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Issue 148 – September 24, 2008

Three readers—Bob Reeder from the Grand Columbia Council in Washington State; Martha Parks from Circle 10 in Texas; and Greg Buliavac from the San Francisco Bay Area Council—all noticed in my August 30th column that I referred to the camping requirements for the foundational Boy Scout ranks as “adding up to six overnight campouts,” and wrote to correct me. Yes, they’re all technically accurate: The total camping-out requirements for all three ranks can be cranked out in just three trips! That agreed to from a “legal” perspective, I think I’ll keep MHO that six campouts is just about the right number for a First Class Scout.

Meanwhile, here’s the kind of “paycheck” that keeps me thumpin’ along…

Hi Andy,

I want to let you know that, in your September 10 column, you answered a question about procedures during a board of review that totally blew our minds! Our troop has been doing it wrong for a long time! We’re absolutely in direct violation of BSA policy! I was “taught” that we quiz the Scouts on each and all of the requirements—first aid, star-navigating, hiking safety, and so on—of the rank they’re leaving, plus the history of the Boy Scouts, the symbolism behind the Scout badge, and, Yes, they had to bring rope and demonstrate knot-tying! We even have forms where we can check “satisfactory,” “marginal,” or “unsatisfactory,” and write comments! Can you believe that? I copied and pasted your column and sent it to the troop. We’re going to do it the right way from now on!

On a positive note, our Scout definitely know their stuff and can explain the history of Scouting and the symbolism of the badge! Thanks for your column! (Whitney Noel, Flint River Council, GA)

The best part of your message is that you’re fixing it! Congratulations! There are, frankly, a few too many folks who’d rather keep doing it wrong than admit they’d messed up and fix it. I’m immensely respectful of what you’re all doing.

I also understand that it’s still an important thing for your Scouts to know how to tie knots, using a compass or the stars, the history of Scouting, the elements of the Scout badge, and so on. The way Scouting reinforces these things is not so much through “testing” as through active and continual use of the skills and knowledge acquired. Here’s what I mean… The next time you have a court of honor, let’s say, get two Scouts to volunteer to tell the audience the story of how Scouting began (“short” version, of course). Or, the next time you go camping, find (or create) a situation where tying two half-hitches is critical, and then have your Scouts do it. You’re getting the idea, right…?

Scouting is kinetic, it’s visceral, it’s active, it’s involved and involving. When we keep it in the “doing” mode and as far away from “classrooms” as we can, we’re gonna deliver Scouting as it was meant to be! Keep on keepin’ on!

Dear Andy,

I enjoy reading your columns and I’ve learned a lot from them. I’d like to offer a suggestion… When I have a question about registration or advancement requirements, like the person in your September 10th column asking about whether or not Scouts have to be registered in both a troop and a crew to continue working on Eagle rank, I don’t direct that sort of question to their District Executive—the best resource for something like that is their council registrar. This person will have the necessary knowledge to answer that type of question and should be able to direct you to the publication containing the information you need. A lot of volunteers don’t know that this person exists at their service center, but they’re a great resource for questions like these. Thanks for the time you put in and your commitment to Scouting (Matt Kaufman, Lincoln Trails Council, IL)

Excellent point! And, yes, registrars can be a big help. So can lots of other folks on the service center staff. The trick is to know who knows (or should know) what, and then go to them, and the added trick of NOT expecting a DE to be in any way knowledgeable in subjects like that. What we volunteers often forget is that DEs are trained in district operational subjects; not in the more granular stuff that you and I—as volunteers “in the trenches”—deal with every day. The problem is two-fold: DEs are reluctant to state that they don’t know something (even when there’s no reason for them to know it!) so they wing it when they shouldn’t, and volunteers don’t get it that they shouldn’t be asking a DE questions like that in the first place!

