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Issue 255 – May 11, 2011

Andy’s Rule No. 11:

  • If you’ve molded yourself to have Command Presence you never need to announce who’s in charge and you’re never challenged.

Andy’s Rule No. 12:

  • Life is a series of lessons. Each lesson appears to us in different ways and forms until we learn it. Then the next lesson appears.

Hi Andy,

In a fairly recent column, you were talking about prices of Scout uniform parts, and I think a few may have been “old” prices. Here’s the current pricing for Boy Scout shorts, zip-leg pants, and socks. For the shorts last year we had a big price reduction, so youth sizes are now $14.99 and adult sizes are $19.99. Shorts are now constructed like a swimsuit, with a drawstring, mesh liner, and no rear pockets. The nylon zip-leg pants are $49.99 regardless of age or size, including a pack-clip belt. The canvas versions are $34.99 for youth and $39.99 for adult. The leg bottoms are unfinished and will require hemming (no cuffs). Also, these need a web belt: $11.99 to $13.99 depending on waist size. As for socks, the least expensive are now $5.99. I hope this information may help some readers. (Steve Hanson, Scout Shop Manager, Capitol Area Council, TX)

Yup, you guessed right. That particular letter dates back to 2008, so I’m in debt to your sharp eyes. Thanks!

Greetings Andy,

Can you please tell me what the rules are for the Webelos-to-Scout cross-over or bridging ceremony? Are the Webelos crossing over required to complete a Boy Scout application before ceremony actually gets underway? For years, our pack has linked the Arrow of Light and the cross-over ceremonies without requiring completed and signed applications. And then the troop does, of course, require an application before the new boys officially join the troop and receive their Scout rank. Is this acceptable? (Terry McGarty, ASM, Westchester-Putnam Council, NY)

So long as the boy has declared that he’s indeed joining the troop, he crosses the bridge and is welcomed on the other side by representatives of the troop (many troops present the boys crossing over with troop neckerchief at this time; others present handbooks; still others do both). The application can be filled out and signed by the new Scout and his parents at their first visit to the troop meeting, or the family can be given the application immediately following the ceremony, and asked to bring it, along with whatever dues would be appropriate, to the very next troop meeting. There’s no current BSA policy that says the application must be filled out in advance of the ceremony (although, if we go back a few years, a while ago this absolutely was a requirement for the Arrow of Light rank!)

And speaking of ranks, “Scout” isn’t. That’s right: The Scout badge that a Boy Scout first receives upon demonstrating his knowledge of the fundamentals, isn’t a rank; the first rank in Boy Scouting is Tenderfoot. This is one of the reasons why the old “Tenderfoot Investiture Ceremony” is still a very powerful bonding tool for the troop and its Scouts! Check it out!

One more thing… When you have your new parent orientation, be sure all parents thoroughly understand that although in Cub Scouting their sons advanced one rank per school year and received Cub Scouting’s highest rank right at the sunset of their Cub Scouting years, in Boy Scouting this is absolutely not the situation. We do not expect a Scout to earn Tenderfoot in sixth grade, Second Class in seventh, and so on until it’s time for Eagle, in his junior year of high school (or later!). Rank advancement in Boy Scouting—and they must get this concept into their heads!—is at will and if a boy wants to target, let’s say, his 13th birthday as the day he completes his requirements for the Eagle rank, that’s absolutely OK with everybody!

And there’s one more thing that new Scout parents need to be told and then reassured of, and this is the perfect time to do it: In Cub Scouting for the past four years, the “big deal” was to get to pack meetings; but here in Boy Scouting now, the goal isn’t to get to troop and (if you still have ‘em) patrol meetings; it’s to get to camp! Whether a patrol hike, troop overnight camping trip, week-long summer camp, or a two-week long summer camp, high adventure base, or other troop activity, getting to these is the big idea! The weekly troop meetings and such are the backbone of the real outdoor fun—they’re a means to an end and in that regard are important, but they’re designed to lead to just one thing: getting out there!

Hello Andy,

I’m a Merit Badge Counselor for Hiking. My own sons started work on this merit badge at summer camp last year, and while there completed four required 10-mile hikes. Am I permitted to take my sons on a hike, along with other Scouts who have been working with me here, back home, and then, when they’re all completed, sign the “blue cards” for all of them, or would this be a problem? (Jacqie, MBC)

The BSA certainly permits a Merit Badge Counselor to counsel his or her own sons or nephews. Also, it’s nice but certainly not mandatory that the Counselor be present on the actual hikes: So long as the Scout returns with his detailed “diary” of each of his hikes, that’s sufficient (refer to the language of req. 7).

