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Issue 47 – January 2005

Remember CB, the Committee Member of a Troop in New Jersey who was having some trouble with a “bullying” Scout in Mid-December? Well, there’s more…

Dear Andy,

To add more details and clarify what I said before, it was a Scout’s bullying that prompted his fellow Scouts to petition the Scoutmaster to have him removed from his position as Senior Patrol Leader. This Scout has had a long history of bullying that preceded the “petition incident,” although his history of bullying was not well known to this particular current group of Scouts. With high hopes that it would somehow satisfy his needs and wants—this was this particular Scout’s “umpteenth” chance at a leadership position—the Scouts elected him SPL. (Later, some of these Scouts revealed that they’d been intimidated by him to vote that way). Now maybe we failed him, but then again, maybe we don’t know how to help him anymore, either! If one Scout has taken most of the fun out of Scouting for the others (which was, by the way, mentioned by several Scouts in their own boards of review), and these Scouts ultimately decided that they had to petition the Scoutmaster to do something about it, then I think the committee also has a follow-on responsibility to assess that Scout’s understanding of Scout Spiritduring his time in First Class and tenure as SPL, at his own board of review. I don’t like the fact that it came down to his Star BOR, but I believe an independent review of Scout Spirit, in particular, is supported by several statements in the book, Advancement CommitteePolices and Procedures: “…make sure that a good standard of performance has been met.”I think we failed both him AND the other Scouts simply by “rubber stamping” the Scoutmaster conference and passing him in his BOR. (CB, Committee Member, NJ)

Obviously from your further comments, this Scout has a serious problem. What its origin is seems to be anybody’s guess. It’s regrettable that no Scoutmaster’s conference to date (there have been five of them, so far) has revealed the actual problem for which bullying is the symptom. It also strikes me as pretty peculiar that “intimidated” Scouts would roll over and vote for him, but then turn around and petition to have him removed from his leadership position. I also think it’s peculiar that the Scoutmaster approved of this Scout standing for election, when he had to know that this Scout had a serious problem resulting in inappropriate behavior. I get the strong feeling that there was general buy-in to the mistaken notion that, “Well, he needs a leadership position to advance in rank, so we’d better elect him anyway…” You see, if a Scout can’t advance because he’s not getting elected to any leadership position, that’s good fodder for a conference that can lead to a change in behavior. So, what was the Scoutmaster doing while all this bullying and intimidation was going on?

As for the unhappy BOR, I’d assumed (see my Mid-December column) that by the time this took place, the bullying issue had passed and the Scout was given a clean slate. Apparently not. So, my first impression is that there was not one, but two “rubber stamps” here. The first one was when the Scoutmaster signified by his signature that the Scoutmaster’s Conference had concluded successfully and that this Scout was ready to advance in rank (that is what that signature means, by the way). The second was, of course, the BOR itself. Neither of these has helped either the Troop or the Scout, because the proverbial “elephant in the living-room” still is being ignored! Unless and until there’s an actual intervention, there will be no change, and intervention demands that everyone stop walking small around this problem. Has it occurred to anyone that this Scout—being not stupid—knows at some level that his behavior’s out-of-line, and he’s probably wondering why no one’s doing anything about it? So, Yes, I absolutely agree with you that the rubber stamp of the BOR failed both this and every other Scout in the Troop…as did the Scoutmaster’s own rubber stamp!

So you say that you “don’t know how to help him anymore.” I’m not certain that’s true. It seems, based on what you’ve told me, that the “help” he’s been given has been largely to not acknowledge the problem and to bend to his supposed desires. That ain’t help, my friend—That’s enabling! Here are some thoughts to consider that could actually help…

– Conduct a parent conference, to alert the parents to the problem in the Troop and, hopefully, identify the root of the problem.

– Institute the Buddy System, so that no Scout ever gets alone with your problem young man.

– Have specific consequences for inappropriate behavior.

– Assign an ASM or other adult to keep one eye on him at all times, and intervene when necessary.

– Assign the Scout to a “leadership position” that requires him to serve the Troop members rather than “lead” them, such as quartermaster, scribe, instructor, etc.

– Give him a specific set of responsibilities he’s to carry out at every Troop meeting, such as setting up the Troop room before the meeting, or putting away the equipment at the end.

– Put him “in charge” of “Troop spirit,” wherein he has to lead a song, or provide an inspirational “moment” at every Troop meeting, all by himself (with a “coach” to help him succeed—this is not intended so that he fails!).

