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Issue 124 – January 30, 2008

Hi Andy,

I’m a Beaver Scout leader based in Saltford near Bath in the UK and I’d like to set up some links with like-aged (between six and eight years old) Scouts around the world. Are you aware of any BSA equivalent unit that may be interested? We have a pretty active group of 25, including our first girl! (Owen McDermott/ Email:

Well, here you are, Cub Scouters – An international opportunity that can be exciting and vision-expanding for your Cubs!

Some years ago, as a Den Leader, I linked up my den with some boys in London, as pen-pals. This sustained itself for several years, among some, including regular mail (at the time) with photos, patch swaps, and more. It was a truly rewarding experience and I got to develop my first real understanding of Scouting in other countries! I encourage you to write directly to Owen, and get something started.

Potato chips n’ brain hiccups… Betcha can’t have just one! Guess what… I had another. Here it is…

Dear Andy,

In your January 2nd column, you said that “James E. West, the first Chief Scout of the BSA, was himself stricken with polio.” In fact, West was the Chief Scout Executive (Ernest Thomson Seton was the Chief Scout) and it wasn’t polio—He had tuberculosis in his leg. For anyone interested in West, I recommend James E. West and the History of the Boy Scouts of America by Edward L. Rowan (2005, Las Vegas International Scouting Museum).

Also, on January 18th, there were questions about how to fly the Texas state flag. You were right: This is an old urban legend, well-documented at In addition, note that Hawaii was also an independent republic before joining the United States. (Ed Palmer, Crew Advisor & ASM)

You’re spot on—Thanks for your sharp eyes! James E. West’s first official title with the BSA was Managing Secretary, which he promptly (albeit unofficially) changed to Executive Secretary. Then, in late 1911, the BSA executive board approved the title, Chief Scout Executive. And you’re also right on the diagnosis of tuberculosis; not polio.

The Hawaiian Islands were, of course, an actual kingdom before they became an independent republic and ultimately a U.S. state.

More about flags and states…

Dear Andy,

Concerning the Texas flag flying at the same level as the American fag, not only is the idea completely bogus, but also wrong from a technical standpoint. In the Mexican- American War, California also declared its independence from Mexico it order to form a separate republic, before formal annexation by the U.S. Neither flag is flown on a level equal to the Stars and Stripes, however. (Raymond Price, Minsi Trails Council, PA)

One more…

Hi Andy,

Regarding the notion that for some reason only the Texas flag can fly at the same level as the American flag, I know this may be too much information, but here it is anyway…

Each of the thirteen original colonies were, in fact, independent countries (states, in a legalistic sense) following the Declaration of Independence. The Continental Congress itself held no legal basis as a sovereign power, although it did serve as a de facto government. They created a federation (of independent states) under the Articles of Confederation. By later adopting the Constitution, they created a single new country from the original thirteen. Vermont was also an independent republic, until it was admitted as the 14th state.

California was a short-lived republic, declaring its independence from Mexico in 1846 and then admitted as a U.S. state in 1850. Hawai’i was also an independent nation before it became a U.S. territory (under somewhat dubious conditions).

Texas… Well, we all know about Texas.

So, at the very least, 16 of the present United States were independent before joining the Union. That said, they’re called “states” because they’re self-governing sovereign entities, which have agreed to cede certain sovereign rights to a larger entity for the mutual benefit of all, and that’s the definition of a federal government: “a compact between political units that surrender their individual sovereignty to a central authority but retain limited residuary powers of government.”

You may recall there was some question as to whether the Constitution would be adopted because states were reluctant to cede their sovereignty. (This is what gave rise to the writing of the Federalist Papers: Good reading for all Americans!). And the Civil War (or whatever one chooses to call that conflict) began as a war about states’ rights (pertaining to, but not exclusively, slavery issues).

Therefore, each and every state is equal within the federation, and therefore all flags would have the same standing, regardless of the state’s individual history.

Is that enough political history for one day? (Michael Morris, ASM, Greater Saint Louis Area Council, MO)

Yup, it is. Thanks, and now let’s move on…


Dear Andy,


I’ve just recently taken on the Committee Chair position in a Cub Scout pack that started up about a year ago. Our committee has never set any rules for earning the attendance award, and I’m in process of trying to come up with a policy. Do you have any suggestions? For instance, should only den and pack meetings be considered, or should we also be looking at other pack events, like campouts, service projects, and so on? (Terry Nani, CC, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

The answers to your questions are wrapped up in two aspects for you all to consider… How active is your pack and its dens, and how stringent do you wish to be with boys age 7 through 10? Use your own good sense and I’m sure you’ll do just fine!

Dear Andy,

I’m Committee Chair of a Scout troop with a new Scoutmaster, picked by our chartered organization. Several members of the committee are unhappy about our former Scoutmaster being replaced, so I’m getting to practice my “mediation skills” at our committee meetings. The troop is gaining new boys, and we have parents who are volunteering, so I believe we’re gaining traction with the programs and activities the new Scoutmaster has brought into our Troop.

But one area I need to understand is that of Scoutmaster authority regarding reimbursable expenses. Our troop has never had a written policy specifically addressing camping-related expenses, so we’re crafting a policy that will allow certain expenses to be reimbursed. The debated issue is whether the Scoutmaster should review and approve expenses by others before submitting them for reimbursement from our troop treasurer. My own thought is that the Scoutmaster is a logical choice to determine if listed expenses are legitimate and, because money is involved, the Committee Chair could be a second signature. I believe that, with these two signatures, no additional approvals would be required to allow our treasurer to disperse money per the amount on the form. The concern of some committee members is that they, the committee, are “in charge” of the money, so the Scoutmaster shouldn’t be approving anything.