Dear Andy,

I’ve been holding off on this for a while, but here goes… I’m the new Unit Commissioner for Scout troop that has two brand-new committee members: the Committee Chair and troop treasurer. They are husband-and-wife who were formerly involved with a Cub Scout pack for which she was the Cubmaster. The story on the street is that, during their tenure, the pack was “barely legal” (no further definition, however). What we are seeing is a propensity to want to “run the troop” as they see fit, regardless. For instance, the troop has been successful in part because for the past four decades the emphasis has been on being Scout-led, with support by the parents—many parents. Now, these two new people are taking virtually all responsibilities on themselves, even to the point of overriding others who have a long history of volunteering to carry out certain responsibilities. Now, whensomeone volunteers to do a job, he or she gets shot down, and the wife says that she’ll do it, or the husband asks the ready volunteer to wait a bit…and the next thing you know, his wife has done the job, instead. The result of this is that parents who have been involved for some time now find themselves cut out of involvement, and they’re starting to drift away from the troop, with some who have already just walked away, period. As their UC, I’ve had a couple of quiet, polite conversations with the husband here, and I’ve asked him to review the specific responsibilities he and his wife have taken on, and then stick to these. That worked for a few days, and then it was right back to the same pattern as before. What to do to get these folk to back down. (Frustrated UC in Great Sauk Trail Council, MI)

Do you truly believe these two people are going to “back down”? From what you’ve told me, I sure don’t. In fact, I believe they have a mutually-shared agenda that’s all about power (which they most likely find absent or unattainable in the other areas of their lives).

Isn’t that how they got into the cat-bird seats in the first place? For two brand-new people to show up at a new troop and moments later they’re in positions of absolute power over everyone else says a lot about their ambition and the troop’s parents’ naïveté!

The best advice you can provide—including the “steering” that will be necessary in order to get this troop extricated from this morass—is how the Chartered Organization Representative (registration code: CR) can remove both of these people, with impunity and no reason need be offered beyond “Your services are no longer needed.” If, when you check the troop’s chartering roster for this current Scouting year, you find that the CC is dual-registered as the CR as well, then we need Plan B. Plan B is that all of the annoyed parents schedule an in-person meeting with the head (also called executive officer) of the chartered organization (aka “CO”) itself and, in as few words as possible and with tempers under control, describe how this couple is damaging the very fabric of the Scouting program here and must be removed right now, so that the damage can stop before the troop’s destroyed. If the head of the CO is unwilling to do this, then Plan C must be carried out. Plan C is that every Scout family who believes that the Scouting program is no longer being delivered resigns from the troop en masse and joins another nearby troop, where the program’s run properly.

Unfortunately, trying to “make nice-nice” and “let’s try to appease this couple” and “maybe they’ll see the light, over time” is simply damaging your own sons’ experience in Scouting—maybe permanently. If it looks like there’s going to be a weak CO head or parents who “don’t want to make a scene” or “don’t want to upset anybody,” they need to be told in no uncertain terms that allowing these “our way or highway” control freaks to ruin their sons’ experiences is tantamount to neglectful parenting. BTW, once these two are removed, and the council registrar is called and told to remove their names from the troop roster, there is absolutely no “back door” or “side door” pathway back into the troop—The chartered organization does have absolute and final say-so as to who its volunteer adults are, and aren’t.

Oh, yeah, one more thing… This is an Andy’s Rule #3 situation (if you don’t know it, check my April 24th column).

Hi Andy-

AS troop advancement coordinator, my question is, if a Scout finishes two ranks at around the same time, such as Tenderfoot and Second Class, or Second and First Class, what’s the proper amount of time we should wait between boards of review? And my husband, who’s Scoutmaster, has the same question for you in regards to his Scoutmaster Conferences. Any insight you can provide would be very appreciated. (Christine Patchen, Mount Diablo-Silverado Council, CA)

How about 60 seconds? The BSA advises us that Tenderfoot-Second Class, Second-First Class, or even all three may happen to be competed concurrently, and, while no board of review can be for more than a single rank at a time, as soon as one is completed successfully, the next one may begin! How about that!

