Upset mum says young Scout was forced to eat tomato

A BUNDABERG mother has been left distressed after claiming an adult Scout leader bullied her eight-year old child.

Michelle Murray said her son had been attending a Scout camp when he was made to eat tomato, despite politely declining the food, which he does not like.

Mrs Murray said the details of the incident only became clear when she stopped by the campsite.

"I called in and gave the kids ice blocks on a hot day," she said.

It was then she said her son came up and told her he had been made to eat the fruit, despite his wishes.

"I said 'they made you eat it?' and he looked at me wide-eyed and said 'yes, made me'.

Mrs Murray said the Scout leader then approached her after overhearing her conversation with her son.

"The leader said it was a rule and all the kids had to try everything," she said.

"She said she was proud and in awe because he didn't vomit or gag."

She said she was proud and in awe because he didn't vomit or gag.

Mrs Murray said her son had been humiliated to the point of crying as he was made to eat the tomato, and said he was told by the Scout leader that another child who refused to eat what he was told had to sit all day without food or sleep until he gave in.

"He was in tears during the whole episode of her enforcing it," she said.

Mrs Murray, who had herself once been a Scout leader, said it concerned her that his wishes hadn't been respected.

But when she contacted the Scout leader via email to ask that such an incident not be repeated, she was told if she didn't like the way the group was run, she could take her son and leave.

The Kepnock Scout leader replied to the email, saying: "From my years of Scouting and youth work, I have found that if you have everyone in the group adhere to the same rules then it makes for an overall happier pack and vastly lowers the incidence of bullying.

"I know that a parent's wish for what suits them and their child is very important. So if the food rule is a sticking point for you, I'd completely understand if you felt another group would be best for you and your family."

The Scout leader also wrote to Mrs Murray that it was a rule among Scout groups to try new food, although some would enforce the rule more strongly than others. 

"The concept of the idea is to help children try/eat food they usually wouldn't, even if they don't like it because a person's taste buds change all the time," the Scout leader said.

"And what you hate one day might be tolerable another day or you might even like it another. It's also another way to help teach self-control, self-discipline, respect and manners."

Mrs Murray said she didn't see any reason why her son's simple wish to not eat tomato couldn't be honoured in a group of children with a range of food intolerances who were all looked after.

"The group is a really lovely group of kids and they're all catered for," Mrs Murray said.

"All I asked was that his 'no thank yous' were respected."

Mrs Murray said her son would not be returning to the Kepnock group because of his fears he might be made to eat other things he didn't like. 

"He said, 'will I have to eat tomato again?' He said, 'will I have to eat cucumber too?'," Mrs Murray said.

"I feel disappointed he was bullied that day. I do believe it's bullying.

"People make mistakes and do the wrong thing and they should be held accountable."

Mrs Murray said she believed an apology should be given.

"Why would it be so hard for someone from the Scouts to say 'sorry, that shouldn't have happened?'," she said.

A spokeswoman for Scouts Queensland said she was unable to comment on the incident as it was in the process of being investigated.

"We're still at the point where we're investigating and treating it very seriously," she said.

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