Dear Andy,

Our troop’s website is really boring and I want to take an active part in updating it. Our current webmaster is really computer technical and controls all the content on the site. When questioned about the site and needs for improvement, he gets somewhat bothered and argumentative. He continually cites the Guide To Safe Scouting as the reason why we can’t update the site, arguing that pictures of the Scouts in action can’t be put on the site. I’d like to work on updating the site as a way to “sell” our troop to Cub Scout packs in the area. Is there any prohibition about putting the Scouts’ photos on the website? I’m thinking we could get a waiver from each boy’s parents to use the photos. (ASM)

The BSA has very specific stipulations for unit websites, and this information is available through your own local council. Call ’em up and ask who you should speak to. This gets you solidly “grounded,” so that you can have a conversation with your troop’s webmaster and be able to separate the horses from the horsepucky.

As you’re deciding where to put your “Scouting energy,” do keep in mind that the Internet can be highly interactive, and can also be totally “passive”—Like television, it requires the engagement of the user, and while the most engaging website on the planet might be there, if folks aren’t terribly interested in checking it out, a lot of time and energy will have gone into not a whole lot of results other than a pretty site!

NetCommish Comment: You should visit BSA’s Advice for personal and unit Web sites at where you’ll find guidance on what goes and what doesn’t. Here’s what BSA says:

“While most Internet users are honest, there is a criminal element that seeks information as a way to gain access to victims. For that reason, be especially careful about providing any personal information—names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc. Always get written permission before posting personal information about adult volunteers, and never publish personal information about youth members. If you display or post images of adult and youth members involved in Scouting activities on your Web site, you should first obtain written permissions from the adults and the parents or guardians of any youth members.”

Hi Andy,

Both of my boys are in Scouts. One is an Eagle candidate and the other is a Star Scout. Can you please give me a job description and the duties a Scout needs to perform when given the position of Librarian or Historian. It seems that the troop sometimes “guesses” and I’d like to have it in writing. (Lumie Emini, Rainbow Council, IL)

Both of these positions are described in the Scoutmaster Handbook.

Dear Andy.

I have a question about the role of Scoutmaster Conference and board of review… Our Scoutmaster has approved two Scouts for advancement to Life rank prior to their full six months as Star Scouts. In the opinion of our troop committee, both are good boys, but somewhat lacking in maturity and in their scouting skills (neither one can tie their basic knots and neither can answer basic Scouting history questions, like who the founder of Scouting is, the meaning behind the Scout badge, and so forth). Moreover, the woman who is the troop’s advancement chair has filled out all their merit badge worksheets for them (she justifies this by explaining that the two boys both “learning disabilities”). She’s also the mother of one of the Scouts and her best friend is the mother of the other Scout. Meanwhile, we others on the troop committee (who served as members of the board of review for each of these Scouts) have questioned the validity of moving them u to Life rank. In short, in their boards of review we did not recommend them for advancement to Life rank. Now, the parent/advancement chair has questioned this, and said we have no right to make this sort of decision. She went on to say that, since the Scoutmaster (her husband, and the step-father of one of the Scouts!) passed them, that’s good enough for her. Any thoughts? (Name & Council Withheld)

Broadly, a board of review has the absolute responsibility and inalienable right to decide whether or not a Scout has properly completed all of the requirements for a rank. This doesn’t mean that the board can re-test the Scout; however, if in the course of the conversation it becomes obvious that one or more requirements has been altered in some way, then the board has an obligation to inform the Scout that he is not, in their estimation, ready to advance. The board then provides the Scout with written instructions on what to do to rectify this situation, and a time-line for completion, so that he can have a successful review.

However, the situation you describe is a no-brainer. If tenure hasn’t been met, there can’t be a board of review in the first place, and if the board members didn’t know of this shortcoming until the review began, then telling the Scout he’s a month early—come back in 30 days—is absolutely, positively the way to proceed. This decision can’t be superseded, which makes the advancement chair’s comment about what’s “good enough” for her meaningless.