For your Scoutmaster husband, it’s the same fundamental concept! Or, since conferences for these ranks run about five or ten minutes at the absolute maximum, he could “choreograph” it so that, after the Scout completes his review for, let’s say, Tenderfoot, another Scout begins his review on whatever rank he’s just completed the requirements for, while the first Scout returns to the Scoutmaster, who asks, “Well, how did that go for you? OK? Ready for your next one? Yes? Well, let’s get in there and do it!” (Let’s remember, also, that for these ranks the conference lasts only about ten minutes, too!)

I hope that you two are absolutely delighted with this news. I’m pretty sure your Scouts will be!

Dear Andy,

If a pack committee and the Chartered Organization Rep. decide unanimously to remove a Cubmaster, whose job isit to present the letter to the Cubmaster? Does the Committee Chair do this, or does the Chartered Organization Representative? As far I know, the CR is the one, but I want to be sure, because I’m the CC and the committee and the CR are all telling me that it’s my job. Can you help? (Uncomfortable CC)

If the Chartered Organization Representative and the Committee Chair are in agreement about the adding or removal of any unit volunteer, then they both meet with that person and together make the announcement. The BSA counsels us that this is absolutely a team thing, not done lightly, and especially when it involves a removal, it’s good to have a witness to the conversation, so that it doesn’t devolve into a bitter “He said-She said” contest. Meanwhile, shame on a bunch of folks that make a decision that leads to something like this and then disappear into the shrubbery! I’m not impressed.

Dear Andy,

I wasn’t a Boy Scout myself, so I’m basically new to Scouting. My son’s been a Scout for just over a year. He’s in 6th grade and a Second Class Scout, soon to be First! He’ll be going to Scout summer camp again this year, too! Personally, I really enjoy the ten-day summer camp program we have, and I’m wondering how I can get information on other camp opportunities. I know that most troops go to camp together, to use the patrol method, but could I take my son to a different camp in another state, to experience something else? Even if we were by ourselves and not with his troop? Are individual Scoutsallowed to attend camps like that? What are the rules and where do I go to get more information? We’re not too far from Colorado, for instance, where they might offer mountain biking or horseback riding. What do you think? (Robert Aks, Heart of America Council, MO/KS)

Ahhh, nothing better than a great steak at j.gilbert’s in Overland Park! It’s gotta be 20 years, but great steaks a guy doesn’t forget. Well, back to work, I’m delighted that your son’s enjoying himself in Scouting, and it’s wonderful that you like what you’re seeing, in his growth and development right along with his friends in the troop! And that’s the whole idea… Boys learning, growing, and having fun and adventures with other boys! If this is a troop that’s delivering the Scouting program as it’s supposed to be delivered, adult involvement with the boys is kept to a minimum so that peer relationships among the Scouts become the strongest bonds. To put it in more blunt language: Boy Scouting isn’t intended to be a “family” program or even a “father-and-son” program; it’s a boy-among-boys program with minimal adults in the background, as mentors and occasionally safety nets. So, here’s the deal: Yes, your son can go to other camps, as what’s called a “provisional” camper; that is, he’s in a troop site with other individual Scouts from all different troops. Check the Scout camps in your area, including the one his troop goes to, and see if they have a provisional camping program.

Now this doesn’t mean that you and your son can’t do some hiking or camping, or canoeing or other outdoor activities together… You’d simply be doing them outside the Boy Scout program. So definitely make some plans with your son… Maybe start off with a day-hike (and let your son lead, and show you what he’s learned, rather than you being the know-all woodsman—this is a powerful growth opportunity for your son, so long as you don’t tell him that’s what it is!). Or go rent a canoe somewhere. Or visit a campground, national park, national forest area, or national monument that allows hiking and overnight camping… just you and he.

But don’t attempt to “compete” with his activities with his troop and patrol. Let him find his own way in this. It’ll be fine!To once again be a bit on the blunt side: Resist the temptation to use your son as a way to make up for something you may have the feeling you missed out on, as a boy yourself. This is for HIM.

