiting after I took the child home, until an adult arrived and I could hand over the responsibility. Children don’t always make good choices. They get in the wrong car, go off with the wrong grown-up, decide to cross the wrong busy highway, and something tragic happens that can’t be undone. Every adult responsible for a child should have the same mantra – “Not on my watch!”

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lkb January 12, 2011 at 11:38 am

I was the world’s worst girl scout (only one merit badge and that’s one the whole troop earned).
I won’t address the etiquette other than to state the obvious that the troop leader was wrong, etiquettely and in all other respects.
I did want to state that over the years I have found that just because they are troop/den/pack leaders, does not mean they are necessarily the sharpest knives in the drawer. (I know, I know, most such leaders are good, sincere parents trying to do their best.)
My own troop leader never stopped her daughter from bullying me. (I don’t think the daughter actually graduated high school, nor did the wonderfully angelic (NOT!) siblings. I also know of one Cub Scout den leader who thought it was perfectly all right to bring a six pack of beer to a den meeting in a church!
I know the Boy Scouts these days are trying a lot harder to train their leaders but obviously some real winners get through.
Glad the OP is safe.

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boxy January 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I kinda think this is an etiquette issue and common sense. Etiquette because it seems rude to just walk off a leave someone hanging – especially a child. Common sense because it’s dangerous to walk off an leave a child alone. A little of both I guess.

When I was a child our school had a carnival. A friend’s mom took us but then she disappeared to go play bingo. After a few hours we were done with the carnival but we couldn’t find her mom – so being the bright 10 year olds that we were we decided to walk home. It was five miles of country road (with no shoulder) and we made it about 2 miles. I recognized a house of a former babysitter so we knocked on the door. At first the man who answered was very rude but his wife came to the door and told us she’d call our parents. What a mess. My parents came and got us and my friend’s mom got a royal lecture.

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mygwyn1997 January 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Had the same thing happen to me after band practice. I was in 9th grade. A lot of people I called friends had been whispering about going to the local pizza place after practice, but I was very firmly left out. So I already felt bad when I walked out the door and found no one there to pick me up. Practice let out about 6:00 or so, but this was winter time (South Texas, thankfully not cold) so it got dark early. Everyone was picked up and the band director drove off. I was sitting on a bench outside the school when a police cruiser drove through the parking lot. He didn’t even slow down! Just made a big circle and drove off while I sat there. It was too far to walk in the dark to someplace with a public phone (this was looonnnggg before cell phones) so I waited. My father showed up about 8:00. They’d forgotten I had practice. He and my mother thought I was in my room. I was crying about being left and crying about the pizza party. He pointed to a house across the street, said he knew the people who lived there and, if he ever forgot me again (but he wouldn’t, ever again!) I was to go over to their house and sit under their porch light. I don’t think my parents said anything to the band director, but perhaps they should have.

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HannaLee January 12, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I remember being in marching band in high school and we would have late practices, sometimes til 9 or 10 at night and since we always ran 10-30 minutes past the scheduled time, after a few weeks, parents would start to show up 10-30 minutes late to pick up their kids. So if we let out early I always remember the band directors sitting outside the band hall with whatever student was left late. Once it was me and I kept telling them to go home, that I knew for sure my mother was only 10 minutes away. They refused and sat and talked with me until my mom was there. I didn’t realize that how important that was until now.

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Ashley January 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm

The troop leader should have stayed. That’s really all their is to it. Parent’s are late sometimes. Traffic isn’t always going as fast as it should, or maybe something else ran long, or the event they were supposed to pick someone up from ended early. Whatever the parent’s reason may be, there HAD to be a better solution than leaving a child unattended in a strange place.

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Laura January 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm

OMG- I had this happen! When I was 5 I was in 1/2 day AM Kindergarten- they assigned an 8th grader to take us outside to wait for our bus/parents/etc. I was waiting and waiting and the 8th grader waiting with me just up and left me standing outside after a while- I must have waited outside for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. So I started walking home- no one came out to check on me or stop me! I lived about 3 or so miles away, and at the time I was allowed to cross smaller streets but not huge busy ones by myself. So I got to a busy street (the only busy one I had to cross to get home- the others were all side streets) and started crying because I couldn’t cross the street. A boy from the nearby high school and his buddies were standing there and he walked me across the street. I made it home, and my aunt who was supposed to pick me up arrived a few minutes later very frantic. My grandmother read her the riot act for forgetting about me. I don’t think anyone said anything to the school- I’ll have to ask my parents if they did. This was in 1977.