Your troop’s larger problem is obvious, of course. I hope you all can find a way to replace the rascals and fix this mess.

Hello Andy,

For the Camping merit badge, it states in requirement 9(a), “You may use a week of long-term camp toward this requirement.” Does that mean only one week, or can they use a week every year? Also if the Scout’s a Den Chef, and goes to Cub Camp with his den, can that count towards camping nights? And what about camping with your brother who’s a Cub Scout, on pack or den outings? (Jim Donatelli, Greater Pittsburgh Council, PA)

You’re a Merit Badge Counselor for Camping, yes?

No, I’m not a Merit Badge Counselor; I’m an Assistant Scoutmaster and have taken over the advancement position for the troop. This is a topic often discussed at committee meetings, with different opinions on what can count towards camping nights. As the advancement chair, I’d like to know the facts. It depends on who you ask. I can’t get a definite answer, especially in writing. (Jim)

My best recommendation is for you to consult with a Merit Badge Counselor for Camping. The MBC has total and final say-so regarding requirement compliance and merit badge completion, so this would be the very best person you could possibly ask! But, come to think of it, why would you all need to even give this a thought? This is between the Scout and his Merit Badge Counselor, and it’s really outside your purview, unless you sorta like wrappin’ yourselves around your own axle. In the meanwhile, just read the requirement: “A week” means just that: Up to seven days-and-nights. Period.

On your volunteer position with the troop, Assistant Scoutmasters have specific responsibilities, but “advancement” usually isn’t one of them, because the advancement chair typically schedules and then heads up boards of review, and neither a Scoutmaster nor Assistant Scoutmaster can be a board of review member, so you’re outa luck on “finishing” the Scouts in your troop!

If you want to be an Assistant Scoutmaster and do that job, great! If you want to be the troop advancement chair, then you’re better off changing your registration to committee member.

Dear Andy,

First, what’s the BSA policy for a troop treasurer opening an account and getting a debit card or credit card? I recall something mentioned in commissioner’s training about two-deep leadership for the position, and a troop should have two people to sign on checks. As a troop committee, we’ve previously asked for a report with troop account information on a quarterly basis, because the treasurer gets overwhelmed if she has to do it monthly. We have not received that information, and now she wants to make things simpler by getting debit card for her use. What do you think?

Second, who should approach an adult on the unit committee when she’s after another committee member while she’s married to one of the other volunteers in the troop? I call it fraternizing, and it’s wrong and a poor example to Scouts who may see or overhear inappropriate conversations while the two flirting. (Name & Council Withheld)

Those are two very interesting questions and I’m going to try to keep my answers just as brief and un-complicated as possible…

The BSA doesn’t have a policy about unit checking accounts. This is up to the grown-ups in the unit, and the grown-ups in the sponsoring organization, to agree on. It’s also dependent on what a local bank will agree to. That said, the treasurer is typically the one in any organization, group, club, etc. who reimburses people for their purchases; the treasurer doesn’t actually make the purchases all by himself or herself. When a purchase is made, the purchaser submits the bill proving the expense to the committee chair, the committee chair initials it as OK and gives it to the treasurer, and then the treasurer enters the expense in the record and writes the reimbursement check payable to the original purchaser. This is a very straightforward way of doing things and most volunteer groups follow this simple procedure. No “debit” or other card is ever necessary, because the treasurer is never making actual purchases. If you have a treasurer who isn’t capable of keeping track of and reporting income and expenses of a troop monthly, your troop needs to get a new treasurer—one who can actually do the job.

If one or more grown-ups associated with the troop is messin’ around, or just giving the appearance of messin’ around, the Committee Chair, with the Chartered Organization Representative at his side, needs to shut ’em down, privately, quietly, and for sure. If they don’t get the message the first time, they’re on the outside lookin’ in fast as you can say Jack Robinson.