This difference of opinions was prompted by some food-buying recently. For a recent camping trip, the Scoutmaster bought the food, so that everyone would prepare the same food. But then, as it turned out, on of our ASMs had bought other food, and subsequently turned in a receipt for reimbursement. This was, to the Scoutmaster’s thinking, contrary to The Patrol Method and he refused to approve the ASM’s expenses. So maybe my question should be restated: Does the Scoutmaster have the authority to approve all campout-related expenses, or should all requests be channeled through the committee prior to going to the treasurer? (Bob Withers, CC, Sam Houston Council, TX)

I’m thinking that your troop’s problem isn’t “reimbursements”—this is the symptom of a more fundamental problem. The true problem here is that you have a Scoutmaster who doesn’t fully understand The Patrol Method and, simultaneously, appears to be coddling the Scouts. Fix this and I’ll bet the reimbursement “problem” goes away!

Here’s what I mean…

The foundational unit of Boy Scouting isn’t the troop; it’s the patrol. Patrols go hiking and camping; not troops. So, when it comes time to go on an outing that requires food-purchasing, each patrol decides what they want to eat, and then what that will cost (“dry” shopping, if necessary) and then all members of the patrol chip in their share of the money needed to buy whatever they’ve decided to cook. Then, with that money, two Scouts in the patrol (Buddy System) go shopping, buy the stuff, and then reconcile funds against receipts when their shopping is done. This is how we “grow boys.” By giving them responsibilities they can handle, and then letting ’em go!

When the Scoutmaster and/or ASM goes and buys the stuff, they’re “playing parent” and that’s not their roles! They can provide guidance to the Patrol Leaders on how to organize this and make it work (that’s the role they should be fulfilling, especially the Scoutmaster!), but when they take this responsibility away from where it belongs, they keep the boys small and helpless. This stuff has to stop, right away!

Everybody! Right away! Start reading about “Your Patrol” in the Boy Scout Handbook and then go read the Patrol Leader’s Handbook. Then when you’ve finished those two, go read the Scoutmaster Handbook.

Do what I’m suggesting here and your boys will instantly grow stronger, they’ll become more like the Scouts we’re here to grow, and they’ll love it! I guarantee it!

Hi Andy,

I’m an ASM; my son is 14 years old and has special needs. We have been in Scouting since Cub Scouts. My son has a rare type of epilepsy just recently diagnosed and named “Dravet’s Syndrome.” When we joined our troop, I was very open about his disabilities with our troop leaders, and told them that I’d always be with my son. I then did all the necessary paperwork to have him classified as a “Special Scout.” He loves Scouting! He enjoys the camping, the outings, and earning merit badges, and the recognition that accompanies that.

But just the other day, I was asked to come to a meeting “to discuss the newest edition of the Scouting for Scouts with Disabilities book, and how it would be used as my son earns merit badges and ranks,” or so they said. Then, when I arrived for the meeting, I was escorted to a room by Committee Chair, where I was surprised to be greeted by our Chartered Organization Rep, and a representative from the council. After giving me the book, they all revealed the true agenda for this meeting, which was to discuss numerous instances of my son’s “inappropriate behavior,” over the past two years. They actually handed me a two-page document, in which some ten to a dozen people had sent email complaints to the COR. Then, they handed me a second document, drawn up by the committee, that listed ten conditions that I must agree to if we’re to remain a part of this troop. I shed more tears at the impossibility of meeting some of these conditions, at the lack of understanding, tolerance and compassion that these documents revealed. These people had, apparently, been meeting for a month or more to discuss my son, and me as well. They ended up accusing us, trying us, condemning us, and giving their verdict, all without “the accused” having any input. Needless to say, I’m still feeling betrayed, hurt, angry, rejected, resentful and alone.

The very next evening, I carefully read the Scouting for Scouts with Disabilities book and found numerous ways in which their “conditions” were in flagrant opposition to BSA policies—Their overall plan is to put my son “in “isolation” and exclude him from being an active member of a patrol.

My question is this: Is there someone at the national level to whom I can voice these complaints—Someone who will read these two documents and advise me as to what I can do? (Name & Council Withheld)

I once shared an entire summer on BSA camp staff with an epileptic fellow staffer, so I have some passing knowledge of what those afflicted with epilepsy must endure. My heart goes out to your son and you, his parents.

This is a unit problem. At ground level, neither your district, council, or even the national council “owns” the troop and/or vets the volunteers associated with it. Consequently, unless these possibly misguided volunteers are prepared to change their ways spontaneously, there’s little that can be done, because no one has superseding authority over any of the adults you’ve described, except for the actual head of the chartered organization itself.

Of course, you haven’t mentioned any of the alleged “inappropriate behaviors” your son was accused of, nor did you mention your own witnessing of them (you noted that you were “always there”). If these behaviors were, in fact, epilepsy-related or caused by the condition, then I’d say these adults were certainly out of line. However, if any of the behaviors cannot be attributed to your son’s condition, then this another matter entirely. But, regardless of which it might be, or even whether it’s a “mixture” or not, having waited two years to bring this up is, in a word, absurd. Behavioral issues among Scouts always need to be dealt with right then and there, so that they don’t perpetuate and so that the Scout learns what behaviors are expected of him.

So, what to do…

When confronted with an entire group of misguided adults in a unit, the best bet is virtually always to get as far away from them as you’re able! Your son’s immediate task is check out other troops in the nearby area, find one that he likes, and then go join it. No one’s “wedded” to any Scouting unit, and when it doesn’t work, we go find one that does.