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Jen January 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm

When I student taught with a marching band, someone was required to stay at the school and make sure that every student had a way of getting home after practices and football games, and these were kids in their mid to late teens. I remember waiting for more than an hour with a very embarrassed student for his mother to pick him up after practice.
I don’t know it for sure, but I imagine a person like your scout leader could face charges for doing what she did.

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Kate January 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Absolutely disgusting – how little common sense does this woman have?!

I work in retail management, and our store is on an industrial park, so now somewhere obvious and busy, and I will wait with my staff even though most of them are 18+ to make sure they get a lift safely – and if one isn’t forthcoming, take them home myself. To leave a CHILD?!

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Catwhisperer January 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm

The troop leader who left the OP alone must have had the brains of a gnat and the sensitivity of a doorknob.

In any given situation where you’re wondering what you should do, the easiest way to find the answer is to put yourself in the position of the other people involved.

If this troop leader had done that, she would have thought: “If I were the parents of this child, what would I want the troop leader to do? If I were this child, what would I want the troop leader to do?”

And the answer, of course, would be: “Stay with this child until her parents show up, or take her home myself and make sure things are okay!”

All I can say is that if OP’s parents didn’t take that troop leader by the scruff of her neck and shake her silly, they had more restraint than I would have had if it had been my daughter. I’d have shed the blood of an adult who left my daughter alone in such circumstances. Either that, or reported that adult to the police.

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AJ January 12, 2011 at 2:18 pm

This is a situation where you turn the negative into a guilt ridden positive. For the next 30 to 40 years of life, when dealing with your parents, you randomly bring up, “Remember when you forgot to pick me up and I had to walk home…?” It would get them every time.

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boz January 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Speaking as a current GS leader, the other leaders and I would never, ever, leave a child alone. It is aggrivating when some parents regularly show up late. But you don’t take it out on the kids. If it becomes an issue, you speak to the parents.

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Rebecca January 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Similar thing happened to me as a child. After Kindergarten, my friend and I were waiting in the parking lot for her mother to pick us up. Soon all the other kids had been picked up, and only she and I were left. We went back to the classroom but it was locked and the teacher had left. My friend said we should start walking on our own. But there was a busy street to cross, and I thought we needed adult assistance to cross it. So she went ahead and I waited. Soon the place was deserted, so I started walking, but without crossing the busy street; instead, I walked along the edge of the forest. A man came the other way (probably in his 20’s or 30’s) and asked what I was doing. I told him I needed to cross the street. So he helped me across the street and sent me on my way (I did know the way home). Soon I came across my friend’s mother, and my friend. Her car was in the ditch, which was why she’d been delayed. She was very angry at us for not waiting.

This was back in the 70’s; maybe they were more lax back then about teachers waiting till all the kids had been picked up. Not sure. But I’m glad that guy who helped me cross the street was not a creep!!

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Brian Katcher January 12, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Once you take responsibility for a child, they’re yours until another adult relieves you. For all that leader knew, your parents could have been in an accident and been hours late. Shame.

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phoenix January 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I had a scary similar incident happen to me. I took the bus with a bunch of other girls to a day-camp event with girl scouts. My mom told me “I’ll come pick you up when it’s over.” After the day of camp, there were two groups of kids- those taking the bus back and those whose parents where coming to get them. I thought my mom meant she was coming to pick me up at the camp- she meant she was going to meet the bus after I rode it home.

The scary bit was that me and one other girl (whose mom was coming but was late) were still at the camp after the other parents had left and the bus had left. And the staff left too, after leaving us some change and pointing to a pay phone. We were left alone in the middle of the woods at night, with no idea where we were in relation to a town.

Thankfully my mom had asked the bus driver who came back without me where teh camp was and came to get me. Sadly, my mom decided to scream and ground me for my mistake, telling me that it wasn’t the camp counselors job to take care of my stupid mistake and wait with me. It was years before I realized how much could have gone wrong with two 5 year olds alone in the woods!