Dear Andy,

As COR for both a pack and a troop, one of the thing I enjoy doing is when I find out that a new adult volunteer earned either the Arrow of Light or Eagle Scout rank as a youth, I present them with their “square knot” at a pack or troop meeting. Last night I discovered that a new adult leader had earned the equivalent of Eagle as a Scout in Argentina. Is he entitled to wear the Eagle square knot if he received his Eagle in a different country? In looking at the requirements pertaining to who may wear the knot, it doesn’t specify that the Eagle must be earned in the U.S. (Mark Thielen, Southwest Florida Council)

I’ve known Scouters from the U.K. who earned their Queen’s Scout Award (the highest youth rank in the British Scout Association); however, it’s called Queen’s Scout; not Eagle Scout. If you learn, however, that this gentleman earned the BSA Eagle Scout rank in Argentina, or anywhere, then of course he’s entitled to wear the corresponding adult “square knot” badge.

Hi Andy,

I’d like to know where you get your information and in what publication is the BSA policy printed on the selection and appointment of the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster position. Thanks for your help and good Scouting to you (Army Leonetti, Program & Training Executive, Greater Niagara Frontier Council, NY)

I’ve found that 99% of the information we need about Boy Scouting is the Boy Scout Handbook, and the other 99% is in the Scoutmaster Handbook.

NetCommish Comment: In addition to the handbooks that Andy mentioned you can also find a helpful training presentation that includes a description of the role of Junior Assistant Scoutmaster and the appointment criteria at BSA’s Online Learning Center. See, But remember, start with the handbook.

Dear Andy,

Can you complete a requirement for a merit badge before you start the badge? For example, you take an airplane flight on a commercial airline in June, and then in September you decide to start the Aviation merit badge. Can you count that flight as satisfying one of the two for requirement no. 2? (Sandy)

In his introductory meeting with his Merit Badge Counselor, the Scout can ask this question. It’s a good one, and worth asking.

Dear Andy,

Since the issue of evaluating the “active” requirement comes up so often, I’d like to share three methods I use…

First, in the Scoutmaster’s Conference, ask the Scout how he’s fulfilled this requirement for the rank—His answer may surprise you! Second, check out the current Advancement Policy Book. Third, in the Conference just look across the table—If there’s a Scout sitting there, there’s a 99% good chance he’s fulfilled the requirement! (Clarke Green) (PS, I know what the “*” stands for in “RT*H”!)

IMHO, you’re right on the * money.

Dear Andy,

I started using coup sticks (like the one in the Webelos Den Leader Book) with my den to promote advancement and participation—I gave my Cubs a chart listing what they can get for certain things, to decorate their sticks. But then some of the Cubs felt that it wasn’t fair that “Johnny” got three bear claws when they only got one, even though Johnny went to Cub day camp and Cub resident camp plus a district overnight activity, but the others only went to day camp.

I also award bells to my Cubs, to reinforce positive behavior. For example, I “caught” a boy helping me to return our den meeting room to the way we found it, while the others left for the day, so I gave this Cub a small bell. But now I have several parents telling me I was “unfair” to their sons because I didn’t give them bells, too. Never mind that their sons weren’t even there.

Last year, our pack gave special patches to Cubs who wore their uniforms to pack meetings, until one of the leaders said it wasn’t fair to not give these to the Cubs who didn’t wear their uniforms.

I’m encountering parents who won’t take the time to open the handbook with their son and complete surprisingly simple activities, and then I get the blame because “Johnny” got his badge before their son. It seems that constantly making every single thing “fair” only causes people to refuse to take responsibility for their own actions—It’s just easier to shout “unfair.”

While I feel bad for kids whose parents teach them this stuff, I feel even worse for the boys who go above and beyond, and wind up getting their efforts reduced to the common denominator, or even belittled.