As your son embarks on this task, try as best you can to not look over your shoulder. Just move forward, and—whatever you do—avoid the temptation to infuse your son with whatever remorse or rancor you, yourself, might be feeling.

Dear Andy,

I volunteered to chair our pack’s annual fund-raiser this year. I contacted a local business and asked them to offer a prize for the highest seller. They agreed, and asked that I give them a letter stating my request on Cub Scout letterhead. No one is quite sure where we can get this letterhead. Can you please direct me to someone who can help us? In order to get the prize before the end of our fund-raiser, the business owner said that they’d need the letter right away! (Lynn Kain, Cub Scout Mom, Chester County Council, PA)

Go to the “clipart” section of the website and “lift” the Cub Scout emblem of your choice, then create your own letterhead on your computer! Simple as that!

Dear Andy,

After my son earned his Eagle rank, some time passed before his troop’s Court of Honor. In the interim, he turned 18. He’s not continuing as an adult leader, so he’s no longer authorized to wear a BSA uniform. Our council holds an Eagle Scout recognition event each Spring, and I’m wondering if my son may wear his Eagle Scout medal on his suit lapel for this event, as well as for Courts of Honor he may attend in the future. And, since we’re on this subject, what about tuxedos? (Randy Foster, CC, Middle Tennessee Council)

It’s absolutely appropriate for your son to wear his Eagle medal, pinned to the left breast pocket of his sport or suit jacket. For tuxedos, wear a miniature Eagle in the lapel buttonhole (on all tux jackets except shawl collar), so that you don’t damage the “sheen” of the silk lapel.


Dear Andy,


I’ve recently taken on being not only a Den Leader but our pack’s Cubmaster as well, and I’m having trouble finding some kind of a guideline to follow so I can get my son through this process so he can become a Boy Scout. I’m looking for some kind of a print-out for the Bear and the next group up from that before entering Boy Scouts that I can check off and keep track of all the information and activities that the boys have done. I’d like to be able to award them their patches accordingly. If there’s any way to get this information, it would be greatly appreciated. (Nicole Levick)

There are pages exactly for this purpose, that can be reproduced, in the appendix of the Cub Scout Leader Book.

Be aware, by the way, that the BSA specifically prohibits registering for more than one volunteer position within the same unit. So, if you’re a Den Leader, then someone other than you needs to be Cubmaster. This is all described in the training you’ll want to take, so you can do the best job possible! Be sure to get ALL of your volunteers trained!

Dear Andy,

Do you know where I can purchase a Chinese Dragon for my Cub Scouts (about 20 to 25 of them) to wear and do a dance for our Blue & Gold opener? (Tracy Mayberry, CM, Catalina Council, AZ)

Full-sized Chinese dragons can be pretty expensive! I’d suggest going online and buying a small one, then examining it closely and figuring out how your Cubs can construct one to actually wear, using everyday materials.

Dear Andy,

If a young man earned his Eagle rank but has not had his Court of Honor yet, can he wear his Eagle badge on his uniform and wear the Eagle neckerchief and slide to troop meetings and other troop activities and events prior to his COH? (New Eagle Mom, Last Frontier Council, OK)

Congratulations to your son and his parents!

Your son became an Eagle Scout on the date of his successful board of review—that’s the date that’ll be on his certificate. The Court of Honor is when he’ll be publicly recognized for this achievement, and this can happen anytime. In the meanwhile, he’s absolutely entitled to wear the oval Eagle rank badge on his Scout uniform! Neckerchief, too! And slide. And belt buckle, and socks… But let’s not overdo it here! 😉


Dear Andy,


Can you point me in right direction? A Pack wants to recognize an outgoing Committee Chair with an award. I looked in USSSP website but can’t find anything for a pack’s CC. Any help will be appreciated. (Rich Golling, District Awards Chair, National Capital Area Council, MD)

Your local Scout Shop should have a pretty good stock of “thanks” certificates and usually other more substantial items, exactly for this purpose. Or, check out the BSA catalog or at

Dear Andy,

I’ve seen Scouters wear 10, 12 or 15 “square knots” on their uniform shirts. How many is too many? (Dave Lockley, ADC, Denver Area Council, CO)

When they start going over the shirt’s left shoulder-seam! (No, not really.) Seriously, so long as there are no duplicates, there’s no set limit. This is sorta like asking “How many merit badges on a sash are too many?” (My own uniform has 17 unduplicated, believe-it-or-knot.)

Dear Andy,

We’ve received a couple of boys into our troop and when their records were imported, their camping nights went into prior totals. Of course, when we run an OA eligibility report, the boys are listed as not eligible even though I know that they are. And it’s because of those previous nights. In fact, the user guide clearly states: “Because there are no dates associated with your entries, prior entries are not included on any activity reports that use ‘From-To’ dates. For the same reason, prior camping is not considered when computing OA eligibility.” OK, so I can understand why it works that way, but that doesn’t help me with the OA issue. Can you un-confuse me? (SM, Troop 483)

Frankly, I’m confused a bit about what it is that you’re actually asking for. The OA Unit Election Procedure states, in part: “The unit leader (that’s YOU) provides a list of all registered active members of his unit (i.e., troop) who he certifies meet all eligibility requirements…” This means that whatever names of Scouts that you write on the Unit Election Report are to be accepted without question or challenge by the lodge’s unit election team.

On eligibility: For a Boy Scout to be eligible for election into the OA by his fellow Scouts, he must be (a) registered, (b) at least First Class rank, and (c) has camped at least 15 days and nights “under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America during the two-year period prior to the election. The 15 days and nights must include one long-term camp (6 consecutive days and nights). The balance of the camping must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps.” Of course, he must also be approved by his Scoutmaster! This is where Scout spirit sometimes comes into play.