Hi Andy,

I’ve always enjoyed your columns and your straightforward answers. My question’s about requirements to be a Lone Scout. I have a Scout who lives between his parents’ homes in two different communities—in this case two different states. I’ve checked with our district and sent them a copy of the eligibility information I found at and also on the website for “Scouting” magazine. The first thing that comes to mind, for most people is that this is for boys in rural areas; but that’s only one of the eligibilities. I realize that the district will be the ones to approve this, and I’d like your thoughts as to how to proceed. (Name & Council Withheld)

I’d recommend a bit more research, by speaking directly with the Scout himself. How far apart are these two communities…2 miles, 20 miles, 200 miles? This alone makes a big difference in how to make this as easy for the Scout as reasonably possible. Another very important issue is which parent has legal custody and which has visiting rights. Then there’s the living-visiting arrangement. Next, when he goes to school, with which parent is he living, and what’s the neighborhood like, as far as nearby Scout troops? You see, based on the little information you have at the moment, there’s absolutely nothing that indicates that Lone Scout is the only possible, or even the preferred, way to go here. So, let’s learn some more and then talk again, OK?

You’re great! Here’s what I’ve found out… The boy lives mostly with his mom, about 200 miles from dad. Mom is a very busy professional (read: not around a lot). There are troops around the area, and during the week this boy (and his mother) rely on friends and neighbors for transportation after the school bus drop-off. This Scout is very busy with high school baseball in-season, and then a summer baseball league, too. He is at his dad’s one weekend a month during the school year and until recently a month or more during the summer, but now with the summer league he’s on monthly weekend visits, working around the game schedule. He’s a Life Scout and he gets to as many troop meetings as he can, but now he’s sort of left the troop because of his parents’ schedules and his own sports schedule. He wants to be an Eagle Scout, and has made his contacts for doing an Eagle Scout service project. I’m looking into Lone Scout status for him because it seems that this would allow him to complete his trail to Eagle (without having to attend troop meetings, which are difficult for him). What do you think? Is this the way to do it? (N&CW)

If this young man has been in a troop near his mom’s home for how many years now, it seems unnecessary for a change to be made at this juncture. With his current schedule (baseball included) it’s unlikely that he’ll be doing any sort of Eagle project at his dad’s over the summer, but even if he does, that’s OK, because there’s no rule that says the project has to be anywhere other than in “your community” and since he has two “communities” he’s free to do his project at either location. Meanwhile, if he stays in the troop he’s been in, he can take advantage of the infrastructure and support system that’s in place there, including his Scoutmaster, the troop’s advancement coordinator, possibly a troop Eagle candidate adviser, plus his friends in the troop and at school (who will be invaluable to him on his service project, because projects aren’t intended to be “solo” experiences—they’re about leading others!).

As for transportation, is it silly of me to assume that this young man doesn’t own a bike or doesn’t know how to ride one to and from his troop meetings and such? Hitching rides from friends is great, but a little resourcefulness on his part, in this dimension, wouldn’t hurt.

As for baseball-versus-Eagle, sometimes life presents us with difficult choices, and maybe this is one of them. There are times in everyone’s life when we just don’t get to have it both ways. Decisions like these are part of life’s lessons (see my Rule No. 12).

Dear Andy,

Our troop is geographically close to another council’s border. Just across that border, there’s a troop that recruits boys, does fund-raisers, and in general represents itself as being a part of our council. This includes contacting local officials for such things as Eagle projects. Why are they allowed to get away with ignoring the rules and regulations of their own council? This is a long-term problem and, far as I know, it’s not been addressed, although it’s apparently been discussed with that council’s Scout Executive. I realize that this is a delicate situation, but rules are rules. Who do I need to contact at the national level to get this problem resolved? (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m puzzled by the statement, “…it’s not been addressed although it has been discussed with that council’s Scout Executive.” If it’s been discussed, what was the result of that discussion? Based on what you’ve told me here, it sounds like a second discussion with your own Scout Executive is in order, since, apparently, nothing’s resulted, so far. Neighboring Scout Executives often know one another, so this may best be handled through a back door rather than applying a ram to the one in the front. Have that conversation in person! (NO EMAIL!)