– Have him keep a written diary of his good deeds (at home, school, etc.) each day of the week, which he turns in to the SM at every Troop meeting, and discusses.

Here’s the big idea: First, expose the behavior for what it is; second, make it crystal clear that it’s unacceptable and can’t continue; finally, create ways to replace the inappropriate behavior with alternative, positive behaviors.

Last resort: If these things don’t produce positive results, and he still acts inappropriately at a Troop meeting or other gathering of the Scouts, take him aside the very first time it happens, pull out a cell-phone and tell him this: “You’re going to call your parents right now, and you’re going to tell them what you did, and that because of that you can’t remain here any longer, so they need to come here immediately to pick you up and take you home.” Do NOT yourself call and “report” the incident. Do this exactly as I’ve just described. Don’t waver, even if he tells you he’ll “be better” and so please don’t make him call. DO IT. You may never have to do it again.

Dear Andy,

Is there a standard or official Webelos cross-over ceremony for Cub Scouts-to-Boy Scouts? I’ve found several different ceremonies and they all refer to themselves as “unofficial,” which leads to the question: Is there an official ceremony? (John Walker, SM, Troop 419, Crockett, TX)

There’s no “official” ceremony, and so you can employ as much creativity as you’d like, that the Webelos Scouts would enjoy and take meaning and memory from! That said, there are some things you’ll want to preserve. First, with a real or mock-up “bridge,” you’ll want to make sure that only Webelos Scouts who are actually joining your Troop (or multiple Troops, as the case may be) “cross over.” That is, this is a ceremony for those proceeding on to Boy Scouting, more than merely graduating from the Pack. So, the next thing you’ll want to make sure remains an element is the greeting by the Troop’s representative(s) on the “Boy Scout side” of the bridge. This is usually the Scoutmaster, but you certainly can include one or more Scouts, if you choose. Some Troops place the Troop’s neckerchief on their newest members, along with the Boy Scout neckerchief slide. Others include the red shoulder loops, too, and still others include the Boy Scout Handbook. It’s all up to you (and your Troop’s budget!). Then there’s one final element that, based on my own experience, is definitely worthy of inclusion: Have each Webelos Scout’s parent(s) “cross” with him, so that they get the idea right away that their active support is an important part of the package. You might, in fact, place the Troop neckerchief and slide around the Webelos’s neck, and present the Handbook to the parents. So, whatever you decide to do, just keep in mind your uppermost goal: To make this crossing a meaningful and bonding experience.

Hi Andy,

I was just reading your comments about Eagle boards for Venturers. I’m afraid I was under the impression that you had and I also stand corrected. I was aware that the boys could be registered in Venturing only and still earn Eagle as long as they had achieved First Class rank as a Boy Scout. I’m OK with Venturers wearing their green shirt and gray pants for a board of review, but I still have a problem with “non-Scouting program” attire. It’s been suggested that if the Venturer that doesn’t have an “official uniform,” then a suit and tie would be appropriate, and I can live with that as long as proper respect is shown for the rank. I do, however, still stand on the complete Boy Scout uniform if he’s a Boy Scout and I’ll not tolerate “from-the-belt-up.” That saying, “Semper Gumby,” comes to mind—Scouting is forever changing! (Ty Roshdy, DC, Golden Empire Council)

For Venturing Eagle rank boards, if there’s no Crew uniform, I’d certainly maintain that jacket-and-tie are appropriate, and I’d sure hope that the members of the board would likewise respect the rank and event enough to do the same. As for Troop/Team Eagle boards, I agree that a head-to-toe uniform should be the goal if not the mandate. If it’s not, then perhaps it’s the Troop that’s let the Scout down, by having failed, in the prior six boards of review to instill in the Scout the idea of uniforming (which is, as we sometimes need to remember, one of the eight methods of the Scouting program). “Semper Gumby” applies best, as I see it, to achieving a goal; not to wiggling around it!