Trying to make everything “fair” is frustrating, but all I can do is provide equal opportunity for the boys in my den to advance. I gave every boy a calendar detailing what we’ll be doing in each den meeting until the end of the year, and what needs to be done at home. Everyone is aware of the potential, but they have to choose to participate. Am I missing something here? (Michelle, WDL, Detroit Area Council, MI)

You’re not missing a thing. Kids understand “fair” better than their own parents give them credit for, and those who don’t were invariably taught “entitlement” by their own parents. Don’t change a thing. Here’s a true story…

My kids’ grammar school held an annual “Hobby & Craft Show” for many years, in which students competed by grade level in a variety of categories, including creativity, science, craftsmanship, etc., and for each grade there was an overall Blue Ribbon for First Place, Red for Second and Yellow for Third Place. Every year, out of approximately 600 students, there were well over 500 entries. Then, one year, the parents got together and decided that just three “top ribbons” per grade wasn’t “fair,” and that every student who had an entry, regardless of its quality, would receive a “participant” ribbon and that there would be no more “discrimination” and “unfairness.” Well, word got to the students that there were no more top prizes and that everyone gets a ribbon, and guess what happened: Entries went from over 500 in previous years to under 100 that year, and even less the next year, and by the third year there was no more event, despite its having been in existence for over 60 years before they started messin’ with it in the name of “fairness.”

The kids know. And any kid who shouts “unfair” has been taught this by a parent who is absolutely clueless about motivation, self-worth, and self-esteem.

So don’t change a thing and if I had a medal I’d pin it on you! (But don’t tell anyone, cause they might think I’m bein’ “unfair”!)

Dear Andy,

What are proper hygiene guidelines used for shooting, and what are three shotgun sports? (Kelsey Buckmaster)

Scout shooting sports are supervised and controlled by trained range masters in each BSA council, and carried out only at BSA camps. This is a case where contacting your local council service center is the way to go.

Dear Andy,

I’m a mom helping out with a Denali Award ceremony; there are five Scouts getting it. We really don’t know what to do. Have you heard of any cool ceremonies for this award? (Barbara Larsen, Great Salt Lake Council, UT)

The Denali Award is certainly significant, especially for five young men at once! I’m not aware, however, of any particular “published” ceremonies for this award. You may want to reach out to your stake president and ask him to check around with others! Your council service center may have someone who can give you some suggestions, too. Best wishes and congratulations to those Varsity Scouts!

Dear Andy,

Are boards of review held only when a Scout’s ready for advancement, or can our Advancement Chair hold one to discuss merit badge completion with Scouts who have a lot of partials? What I mean is, can we hold one to ask why they haven’t finished up, or what plans do they have to finish them, or when do they expect they’ll be done, and is there anything the Scoutmaster or Advancement Chair can do to assist?

I hold Scoutmaster Conferences and ask the same questions, but our Advancement Chair would like to do the same thing. I don’t see a problem with it and think it’s a great idea, since it’ll only reinforce that we care and there are more people to help them other than me that they can go to. What do you think? (Hardy, SM)

Neither Scoutmasters conferences nor boards of review are in any way limited to when a Scout’s ready to advance. These are excellent and appropriate “tools” for the troop’s adult volunteers to employ, to encourage Scouts to continue to advance along the Scouting trail. This would include encouraging a Scout to convert a fistful of “partials” into real merit badges, too!

Team up! There’s no reason why you and the advancement chair can’t have a conversation with any Scout, to help him along. Of course, you want to keep everything conversational, avoid “why” questions wherever possible (A “Why…” question has the immediate tendency to put people—Scouts included—on the defensive), and make sure he doesn’t feel ganged up on or the subject of an inquisition! Try “what…” questions, like “What’s getting in the way of finishing up?” or “What court of honor would you like to receive this one at?” Other that that, I’d say you’ve got a great idea and run with it! Your own Question No. 4 is wonderful!