Notice that, per OA stipulations, no specific dates are required to be put on the form itself. The Scoutmaster’s act of placing a Scout’s name on the form is taken unequivocally to mean that the Scout meets the eligibility requirements.

One further note: The 15 days/nights of camping must be Scouting-related, as a registered Boy Scout. Cub camping, family camping, etc. don’t count.

One last point… Boys are boys when they go to school and church, play ball, thumb their hand-helds, and on and on, but when they’re in uniform, they’re SCOUTS. Always.

Dear Andy,

Is there any information available online that describes what counts as “service hours” for Star, Life, and Eagle? Does service to/at a religious institution count? Also, I’ve had a sage Scouter tell me that Scouts are not allowed to count the time helping out on Eagle projects as service hours. Where can I find out about that? (Tom McCandless, SM, Westchester-Putnam Council, NY)

“A service project is a special Good Turn that allows you to put Scout spirit into action. Service projects can take many forms–community cleanup; repairing a church, a museum, or the home of an elderly person; improving wildlife habitat; volunteering at a hospital or with a public safety group; organizing a recycling effort; cleaning up a neighborhood lot or park; or any of a thousand other possibilities.”

“A service project (will benefit) the environment, your community, or a religious group, school, or other worthy group.”

Those two quotes are from…your guessed it…the Boy Scout Handbook.

So, the next time some ill-informed buffoon throws something at you that doesn’t seem to make sense, challenge ’em. Tell ’em, “Say, that’s interesting… Why don’t you show me in writing where the BSA says that.” It’s high time the buffoons did the work, instead of you n’ me.

Dear Andy,

We’re 1st year Webelos Den Leaders. One of our Webelos Scouts is unable to attend meetings for a while. One of his parents, who’s a past Webelos Den Leader, has asked us to allow her to use the “honor system,” so she can sign off on her son’s activities. We’re uncomfortable with this approach, as many of the activities are group oriented and teambuilding activities.

This same boy often attends meetings or outings only when his parent or brother is attending, which limits his being a regular member of his den. This feels awkward to us. Do you have any comments or suggestions? It feels as if they want to be part of the program without “being part of the program.”

Also, when it comes to signing off on activities, belt loops and sports pins, what are our obligations as leaders? How do we verify the activities have taken place? Are there some policy guidelines that would assist us? (Name & Council Withheld)

As Webelos Den Leader, you have every right—and the obligation to the other boys in your den—to tell this self-serving, rule-ducking parent to go fly a kite. As a former Webelos Den Leader herself, she ought to know better, so I’d simply say No Way, Jose! and make it stick.

You haven’t said why this boy can’t attend den meetings, and I don’t know what the deal is with pack meetings. Scouting is absolutely flexible when it comes to “either-or” conflict situations and will always make allowances for boys who have obligations elsewhere that are mandatory (CCD, confirmation classes, Hebrew school, sports, after-school activities, and even “latch-key” situations, and so on). But Scouting is equally inflexible when it comes to the advancement plan, standards, and policies. These must be followed to the letter. If not, nationwide chaos will reign, and this is unacceptable. This is not about “Scout’s Honor” or not. This is about the delivery of the Scouting program as intended by the BSA. In becoming Scouting leaders, we have a covenant to deliver the program as designed. Acceding to a deviation from this, such as this parent is attempting to inveigle, is a breaking of that covenant. Stick to your guns. If this feels awkward, it’s not because of your values and your understanding of how the program is supposed to work – It’s that parent who apparently wants her son’s cake and eat it, too, who’s creating the uncomfortable situation. Don’t “give in” just to make the awkwardness “go away,” because if you cave on this, there will be more—I guarantee it.

Since the boy who will miss a couple of months is a Webelos I, the most he’ll miss out on is some activity badge work, but this certainly isn’t lethal and will hardly interfere with his overall Scouting “career.”

On your second question about the auxiliary Sports and Academics (belt loops and pins) programs, Scout’s Honor is certainly acceptable. Your job here, unless you’ve incorporated any of these into your den program, is record-keeping. On these, you can relax!

Dear Andy,

Do the two-deep leadership principles apply if it’s just a parent and son going to a Scouting event? I’m not sure if the parent’s status makes a difference, but let’s say for the sake of argument that the parent’s a registered volunteer in the troop. I’d think that that’s OK… What do you think? Thanks. (John Woughter, Transatlantic Council, Bonn, Germany)

Good question. In the case of a parent-and his/her own child/children, two-deep leadership (“TDL”) doesn’t apply, and neither does any requirement to be a registered BSA volunteer. TDL only applies when the adult and the youth aren’t related. But, even then, there’s a fuzzy area, because in meeting with a merit badge counselor, for instance, a second adult present isn’t required and the Scout’s “buddy” can be…another Scout!

Just to take it one more step, when TDL is required/recommended, TDL standards are met by (a) two registered adult volunteers or (b) one registered adult volunteer and one other adult (age 18+) whether or not registered.

I think you’ll be fine by simply applying good (as against “common”) sense. Here’s the reason I emphasize good sense…

Party of four (four being the minimum number specified by the BSA)—two adults and two youth, not related to one another—take a hike. A youth is injured and cannot be transported. Following the Buddy System, one of the remaining three stays with the injured youth and two go for aid, right? “Common” sense says Whoa! You can’t leave an adult with a youth, so we’d better leave the youth with the injured youth and the two adults go for aid. Nonsense! says GOOD sense: You leave one adult with the injured youth and the other adult goes with the other youth to get aid. In other words, lets not get so stultified by “regulations” that we lose our ability to make good “judgment calls”!