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winter January 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I don’t know how old OP is, but back in the60’s an d 70’s, this was not an uncommon thing for leaders to do. Not saying it was right, just that it was a different world, and things were done differently. When school was out at the end of the day for instance, no one checked to see how kids were going home, who was still hanging around, or if someone was suppose to pick someone up (come to think of it, I think this is still quite the norm). If we were a “walker” no one thought a thing about it if you jumped on the school bus and told the bus driver to take you to grandma’s house. You didn’t need notes for things like that back then, or phone calls to school from parents. I can see how at a huge jamboree with absolutely hundreds and hundreds of girls, that no one leader would be able to check up on where all her girls were or what their arrangements home were. Again, not saying it was right, but this was not a troop meeting with 10 or so girls. These type of venues and things like soccer practice are considered activities where the parents need to be on board most of the time–taking kids there, picking them up, etc. But if an adult walked ou and saw someone alone, they should have taken the time to find out what they could do.

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lisastitch January 12, 2011 at 2:59 pm

The troop leader’s actions were totally unacceptable! She was responsible for the children in her troop. I was active in my daughter’s GS troop for 13 years, and none of the adults would have left a child alone like that.
I’d give your parents a break on being late. You don’t mention when your dad actually got there, just that by the time he got there, you were gone. It is so easy to leave a few minutes late, hit a few traffic lights just as they turn red, get behind a slow car–and all of a sudden you’re really late.

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Kat January 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm

The fact that your parents were running late is immaterial.

The scout leader was absolutely responsible for you and your well-being until they arrived.

Their lateness might have been an etiquette issue (or not – that’s not clear from your story, and it sounds like you’re not too sure either) but the scout leader’s actions are an issue of criminal negligence. What if the people you’d met on the way home hadn’t been so nice?

I’m very glad this person was removed from a position of authority over children!

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Zhoen January 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I have to wonder if this doesn’t rise to the criteria for criminal neglect, abandonment of a child? But rude at base, since any kind of social abandonment of a vulnerable person is intensely rude. Complete lack of consideration.

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Aje January 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I was once left at the zoo. Yeah, that’s right! THE ZOO! Me and about four other little girls and another adult were left at zoo on a class trip. We were about 6 years old, and it was very fortunate indeed that we managed to find one adult chaparone who had also been left behind because the leaders on the school bus didn’t take role call. Aparently before the adult called the school and they finally arranged for a ride, the principal called my mom and something along the lines of “We don’t know where your daughter is… but we’ll find her!” How reassuring… especially in a place of high crime like Philadelphia!

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Yarnspinner January 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm

We had kids virtually abandoned at the library every night at closing. Some of the parents worked and couldn’t get out right away and others got stuck in traffic because that area was always thick with cars and craziness. So I am giving the parents a pass, especially since this is from years ago when there were no cell phones.

And even if there are cell phones today, you still don’t wander off and leave a child. My boss and I took turns waiting in the parking lot until the parents of the children showed up. The kids would tell us to leave and had been so well trained they wouldn’t even get in a car with us to wait in inclement weather. And, nine times out of ten, the parent would leap from their car after the kids were settled, knock on our car window and apologize profusely and thank us twice as profusely for waiting.

I can’t imagine driving off and leaving a sixteen year old alone much less a five year old.

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cookiebaker January 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm

When I was in high school I was a manager for the girls basketball team. My mom dropped me off at the school for a Saturday game. We got word that the game was going to be postponed because of bad weather (snow). I called my mom to pick me up and she refused! She told me she was not going to drive back and pick me up because of the snow. A couple friends asked me if I needed a ride but I told them to go ahead because I was calling my mom. An hour and a half later she picked me up.

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Toni January 12, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I’m with you, Margaret! I, too, think people have children-snatching pedophiles on the brain outside of all reason. AND, I’m sure that today’s parent would have brought a law suit against the kindly old couple for poisoning their child–with SODA. That said, OF COURSE no reasonable adult should leave a child alone. Understandably, the parents were angry, but having had four children, my motto has always been: Alls Well That Ends Well and that parents can minimize the trauma by not ratcheting up the drama. Oh, and yeah, I’m sure that Brownie Leader needed to lose her position.

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Margaret January 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm

I have a kid with a developmental disability who belongs to Special Olympics. After swimming practice, the coach left even if some athletes are still getting dressed since there were parent volunteers around and this was a parent-run organization.

I waited several times for “Carrie’s” mom to finally show up and pick her up. It didn’t seem right to leave a teenaged girl with Down Syndrome sitting on the steps of the natatorium by herself.

I was on the board for this group and brought it up. It turned out there was another habitually late parent at track practice, a woman who got very huffy when her lateness was pointed out to her.