Dear Andy,

I’ve read your columns for a few years now and love what you have to impart on the rest of us Scouters. I’ve looked through some old posts and couldn’t find anything that addresses my issues (although I’m sure it is out there). Here is my issue that I hope you can help me with…

I am Troop Committee Chair and I’ve spoken with my Scoutmaster about an issue he’s having with two dads of two of our Scouts who crossed over from Webelos this past March. When the Scouts first came to our troop, the Scoutmaster let the two dads come on their first campout with the rest of the troop (as parents; not as registered volunteers). During this campout they did nothing but hover over their sons, smoked in front of all the Scouts, brought DVD players for their sons to use, went to McDonalds for their personal food (we cook as patrols but they didn’t participate). After that campout, I told the Scoutmaster that these dads couldn’t camp with the troop in the future; however, now that we’re into our new Scout year, we have these same two dads wanting to go camping with the troop. Now I can handle resolving the issues like DVD players and smoking and McDonalds—that’s the easy part. What I need some guidance with is how to keep the “I don’t get it” dads from camping with us. Are there rules that dictate which adults can camp and when they can camp, such as only registered and trained Assistant Scoutmasters? Your thoughts on this would be appreciated, as well as directing me to any BSA publications that address the way to handle this. I need to institute rules that follow the BSA rules while being fair to the entire troop. I assume it’s not as easy as telling them to get lost, if it’s purely to exclude only these two dads…or is it? I need a rule that I can enforce across the whole troop in a fair manner. I hope the answer is not that any registered leader can camp, since it’s too easy for these two to just fork over the registration fee and fill out an application and then be able to camp. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my concerns. (Matt Riti, CC, Central New Jersey Council)

The overall solution to your problem is simpler than you may have imagined: You and the Scoutmaster hold an “orientation” meeting of all new parents and, in it, describe precisely what’s expected of parents and what isn’t. You see, the fundamental problem here seems to be that no one’s spoken up! You don’t need “written rules.” In the first place, they’ll take way too long to construct and in the second the BSA’s already done it for you! Just follow, for the most part, the GTSS, and you’ll be OK. On the electronics, that’s simply a big NO and you don’t need a “policy” on that—you just say so. Stuff like smoking is, of course, strictly forbidden and shame on the leader who saw this and didn’t put an immediate stop to it. Time to grow some spines, folks!

As for down the road, since adults don’t camp side-by-side with the Scouts anyway, so long as they behave themselves and stay away from the Scouts, any parent should be welcome to camp—and drive, and cook, and pitch tents, and clean up, and…you’re getting this, right?

Oh, just so it’s covered, any adult who violates a BSA policy (e.g., smoking, alcohol, firearms, etc.) must be asked to cease immediately and if they refuse must be ordered to leave the campsite immediately. Any person who refuses, you call the cops and have ‘em hauled out. End of story.

Dear Andy,

I have a concern about the BSA organizational structure or shall we say lack thereof. Our Scoutmaster together with our Committee Chair is resolute in making up his own rules about how the troop should be run. This has caused many conflicts with parents and Scouts, and caused quite a few to leave the troop. All we’ve asked is that they follow BSA policies and not their own made-up rules. Even when I’ve complained to council officials, they’ve responded that there’s nothing they can do. What this means to me is that any troop can operate outside of BSA policies without documentation or visibility of their policy differences by the Scouts or their parents. Each troop is an island to itself, a personal Boy Scout club with no overall governance by the BSA organization—In other words, no chain of command. Now our family is faced with looking for a new troop for our two sons and, unfortunately, there’s no way for me to know which troops strictly follow BSA policy or make up their own policies. Sadly, I believe that if more people knew of this lack of structure and transparency they would not put their sons in Boy Scouts. It makes me wonder how many boys have left Scouting over conflicts, not knowing that they were just cheated by self-indulging adult leaders. My suggestion is that if the BSA cannot enforce policy at the troop level, then they should, in the spirit of fairness and transparency, insist that each troop document and make public their operating procedures that differ from BSA’s. What do you think? (John Acampora)

I think you raise very important points about the need for volunteers in Scouting to deliver the program as written, and not according to their own whims or predilections. Many of the questions in my columns address wayward volunteers and I’ve also devoted some columns in their entirety to this subject.