Dear Andy,

I have a Cub Scout in my den who completed his religious award with his dad and received the medal at his church a few months ago. His parents are divorced, and have had some acrimony over issues, like who should bring the boy to meetings, and so on. His mom usually brings him to pack and den events, and about a quarter of the time his dad comes as well.

The father requested that his son not receive the religious award square knot at one of our recent pack meetings because he, the father, would be out of town. We accommodated this, but then the boy didn’t come to the pack meeting. Now, the father has again asked to hold off on the award until he can show up. This makes the boy at least three months late in receiving what he deserves. Meanwhile, the parents are squabbling—one says hold it; and the other, give it to him!

I thought we should give awards ASAP, so the boy sees the fruit of his work, especially in Cub Scouts! Assuming the boy will be at our next pack meeting, should we just give the award to him? (Name & Council Withheld)

Right now would definitely be a fine time to present the square knot, and both parents should be told well in advance that you’re going to do this. Insofar as we’re able, we don’t want the boy to be the victim of his parents’ interpersonal difficulties. And I’d take it a step further… It would be totally appropriate for the boy’s religious leader to come to that pack meeting and to re-present the medal as well. This not only honors the boy’s achievement but serves as an excellent role model for other Cubs and their parents!

Dear Andy,

How do we put the badges on the uniforms? Some mothers take them to a dry cleaner to be sewn on, some do their own sewing. What’s the best and most economic way? Can they be ironed on? (Lori Breitzke, Cub Mom, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

If you’re up to sewing, this is certainly the most economical way of getting those patches on your son’s uniform (be sure to check his book so that you get them all in the right places!). Another option, of course, is a seamstress or tailor, who will do the job for you. Just be very sure you’ve pinned the patches in exactly the right places, so that no re-sewing is necessary. A third option is to use either Badge Bond (an aerosol spray the sells for $17.00 for a 7.25 ounce can—more than enough for four years of patches!) or a Badge Magic patch adhesive kit, which contains a sheet of adhesive material die-cut into shapes of the most common patches (just peel off the backing and attach!) and sells for between $1.25 and $7.25 depending on the size kit you purchase. Both of these items should be available at the Scout Shop where you bought your son’s uniform, or go on line to, click on “uniforms and insignia” and then click on “miscellaneous.”

Hello Andy,

I’m a Commissioner with a Scoutmaster “under my wing” who doesn’t allow his Scouts to participate in the Order of The Arrow. This stems from an “initiation” of two Scouts at an OA section conclave by members of a non-Scout club called the Turtles. I’m trying to decide the best way to handle this. I believe he’s doing a disservice to the Scouts. What do you think? (Name & Council Withheld)

Of course that Scoutmaster is doing a disservice to the Scouts he’s supposed to be serving, when he disallows participation in the OA. It’s a Scout-decided Scout honor society, for gosh sakes! His reasoning is off-base, and he’s behaving like some little tin god—What stretch of his so-called imagination makes him think he has the “power” to deny the Scouts whom he’s supposed to be serving an opportunity that is rightfully theirs!

How to handle this? Well, you’re a Commissioner, so a K-I-T-A is out! I think your best bet is to sit down with the committee and/or Committee Chair (absent the Scoutmaster), to let them know what the OA is and how an opportunity is being withheld from their Scouts, and then help them come up with a way to fix this themselves. This is, after all, a Troop problem, and your role is that of mentor-mediator.

(BTW, Turtles are bright eyed, bushy tailed, fearless and unafraid folk with a fighter pilot attitude. They think clean, have fun a lot, and recognize the fact that you never get anyplace in life worthwhile unless you stick your neck out, or so the Turtle Creed says.)

Dear Andy,

I’m trying to find references that address legal ownership of Scouting unit “stuff,” specifically financial accounts, trailers, and gear. It’s my understanding that the chartered organization has legal ownership of any gear belonging to a unit, but I can’t find it in the COR training materials. I know that the guidance exists, but not where.

The reason for this search is that we have a unit that’s transferring from one chartered organization to a new one, and we want the unit to retain its gear. The new chartered organization has no interest in, or designs on, the unit gear or checking account, but I still need to know where the reference explaining ownership is. You’ve pulled off many useful searches like this in earlier columns, so I’m believing you’ll get it right again for us! (Name & Council Withheld)

To start out with, yes, you’re right, the chartered organization is the ultimate rightful owner of anything tangible property of the unit(s) it sponsors. This is in writing, but not in a place easily accessible by us volunteers—it’s in the documents provided by the national council to local council professional staff, if my memory’s still intact. The basic logic to this is straightforward: Since the CO “owns” the unit (i.e., the unit is not owned by either the local or the national BSA council), then everything the unit owns is de facto and de jure owned by the CO). You see this in common practice when you observe that most units’ property is housed in and insured by their CO.

In the situation you describe, it’s well and good that the new CO takes no interest in the property owned by the incoming unit’s about-to-become former CO; however, the more relevant question is: What is the position of the “old” CO? If they, likewise, have no interest (many are not even specifically aware) in the unit’s accumulations, then you’re in the category of “just do it.” However, if the current CO expresses interest in retaining the property of the unit that’s abandoning its sponsorship, a possible tug-of-war might be on the horizon. Tread lightly and gently, and with great diplomacy, here.

And now, a saga…

Hi Andy,

A couple of years ago, while at summer camp, some practical jokes went a bit too far and tempers flared a bit. While there technically wasn’t any real physical violence, there was some shoving and a boy was put in a head-lock by another Scout. As a result, the troop’s leaders have developed a “no touching” rule for the Scouts. This means no touching each other in any way, including the elimination of any type of tag, wrestling, and anything that would involve physical contact of any sort.