Dear Andy,

I’ve just been asked to be my district’s Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner. Where do I begin? I’d greatly appreciate any and all suggestions. To give you some background, we have monthly meetings, but they’re poorly attended, and we’d like to see attendance increase beyond the usual 8 to 12 leaders each month. As for myself, I’ve been to Commissioner’s College, and received my Wood Badge in 2003, I’ve instructed at BLT’s and have
been an active COR and District Committee Member for the past three years (I’ve received my Boy Scout Leader Training Award and District Committee Key, and was honored to receive an Adult Religious Award). And I love to go camping with my four sons. I do have the support of our District
Executive, who’s eager to see our RTs become more\effective as well as more enjoyable. (John Erickson)

Well you’ve sure got the training and experience needed for the job, and I readily understand why your district asked you. Just one cautionary note here… With four active sons and a bunch of Scouting hats already worn, you might want to ask yourself which Scouting hat you’re willing to take off, in accepting this new responsibility. I’m mentioning this because I’ve too often seen too many Scouters stack hat upon hat, until either they all come crashing down on him, or he gets buried under their weight. The MOST IMPORTANT Scouting “job” you can do is to make sure you’ve left the MOST time for your own family and sons! THIS is where you’re most needed, and that’s ALWAYS true!

That said, here goes…

In the first place, miserably attended BSRTs are not all that uncommon. Let’s face it, these are largely for Scoutmasters, and these guys are already committed to four Troop meetings a month plus at least one weekend for camping, plus (I’m thinking positive here) a PLC or Green Bar meeting every month. On average, that accounts for about ten percent of their total available time in an average month, and we haven’t taken out normal sleeping time. If we did that, the time they’re already devoting to Scouting would account for nearly 15 percent of their waking hours. That’s no small amount!

Next point: Like the Scouts in their Troops, these dedicated volunteers still “vote with their feet.” Give them a menu of boring, low-energy, non-involving regurgitations of the Scoutmaster’s Handbook and those who don’t fall asleep will be charging for the door at the first opportunity. Wouldn’t you! Unless you can deliver—at a level appropriate to your audience—“fun with a purpose,” color ‘em outa there!

Roundtables are anachronistic. Back in the “good old days,” when there was no internet, no television, and telephones were used only for “important” or “emergency” purposes, Roundtables were wonderful opportunities to get some direct human contact, learn what’s going on around the town or district, meet and greet other like-minded community volunteers, share some cocoa and cookies, and share some tales of the last camping trip. No more. Why? Because, in our present time-compressed society, we often don’t take the time for this anymore. Because much of what Roundtables originally were designed to communicate can be communicated via other faster and more efficient means. Because people, after the invention of the television (Yup, it goes back that far!) complain that they “just can’t find the time” when what they really mean is that they won’t turn off the tube long enough to smell the roses. (No one “finds” time—we have to make time for the things that are important to us!)

So, where does all this leave you? Well, if you’re gonna be successful, and feel that the time you’re putting in is worth while, you need to somehow attract a larger and steady audience. How? By offering something they can’t get anywhere else. To do this, you’re going to use “Cubmaster skills” more than “Scoutmaster skills.” You’ll need to reach out to every unit in your district, and let them know that your Roundtables are going to be something special. Special presentations by special groups…the NRA for gun safety, the OA to show how a Troop benefits from having Arrowmen in it, local attractions (like a Navy ship or Army base, interactive museum, or even a store specializing in the latest backpacking gear, and so on…). And you’re going to set up a “duty rotation,” just like patrols on an overnight…Troop 1 does the opening ceremony this month, Troop 2 next month, and so on…Troop 3 does the closing this month, Troop 4 next month, and so on…Troop 5 comes and talks about their “special” place to camp this month, and Troop 6 next month…Troop 7’s in charge of refreshments this month and Troop 8 next month…you get the idea! In short, INVOLVEMENT is the key! And you’re the Master of Ceremonies, as well as the month-to-month “recruiter” of each presenter. Always include an “open forum,” so questions can get asked and answered. And be sure to tap into the Commissioner staff in your district—EVERY Commissioner should be at EVERY Roundtable: This is how they support you, and how they can help keep track of the health of the Troops they serve!

Many councils and districts think of Roundtables as adjuncts to training, and this is accurate. But YOU are NOT the trainer—Your presenters are the trainers (but don’t tell the audience that!). Your job is really that of talent scout, recruiter, producer, director, and master of ceremonies, all wrapped into one. It’s a big job. It’s an IMPORTANT job! And, if you’re up to the challenge, it can be immensely rewarding.

A final thought: Set goals for yourself, and make them realistic and tangible. If attendance-by-Troop is, say, 15% right now, then set a goal of 50% participation by June—not 100%, or you’ll burn out way too fast, and frustrate yourself along the way! KISMIF – Keep It Simple; Make It Fun!

Happy Scouting!!


Got a question? Send it to me sure to let me know your Scouting position, town, state, and council!

(January 2005 – Copyright © 2005 Andy McCommish)


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

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