This matter’s been discussed face-to-face with our Scout Executive, and he’s written a letter to his counterpart at the other council, and that’s where it sits. It’s been sitting there for going on two years now, and it’s escalating: Since the first time I wrote to you, another council’s Scouting group—pack, troop, and crew—has established itself inside the boundaries of our own council’s service territory and is beginning to get predatory already. In response to these situations, out Scout Executive claims that there’s not a thing he can do if his counterparts in the neighboring councils are willing to do take preventative or at least educational action of some sort. Are rules just for those who choose to follow them? The adult leaders of all of these encroaching units know exactly what they’re doing and have no question about the wrongness of it, but they seem to have no compunctions to alter their ways, which is understandable given the blind eye that’s been cavalierly cast their way. And so the encroachments continue, escalate, and no one seems motivated to put an end to it, so long as it can be kept off the larger radar screen (which is the argument for not stirring things up: “You wouldn’t want to do something or say something to the local news media that might cast an unfavorable view of the Scouting program, would you?”) This is why I’m writing to you… You’re our last resort. I truly don’t want to cast a bad reflection on the Scouting program but we do need for this to change. The encroaching units profess to be from this council, a flat-out lie that’s impossible for any group of canny Scouts to figure out, and so what sort of modeling do we have going on here? And, at the same time, no one on our side of the proverbial fence has effectively stopped these units from taking the liberties they have. What do we do? Who should do what? Where do we go from here? Help! (N&CW)

If, in the two years that this has been going on, and now it’s escalating, all your Scout Executive has done is to “write a letter,” I can’t hold any high hopes for resolution from him. The problem you’re faced with here, as in any walk of life where stuff like this can happen, is that there are people who, on seeing a “no trespassing” sign, know only how to violate it; they have a gene or something missing that keeps them in due bounds. And then, when they know they’re doing wrong and the top guys in the power hierarchy walk small and use tiny words If any at all) around them, and walk small around what’s going on, they feel even more empowered. The other council’s executives may well be smiling at what pushovers your council’s folks are, and your own spineless Scout Executive is proof of this. To these units, their Genghis Kahn approach to unit growth and development is obviously working, so give me any reason why they might think they need to change!

Now you could try tracking down the folks who are supposed to be managing your region (I don’t know which one you’re in, obviously, so I can’t give you any ideas for leads) may prove fairly fruitless now that the regions, if not having their teeth removed are certainly losing their offices and much of their personnel, so what sort of :power” do we figure they’re going to be? Not much, Bunky!

So, what to do… Well, here’s a thought: INK HELPS. That’s right, the more your own troop’s in the local papers, the county section of the larger paper in your area, your town’s cable access channel, the local on-line “electronic news” (e.g., “” and possibly others), etc., the more people—residents and business owners alike are going to connect the dots. So, create a parent task force (they don’t even have to register as committee members if they don’t want to at the moment) whose mission it will be to get this troop as much “ink” as they can run their hot little fingers across a computer keyboard on! With lots of photos (and don’t forget the parental release forms—swipe a generic from online somewhere, even your own council’s “forms” files). Then, put together articles about the troop. Hiking trips, camping trips, food drive good turns, planting spring flowers for your sponsor or for the local nursing home or local kindergarten (with little kids in the photos—papers go nutso over these!). Photos of courts of honor and 14 year-old Johnny gets his Eagle. Fun stories and photos, like flipping the kayaks and getting soaked. You get the idea… and each and every article ends with a description of the troop being the only troop in the town that’s a member of the XXX Council and supports the area of XXX and do this week in, week out. In effect, “bury” the other guys, not with “bad press” about them but with GREAT press about you all. Then, when you go to your local Schools to pitch for sixth-graders to join the ONLY troop in the XXX Council and the HOTTEST troop in town, you’ll be building on the message. In affect, what you’re going to demonstrate, without ever getting nose-to-nose confrontational, is that these guys brought a knife to a gun fight. End of story!

BUT, one thing: If you decide on this route, it can’t be “token” or half-hearted or “well, we’ll try it for a couple of weeks and see what happens.” No, this is a minimum one solid year commitment and it’s every single week—summer weeks, too–without letup. Get out there and bury these guys! Hoo-Hah!

Hi Andy,

Thank you for your columns—They’re filled with insightful answers to many interesting questions. Now I have two for you.

What happens when a Scout fills up his merit badge sash, and stillcontinues to earn merit badges? The Scout doing this found a “long” version of the merit badge sash, which he did switch to, but then he promptly filled it up, too. Is there a wider version available somewhere?