To be honest with you, many of the parents see this as setting the boys up for failure. Inevitably, dodge-ball turns into wrestling, tag turns into grabbing, and so on. To make matters worse, there is one very powerful and controlling leader who disciplines the Scouts engaging in such fun activities by yelling at them and humiliating them verbally, in front of the troop.

My question to you is two-fold. First, have you ever heard of a “no-touching rule” and do you think it is attainable? Second, is there a resource that discusses a code of conduct, particularly in terms of discipline, for the guidance of adult leaders? (Name & Council Withheld)

Your troop’s problem isn’t rambunctious boys, it’s an ignoramus, tin-god of a volunteer, coupled with (I’m gonna guess here) lily-livered committee members, parents, and Scoutmaster.

A “no touching” rule (a) is impossible to adhere to, (b) guarantees that “someone” (Gee, I wonder who?) will have to “discipline” the offender, and (c) about as stupid an idea as I’ve ever heard. There is no activity involving a bunch of teen-aged boys I can think of that doesn’t involve physical contact… except, of course, chess, bridge, tiddly-winks…You know, all the stuff Boy Scouts like to do! (I’m kidding here!) Physical contact is a natural and needed part of healthy growing up. Take it away and you damage the youth. Why, for instance, do you think schools and community groups offer “contact sports”?

Get rid of that yelling, humiliating nincompoop. All it takes is for the COR and CC to show him the door. Unlike “corporate life,” no reason, rationale, or explanation need be given: “Your services are no longer needed by this troop” does it. Don’t expect that some sort of “lecture” to him will “change” him. Not gonna happen. If he’s truly “yelling” at the Scouts and “humiliating” them in front of the troop, dump him before he does any more damage.

Hi Andy,

Thank you for your reply, to which I want to add, thank you, thank you, thank you!

I’m a parent, have been a Cub Scout leader, and my husband was once active as a leader but because of his stance against the direction of the leadership, he got discouraged and pretty much was shunned out of the troop. What I do not understand is how the long-time volunteers in our troop (three with more than 20 years experience plus a long-time Scoutmaster!) have allowed this one individual parent to come in just two years ago and dominate (He likes to proudly call himself “The Hammer”!). His yelling, foul language and disrespect for the Scouts are commonplace. He is neither encouraging nor fun. Boys are dropping out left and right, and no one’s making any attempt to stop the hemorrhaging. These were kids who loved scouting, but not anymore. Routinely now, after Scout activities, my son and his friends will commiserate with one another: “It would have been fun if ‘The Hammer’ hadn’t been there.”

This guy has actually been elected to be the Committee Chair this coming year. I don’t get it. I’ve set up a meeting with the Scoutmaster, another leader, “The Hammer,” and two more parents to discuss what’s been happening and the role of leadership in the troop (the Committee Chair will be out of town but knows of the concern). One of our big concerns is why the Scouts are being held to the high standards of the Scout Oath and Law, but the adults “in charge” aren’t. I think maybe, just maybe, the Scoutmaster is finally catching on that we have a problem. I’d love to use your response to my “no touching” question as support. The way I see it, it’s time to be a hero for these Scouts.

This mess may be unrepairable. Going where you’re going all alone may cause considerable psychic damage if this jerk turns his venom on you. Where’s your husband in this mess? Even if he’s been “discouraged” and “shunned,” he should nevertheless be right there—literally at your side—at that meeting. Or has he, too, been intimidated to the point of ineffectualness by this bully. For him, it’s time for a spine transplant if necessary, because it’s his own son who’s been abused and his wife is right on the cusp of having the same thing happen to her.

Consider this possible alternative to your planned course of action: Get your son and his immediate friends out of that troop and into a decent one immediately, because I can tell you from personal experience and observations that it’s not a lot of fun being the lone voice of reason in an unreasonable wilderness. And, you are going to be nobody’s hero—Not even your own. It doesn’t work that way. Corruption can only be changed from the top, by throwing the rascals out; corruption is never fixed from the “inside.”
Dear Andy,

Your candor is appreciated, but discouraging as well, because I know you’re speaking from the experience of a situation you know all too well. My husband is going to be going to the meeting with me (along with two other parents), but since he attempted to deal with this situation from the start—with virtually no effect—he doesn’t feel much hope. The other two dads who supported him have sons who have since quit the troop. My husband is, however, strong, quick-witted, and a voice of reason. We’re going to give it a shot, because the situation has escalated and the other parents who will be supporting me don’t have kids who are getting the brunt of it, but still see what’s happening and don’t like it. I’ve come to the point where I’m no longer afraid of this man or how the other leaders see me, because as far as I’m concerned they are a bunch of doormats just happy to have a warm body who’s “involved.” The psychology behind the whole thing is just weird, weird, weird and for the life of me I don’t see how so many seasoned and relatively gentle men could allow it to happen.

The reason I feel this is my only course of action is because we are in a very small town and the only other possible troop is 20 minutes away. Just given the logistics of it all, I really feel that if my son is to be a Boy Scout this is it, but then again maybe if we got at least a couple of his friends perhaps we could jointly go the other troop. I feel the need to at least make the effort to get the negative force out. This is our town, my son’s friends, my husband belongs to the chartered organization.