While no one likes to penalize athletes for their parents’ faults, we finally had to put new policies into our operating manual stating that athletes might be prohibited from practice or the State Games if their parents were late to pick them up more than three times.

This is a little different than the OP’s point of view and that GS leader was a nincompoop but habitually late parents have to be dealt with somehow.

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gramma dishes January 12, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Unfortunately there is a flip side to this.

There are many parents out there in today’s world who know darn good and well that their troop leaders, band directors, teachers, coaches etc. will never abandon a child and they take advantage of that fact by leaving their children long past “ending time” for the event.

My son coached youth soccer for several years and sometimes parents would come as much as nearly two hours late to pick up their kid from practice or even a game. The parents would then drive up, the kid would jump in the car and off they’d go. No explanations. No apologies.

Eventually he and the other coach decided enough was enough and didn’t agree to coach a team the following year. They got very tired of being unpaid babysitters.

(By the way, most of the parents who did this never came to a single game, not one, to actually watch their kids play!)

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MLE January 12, 2011 at 7:07 pm

I am a part of a girl scout day camp that has busses that take kids to different bus stops (a church and a elementry school parking lot) were parents can pick up their child, others pick them up at the park. I have been involved with this camp for 20 years, and I have seen it all. I started as a camper at 5 and my family stayed (my mother became the camp director and I’m the camp photographer). Sometimes we get girls who are supposed to ride the bus but get confused thinking that their mom meant that they would “pick them up at camp”. Now with cell phones we can always call a parent and get a confirmation, but sometimes a parent isn’t reachable and we let the girl stay at the park. But we would NEVER leave a girl alone there. Parents also get “pick-up” cards that they are supposed to give a leader (either at the bus stop or at camp) and you would be surprised how many parents hem and haw about the whole card situation.

Because my mother is the camp director we are the first to arrive and the last to leave, it sucks when parents are late and it’s 4 and we’ve been there since 7 A.M. But that’s life, and we’re not about to leave a child. EVER! We’ve had horrible traffic accidents delaying the pick up of about 30 girls, girls that are suppose to ride the bus think they’re going to be picked up at the park, dads who pull up in the parking lot and honk their horn and think that’s an acceptable way to call their daughter (some as young as 5), we NEVER send her out to a car like that, after a few minutes dad (sometimes mom, but it’s almost always a dad) figures it out and gets out of the car. One time a parent was so late (over an hour) that we drove the girl home. I can tell some parents see our camp as cheap day-care and come late and are unapologetic, but it’s not their daughter’s fault. But it is never ok to leave a child alone where anything could happen, as someone else wrote, our unoffical motto is: “Not on our watch!”

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Ashley January 12, 2011 at 7:08 pm

I lived a block away from the high school in my small town and was in the marching band, which practiced late into the night. Often, over an hour after practice had ended, my friend Laura would show up at my house– her mother had forgotten, again, to pick her up. Laura lived too far away to walk to her own house so she walked to mine. We started band in 8th grade, so this was not when we were responsible 18 year-olds able to take care of ourselves or drive ourselves home!

Every once in awhile, my mother would receive a phone call at random times, “Is Laura at your house?” If she wasn’t, it was my mother who would get in the car and drive around our little neighborhood looking for her. poor Laura! her mother was a nice lady but alarmingly scattered about where her children were. We lived in a small town where everyone knows everyone, but now that I’m an adult (and a teacher responsible for a ton of kids that age) this still strikes me as a terribly unsafe thing to do!

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chechina January 12, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I’m on the BOD with a charity that runs children’s sports clubs and there are a few relevant rules:
1) Coaches wait until every athlete has been picked up
2) If a caregiver is chronically late picking up the athlete then we speak to them to understand and improve the situation. If they keep doing it, the athlete is referred to another organization that might be a better fit and not re-registered. Why? Because it’s frightening and dangerous for child to be in that situation, and not to mention a liability to us.
3) You do NOT offer an athlete a ride if they’re waiting for one. I can understand why many of your parents thought that was kind, but the most sensible thing to do is wait with the child until their ride arrives. How frantic would you feel as a parent if you got stuck in traffic and when you arrived your child was gone? (And again, it’s a liability issue as well…)

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Amp2140 January 12, 2011 at 7:17 pm

I still remember being in highschool in a carpool, and the mother who drove waited for what seemed like an hour so two TEENAGE girls weren’t left alone in the dark parking lot after a play… how horrible to leave a little girl

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