Second question: We have an exceptional Scout who always attends in uniform, sets a good example for others to follow, is eagerly self-motivated to learn and complete merit badges, selflessly volunteers time on non-troop community service projects, signs up for nearly all troop activities, and the list goes on. How can we honor this Scout, so that his actions are recognized? (Robert Kaye, Mid-Iowa Council)

The first question’s interesting, because while there are 120 or so merit badges, there’s room, on a standard-length, three-merit-badges-wide merit badge sash, for…wanna guess…120 merit badges.

The second question’s even more intriguing. Let’s see here… What we seem to have is a young man who “gets it.” He understands what it means to be a Boy Scout and he’s living the Scout Oath and Law in his daily life. So,why are we going to give him special recognition for doing precisely what every young man is ultimately expected to be doing, as a Scout? Do you not believe that, in living his life in this way, honors and recognition won’t happen for him naturally? He’s going to earn Eagle Scout rank, he’s likely to be elected by his fellow Scouts to the Order of the Arrow, where he’s likely to be there honored by his brother Arrowmen in a few short years with the Vigil Honor, he’ll naturally earn his faith’s religious emblem, he’ll stand out in academics or sports or music or all of these equally naturally, and—back in his troop again—he’ll be elected Senior Patrol Leader–the weightiest and most influential leadership position in a Boy Scout troop. So, again, what is it we want to give him a special recognition for?

Thanks for your insightful reply. Regarding the merit badge sash, I seem to recall reading somewhere that the front was for merit badges and the back was for temporary patches. When I asked our Scoutmaster, he said that the entire sash—front and back—was for merit badges, and that the “temporary” patches on the back of the sash was a common misconception.

This latter piece of information is interesting for those of us in Commissioner roles, because we occasionally perform, or encourage, uniform inspections.

I appreciate you setting me straight about the Scout who “gets it.” On reflection, I was questioning a possible solution, instead of questioning the actual problem. The deeper issue is that there’s a troop of exceptionally unmotivated youth (with this one Scout who stands out, whom I’d love to see the other Scouts begin to emulate, but I’m a little concerned that the opposite might happen). Motivation can be difficult. All I have is this carrot and this stick… Please let me know if you have any ideas. Thanks, again for your reply. It helped shift my thinking in a different direction. (Robert Kaye)

It’s not illegal to place what we call “temporary” badges on the back of a merit badge sash, but this should in no way be viewed as mandatory; it’s purely an option. One type of badge that is, in fact, inappropriate to place on the back of a sash (or anywhere else on the sash, for that matter) are rank badges. This is “in the book” too!

About those “exceptionally unmotivated” Scouts: What behaviors are they exhibiting? Whose attitude are they reflecting? By your observation of them, what is it that they do (or don’t do) that demonstrates their lack of motivation? In this regard, here are some considerations…

– If they don’t show up at troop meetings, what involvement in setting the troop meeting program do they have, and how much activity time (relative to listening to announcements and adults droning on and on) do they have?

– If they don’t show up for hikes or camping trips, who chose those hikes and camping trips? Did the Scouts themselves, via the Patrol Leaders Council or did a group of well-meaning adults choose for them?

– If they don’t wear their uniforms completely or correctly, are they doing this in the face of uniformed adult leaders showing up every week correctly and completely uniformed? Are they doing this even though, once a month, the troop holds a quick uniform inspection and rewards the patrol that’s most correctly and completely uniformed, including allowing for all to tie for first place?

One final thought: In Scouting, we only have “carrots”!

Dear Andy,

I’m interested in finding BSA rules or regulations on the types of knives a Cub Scout can have, and the use of these at den and pack functions, such as den outings and pack family camping. I’m certain that a Cub Scout can’t have a fixed-blade or “sheath” knife on such activities; they’re only allowed to use folding-blade or “pocket” knives—the type that flip open, but I need to know where this is written, so that the other pack leaders can see it and make note of it. I’d appreciate any assistance you can provide. (Stewart Gordon, CM, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

There’s a discussion of edged tool safety in the Guide to Safe Scouting, which is available in hard copy as well as on-line, that you can use, if you wish. You can also keep this issue very easy and straightforward by simply permitting official Cub Scout knives and nothing else, to be accompanied by the Whittlin’ Chit, which may be earned by Bears and above; not Wolf or Tiger (yes that means only Bears and higher may bring a Cub Scout knife and it must have a Whittlin’ Chit to go with it. As a side note, if anyone challenges you all on this, be aware that a unit may institute a safety rule, so long as it exceeds the standard of the council or the BSA—this is the one place where safety “rules”! Also, do remember that no youth in the Cub Scout program goes hiking or camping without his own parent or legal guardian with him, which means that all edged tools and their safe use are ultimately the responsibility of each and every legal adult! Check with your council’s risk management committee, for further help.