I think maybe the Scoutmaster is starting to catch on, because he immediately took my concerns and request just to meet with him and the Committee Chair, and responded that he wanted to discuss it and have “The Hammer” there, too. Now, I’m still waiting for a time, but I’m hoping for early next week. I probably won’t end up a hero, but at the very least a mom who is going to bat for her kid. If you want me to keep you posted on what happens I will. Thank you for all your advice and for being a sounding board for me. I needed that! (N&CW)

Here’s the bottom line: Unless you’re walking into that meeting with the head of your sponsor AND the COR on your side 100% and right there with you, you’re wasting your time and energy on a doomed mission. There’s only one way to “fight the good fight”: Win it. If you’re fighting an uphill battle against this knucklehead and his spineless cohorts: You lose. If you’re not in a position to overwhelm him with supporting forces (like the sponsor’s head and the COR): You lose. If you think “reason will prevail,” it never does: You lose.

A 20 minute drive is a good thing: It’s a good, quiet time with your son, once a week, to chat about this n’ that and have some parent-and-son time. Don’t look at it as a liability; it’s got a silver lining, especially as he grows older (which happens way too fast these days!). Get a couple of his close friends to do the same thing and he has a patrol! Cool! Sure beats getting beat up by some jerk while folks who should know better rotate on their thumbs!

Hi Andy,

You’re calling this whole thing so close you’re starting to scare me. Got an email back about our meeting time with a note that my son’s behavior at troop meetings and activities will be discussed as well. I did figure out that the intent is not to solve the “Hammer” problem but to put my own kid “on trial.” So, I decided to not let this effort of intimidation get to me, and emailed back that yes, the behavior he and other energetic boys display is precisely the point, and that they need to be treated in a pro-active, effective, fair, and non-abusive manner, and that I look forward to the discussion. My husband’s now taking a “Bring it on” stance, because absolutely no behavior warrants the treatment some of the boys are getting.

By COR do you mean Chartered Organization Representative? What a great idea! The irony to that is that my husband was the COR for the Rotary Club for a long time—He still may be, just can’t find any proof (we think he may have been removed from this slot a couple of years ago). If it’s not him, we think now it may be the current club president, who’s the wife of the current Committee Chair. I spoke with her about the troop situation and I have her support (she’s the one who told me to take it to committee and to be prepared), but alas, she’s going to be out of town at the time of the meeting.

I do feel as if we’re going in fairly well prepared. We invited a well-respected and experienced leader who’s somewhat active, and was actually asked by the bully of all this to sit on the committee this next year because of the experience he’d bring. He’s a great guy and truly lives the Scout Oath and Law, and he strongly believes in Scouting being fun for both the youth and adults, and a boy-led troop with discipline involving the adult quietly talking to an older scout who takes care of the situation while the adult just watches. Amen! (I see a glimmer of hope!) Both my husband and I have spoken with him about our concerns, and I’m keeping him as our “surprise weapon.“

The meeting is tomorrow night. We certainly are keeping the option of driving to another troop an option, and I appreciate your suggestion/encouragement of that path. I do believe the benefits of Scouting will far outweigh any inconvenience in driving. Thanks again. (N&CW),

Yes, CO means Chartered Organization and COR means Chartered Organization Representative (this is the person who speaks for the CO and makes decisions about a unit’s leadership on behalf of the CO).

Your husband may NOT have been “removed.” Before you go into this meeting (which I’m still not exactly thrilled with, but we gotta do what we gotta do), call your council service center’s registrar and ask him or her to bring up on the computer your troop’s last charter renewal and unit roster document. Your husband may still be listed as COR, or even as “organization head/executive officer.” If that’s the case, don’t “correct” them. Instead, ask for hard copy (go to the service center to pick it up, if necessary!). Armed with this, you’ve got “control.” Good luck


I never did hear from these folks again. I’m hoping they came out of that meeting intact. I hope the troop was spared the further ravings of a misanthrope. I hope the other parents, committee members, and the Scoutmaster grew spines. But, one of the liabilities of being me is that, for some things I just have to hope for the best.

Dear Andy,

At a recent Scout-O-Rama, I saw a Scout troop wearing the old garrison-style cap—the type of cap that was worn before it was changed to the baseball-style cap of today and the same cap I wore in the early 70s. I thought that you couldn’t combine uniforms styles, but you could wear a phased-out uniform (older style) as long as it is a complete uniform. Is it the proper uniform cap now, or is there a way to get permission to wear parts of older uniforms? (Dennis Vega, Catalina Council, AZ)

I, too, wore the garrison cap as a Scout and Scouter. It looked smart and sharp, and was sure convenient! Indoors, you just flattened it out and folded it over your belt! It never got lost and couldn’t get crushed. The BSA first replaced these with berets, which were in turn replaced by the present-day baseball-style caps. But garrison caps are still perfectly “legal,” I’m informed. In fact, any official BSA uniform part, whether old or new, is “legal” in Scouting, even in a “mix-and-match” situation. No “special permission” required!

Hey Andy,

During my recent participation in a district training session for Cub Scout Leader-Specific, I was asked to “cross the line” and become a trainer. While flattered, I began net-surfing and unearthed minute scraps of something abbreviated as “TDC” in the Pack Trainer requirements; however, nowhere else have I been able to decipher the meaning or intent of “Participate in a TDC.” I’ve read the Cub Scout Leader Book and in the section on Pack Trainers, there’s a slight allusion to it: “Pack Trainers should be trained at a district or council Trainer Development Conference.” Is that the “TDC” in question, and if so, are all councils under the same development process, or are they guided independently?

On the other hand, if “TDC” actually stands for “Truly Delusional Cubmaster” then it’s right up my alley! (Please don’t disclose my name—I’ve heard on good authority that “pack-nappers” on the hunt for a wandering volunteer with a pulse might try to kidnap me from my beloved pack!) (D.S.)