The proper “policing,” however, is supposed to be done by the actual owners of the Scouting units: The Chartered Organizations themselves. If they fail to notice, or fail to take action, then the culprits will persist in their off-center methods, and the big losers are, of course, the very youth we’re supposed to be here to serve.

You’re pursuing the right course of action: When we find a wayward troop that is not “right-able,” we steer clear; when we discover from within that the program’s been corrupted, we get out!

For what to look for when visiting a new troop, read a few of my recent columns and/or read the front end of the Boy Scout Handbook. My best wishes for a happier Scouting experience are with your two sons and their friends.

Hi Andy,

My son’s is a Life Scout. He attended the 2005 National Scout Jamboree and prefers his Jambo cap to the traditional Boy Scout cap. Is this acceptable? Can it be worn as “official” uniform? (Laura, Hudson Valley Council, NY)

Which BSA cap is worn is a troop decision… You son can ask his Patrol Leader or Senior Patrol Leader if this is OK. (Makes me wonder what he’s been doin’ for the past three years, though!)

Dear Andy,

Our Senior Patrol Leader just decided to step down from his position. The Scoutmaster took it upon himself to assign the ASPL to this slot. We have troop elections in two months, so it’s only short-term, but what I want to know is this: Can a Scoutmaster take it upon himself to shift the ASPL to the SPL position, or should this have been decided by the Patrol Leaders Council (PLC)? (Debbie Fuentes, Troop Advancement Coordinator West Central Florida Council)

I’m going to say this is a judgment call, pure and simple. The PLC doesn’t pick from amongst themselves, so that that’s not an avenue anyway. But if a new election’s held right now, just two months before the regularly scheduled election, at least one patrol will need to reshuffle itself, but for how long? Two months? Eight months? Somewhere in-between? Does the troop do a two-month shift of all future elections? Instead of all this, how about giving the ASPL a shot at the job, and coach him along the way? If I were your troop’s Scoutmaster, I’d probably opt for this path, because it seems to make sense and it’s certainly the least disruptive to overall troop operations. Besides, the ASPL was hand-picked by the SPL, so they’re likely to be similar in leadership style and motivation, which help keep a troop firing on all cylinders.

Hello Andy,

I’m a Scoutmaster, and my question is on the BSA Policy that states, “No one-on-one contact with youth.” The description of this policy looks to focus on face-to-face contact. Does this policy also apply to email and phone communications? If so, how does a Scoutmaster (or any adult volunteer, for that matter) handle such communications and not violate the BSA policy? (Larry Osorio, SM, Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council, CA)

Fabulous question! Speaking just for myself, to be really safe (which, as an internationally read columnist, I must!), I insist that a Scout who writes to me via email to either Cc a parent or use a parent’s address to communicate. If it’s our first communication, I Cc our webmaster, just so there’s a “third party.” Back here at home, when I’m counseling a Scout or Scouts on a merit badge, I usually ask my wife to be in the room with me. When I’m making a phone call to a single Scout, I use a speaker-phone, and she’s in the room. Maybe I’m being over-cautious, but remember: Even the paranoid have enemies! (just joking…sorta)

Hi Andy,

That’s a wonderful answer! In addition to having the Scout Cc his parent or guardian, I’ll do so, too. I’ll also have my ASMs follow this procedure. Also, as you note, it would be good to have a “third party” involved in the communications. For my troop, that would probably be our Committee Chair. On phone communications, I love your speakerphone idea—It’s really great. Thanks! This will help my troop and my adult leaders. (Larry Osorio)

You asked one of the most intelligent questions ever to hit this writer! THANKS!

Happy Scouting!


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

Letters to AskAndy may be published at the discretion of the columnist and the editor. If you prefer to have your name or affiliation withheld from publication, please advise in your letter.


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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