Scout leaders 'chatted up' girls

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 09/01/2014

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Two Christchurch scout leaders have been sacked for sexually inappropriate conversations with young teenage girl scouts on Facebook.

The two men, both in their early 20s, had been volunteers at different city clubs for several years, where they supervised boys and girls in their early teens.

Police said in both cases a parent noticed a conversation thread involving sexual innuendo between their daughter and her scout leader on her Facebook page, and notified police. The girls were aged about 13 to 14.

Scouts New Zealand suspended both men while they, and police, investigated. Acting chief executive Mark Long said both men had since been formally dismissed - the first on December 20 and the second confirmed yesterday.

Police found that the first man's conduct, while morally questionable, did not reach the criminal threshold. The second man is still under investigation.

Long said there were about 500 scouts volunteers nationwide. These two, unrelated, incidents were "very uncommon and rare".

Scouts had strict vetting systems in place for all leadership staff, including police and character reference checks.

The organisation's code of conduct agreement prohibited leaders from directly contacting scouts outside of the weekly club meetings. Any communication was to be through their parents.

Leaders were also forbidden from communicating with their scouts on social media.

"These were similar in nature. They violated the online policy," Long said of the incidents.

"Naturally, we are disappointed, but on the other hand we are very happy with how we dealt with it."

A decision to formally dismiss the second suspended leader came after more information about his conduct came to light during their recent Scouts Jamboree, which finished on Monday, Long said.

Police at the jamboree received information about the man, which was passed on to Scouts NZ.

Long said free counselling was available to the girls involved if required. Parents at the two clubs had been informed.

Long was hopeful that the girls would return to Scouts after the summer break despite what had occurred.

Police said the incidents were a timely reminder to parents to monitor their children's social media activity.

"Don't apologise to your children for having protocols over social media [and] intruding in their online life," Detective Sergeant Darren Folau said.

Good advice was available on netsafe.org.nz.

In these cases, the leaders' Facebook conversations with the girls "over-stepped the mark".

Scouts is for children aged 10 to 14 and involves outdoor activities and learning programmes.

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