”Truly Delusional Cubmaster” sounds about perfect! But you did figure it out: It means Trainer Development Conference—a training course that’s the successor to the old “Train The Trainer” course. It’s pretty decent, and has a variety of applications that you can even use at the pack level, so it’s worth taking if available.

Dear Andy,

I understand the new BSA requirements (e.g., “How to respond to a bully,” “Describe the things you should avoid doing related to the use of the internet,” “Describe a cyber-bully and how you should respond to one”) for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class effective January 1 this year; however, is there a resource for materials related to the new requirements? I have a general understanding of what these are talking about, but I’d like to get specific information on how to learn about, and teach, these new requirements (I’m told that the new Boy Scout Handbook is not in print yet). (Tom Silver, ASM, Sagamore Council, IN)

I’m told on good authority that backgrounding information on these new (and valuable, IMHO!) requirements is being disseminated by our local councils beginning this month. I’m also guessing that we’ll see articles on these in upcoming issues of SCOUTING Magazine.

Dear Andy,

I’m the father of a Webelos II Scout who’s getting ready to bridge to Boy Scouts. Scouting has been one of my son’s favorite activities since he started in Tigers, even though, at a very young age, he was diagnosed with severe autism and has what can also be called “delayed development” (At five years of age he still didn’t talk, had toilet-training problems, and interacted with other children much like a two-year-old). Despite some discouraging initial prognoses, the maturation-delay has abated and he’s now experiencing tremendous growth—these gains largely due to age-appropriate school grade placement (with the help of an adult aide), his innate academic brilliance, and his involvement in Scouts. Thank God for Cub Scouts!

As you may know, those with autism can find certain normal, daily situations to be terribly disconcerting and disruptive. For this reason, my son benefits greatly from the help of an adult aide at school. It’s possible that he will continue to make use of an aide through high school, college, and even into his professional life. If you’re familiar with the TV show, “Monk,” the lead character in this series is an adult professional who’s accompanied by an assistant to deal with his OCD (there’s no “rule” that says someone must operate autonomously in order to be successful or productive).

Scouts must be able to operate with a certain level of autonomy certainly in order to advance in rank—even to Eagle Scout—and I, personally, favor the general Scouting approach. After all, my primary goal is that my son grows into becoming a young man as autonomous as any other young man his age. Currently, however, certain Boy Scout-level situations will be a great struggle. For instance, a week-long summer camp would have a similar impact on him as it would if you sent away a seven or eight year old for a week. So, while summer camp might not kill him, and the scouts at camp might even serve as aides to him, I would no more choose to do this than any parent would choose to send a Wolf Cub Scout to Boy Scout camp—That would put an undue tax on the boy, counselors, and his fellow campers. So, at least in the near-term, I need to find a solution to help my son on the Boy Scout path in a way that’s appropriate for him.

Therefore, I aim to serve as the primary Scouting adult aide for my son, both to facilitate his needs stemming from autism and to help him to grow in autonomy and maturity and as a Scout. I’ve had significant formal training in serving as an aide for people with autism, and I’ve taken the BSA’s “Baloo” training, as well. Still, I suspect that I may run into some hurdles in this aim.

What sorts of hurdles might I encounter, in getting trained as an adult volunteer, if my primary intention is to be the adult aide for my son?

Is there a Scouting resource that will concisely describe what training I need, in order to be an adult volunteer, and also clearly describe any guidelines that might either reinforce or limit my involvement in this regard?

Thank you for your dedication to Scouting. (M.P.)

It’s parents like you whom I most admire! My hat’s off to you for your dedication, your passion, and your support of your son as he grows into a fine man of whom you will be justifiably proud.

Take any training that’s of interest to you. But, maybe equally important, read your son’s handbooks, beginning with the program he’s currently in and proceeding right through the Boy Scout Handbook as he moves along the Scouting trail. Most of what you’ll need to know as a supportive parent is in these books! They will also help you and your son find the right troop shortly, and this will be critical to your son’s enjoyment, and success. If the troop isn’t delivering what the handbook says Boy Scouting is all about, go find a troop that “gets it”!

Also, the BSA has specific literature on Scouting for youth with disabilities (both mental and physical), so be sure to get a copy of the most appropriate one, and review it with your son’s new Scoutmaster.

When your son joins a troop, you may want to sign on as an Assistant Scoutmaster, but this is hardly mandatory—Do what feels right for you!

Personally, so long as you don’t pick up your son and carry him across the high-wire, but, instead, become his “safety net,” this will be a rewarding experience for you both!

As a footnote, about a year ago, I met a fellow Scouter who himself had Asperger syndrome, and was mentoring his own 12-year-old Boy Scout son, who suffered from the same syndrome! There is light at the end of this tunnel!

Be sure to read this next letter…


Dear Andy,

The Denver Area Council has a very comprehensive program for Scouts with special needs. We have an Assistant Council Commissioner, liaisons to each district, a special needs awareness presentation in PowerPoint, and more. On the Denver Area Council website, under “districts,” Special Needs has its own dedicated space. We provide a lot of guidance on behavior and advancement issues to leaders, youth, and parents that’s based on the 2007 Special Needs Handbook, with support from the private sector as well as dedicated volunteers. Any parent or leader with an interest or need in this area should feel free to check the website and to contact us directly.

We also have several friends in both the Greater St. Louis Area Council and the Three Fires Council that have great programs and ideas. Some of us have also attended the national training held at Philmont on Special Needs. (Joe Black, Denver Area Council, CO –

Now that’s another “Scouting at its finest”!

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Idea? Suggestion? Thought? Something that works? Just write to me at (Please include your COUNCIL or your TOWN & STATE)


(January 30, 2008 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2008)


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.

Read Andy's full biography

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