Dear Andy,

Can you please help clarify our thinking about a troop’s youth members who have drivers licenses driving themselves to and from troop meetings and camping trips? The GTSSstates adult-to-youth ratios-same vehicle,in the “Leadership Requirements for Trips and Outings” section:“If you cannot provide two adults for each vehicle, the minimum required is one adult and two or more youth members—never one on one.” While this seems to emphasize the prevention ofone-on-one contact, doesit also prohibit a youth from driving himself, alone? The GTSS also gives specific circumstances where a youth may be the driver of a vehicle transporting other members inthe “Transportation” section: “The driver must be currently licensed and at least 18 years of age. Youth member exception: When traveling to and from an area, regional, or national Boy Scout activity or any Venturing event under the leadership of an adult (at least 21 years of age) tour leader, a youth member at least 16 years of age may be a driver, subject to the following conditions: a. Six months’ driving experience as a licensed driver, b. No record of accidents or moving violations, c. Parental permission granted to the leader, driver, and riders. This seems to be talking about transporting others, but can we also interpret this to mean that a youth member can’t drive himself unless he’s 18? (Name & Council Withheld)

The BSA has no “rule” on how Scouts get themselves to and from meetings and events. You’ll find no stipulations on individual Scouts walking, Segue-ing, running, skiing, jogging, skate-boarding, roller-blading, cycling, motor-cycling, mo-peding, driving, snow-boarding, using public transportation, or any other transportation means to and from troop meetings, patrol meetings, or Scouting outdoor events.

Where licenses for driving vehicles are required, the state you live in has plenty of regulations. And each Scout’s parents are in charge of the rest. Stick with those. And relax…

Dear Andy,

Recently, a question on the disbursement of a scout’s individual funds, to be used for a troop campout, and currently held in the troop’s bank account arose. The troop’s treasurer is saying that, because the troop has a non-profit status, Scouts’ individual funds are not permitted to be disbursed prior to the event, but only upon their return. Some of the other committee members disagree with this. Is there a guide to follow, to keep the disbursements of the troop funds as transparent as possible, to meet some kind of IRS quality standard? Also, is there any information within the scouting network that can help with these kinds of questions, including who can and who can’t hold the positions of Committee Chair and treasurer, such as a husband and wife. (Herbert Cox, Chartered Organization Representative, Westmoreland-Fayette Council, PA)

Does the troop actually file a tax return? I somehow doubt this. Therefore, if the troop isn’t filing, then invoking some mysterious IRS regulations is hardly appropriate and starts folks wondering why the treasurer doesn’t want to give the Scouts their own money. I think the first thing I’d do as COR, is request copies of the last six months of account statements and a copy of the corresponding check register. Let’s remember that this money isn’t really “the troop’s” to manage: It’s for the chartered organization to manage, with the help of a volunteer among the troop parents; but if this doesn’t work, then fire the troop treasurer and give the books to your organization’s bookkeeper to straighten out and manage from here on out. Yes, in your position, you absolutely have the authority and right to do that, and you don’t need “permission” or a “vote” from anyone except the head or executive officer of the sponsor.

Let’s also remember that, based on what you’ve told me, these are Scouts’ own funds and the troop is simply the holding tank for those funds. Therefore, the troop has no authority to unreasonably withhold these funds! Now I’m no attorney, and this isn’t legal advice, but it sure is ethical advice. And Scouting isn’t anything if it’s not about ethical decisions.

As to having a Chair and treasurer who live under the same roof, this can sometimes be marvelously efficient and at other times be…well…the sort of mess you’re having right now. And, based on this, I’d say that your next announcement will be that one or the other of them has been replaced. The reason you’re going to do this isn’t because there’s some sort of problem; it’s so that there isn’t a problem at some later date that takes some latter-day Alexander to cut through your troop’s financial Gordian’s knot!

Happy Scouting!



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May 11, 2011 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2011)

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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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