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Issue 303 – April 17, 2012

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Rule No. 69:
• First Law of Guides, Manuals, and Handbooks: The topic you need the most is always absent from the index.
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Hi Andy,

Youth Protection guidelines state that a Scout “can’t sleep in a tent with an adult who is not his parent or guardian?” But can a Scout sleep in a tent with his 18 year-old Assistant Scoutmaster older brother? (Not that they’d want to share a tent anyway, but I thought I’d ask.) (Name & Council Withheld)

Your answer’s right in the quote you provided. If there were exceptions, they’d be stated. (The BSA is pretty thorough on policy matters.)
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Dear Andy,

When do Cub Scout advance their ranks? Is it at the end of the current school year/grade, or in September, when school starts up again? (Name & Council Withheld)

All Cub Scout ranks advance at the end of the current school grade; not in September when school starts up again.
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Dear Andy,

We have a troop patch, with our number on it, that’s round and about 3 inches diameter. I’ve noticed that some of our Scouts wear it as a temporary patch on their right shirt pocket while others wear it like a patrol emblem on their right sleeve. Is there any BSA-stipulated location for this type of patch? (We have a new group of Scouts joining up and I’d like to give them direction on what’s correct.) (Name Withheld, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

Standard BSA troop numerals are worn per the template on the inside back cover of the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK. Patrol emblems are worn per the same source. Self-designed “troop patches” replace neither of these. Troop patches can be placed on a “patch blanket” or on a troop-designed neckerchief. It would be inappropriate to wear such patches anywhere else on the uniform, because the BSA standard troop numeral already identifies the troop. While it’s acceptable to put the patch on the right shirt pocket (the “temporary patch” position), it’s sort of redundant there since there’s already a troop numeral on the left sleeve.

Now here’s the rub: You’ll be fine with the brand-new Scouts; how are you going to encourage incumbent Scouts with this patch in the wrong place to fix this?

BTW, although in some quarters they’re fairly popular, did you know that the BSA says district patches are no-no’s?
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Dear Andy,

I have a concern about Webelos req. 8: Faith. According to the book, the Webelos Scout has to talk about his beliefs. Included also is a possible visit to a place of worship, then a discussion about what he’s learned. When I was a Cubmaster, I didn’t have this issue because we were sponsored by a church, and the pastor was very much involved in our program. He was always available to discuss with anyone any questions about faith, even if someone didn’t profess to having any. This is a problem that really takes special importance when many of today’s families don’t belong or go to any church, synagogue, temple, or other place of worship; plus, with so many units meeting at schools, there could be a “separation of church and state” issue. So how do we help the boys with this requirement without making it look like we are sponsoring or supporting a particular faith? (Wendell Moats)

In its Statement of Religious Principles—which is printed in every youth and adult application—the BSA affirms that while a belief in God is expected (“On my honor, I will…do my duty to God…”) it further affirms that this is completely non-sectarian and non-denominational. In this area, to earn the Webelos badge requires either earning the religious emblem of one’s own faith or completing two of six other options, none of which is either denominational or sectarian. Today, while Scouts in various BSA programs might meet at schools, schools represent merely 8.2% of all sponsoring organization, while 68.4% are sponsored by religious institutions representing at least 25 different faiths (the balance are sponsored by civic organizations and other groups). However, membership in the unit (or in the BSA for that matter) in no way requires being simultaneously a member of any religious institution. Consequently, the Scout has the option of choosing whichever he wishes, including no organized religion at all. In fact, two of the six Webelos Req. 8 options require no involvement with any religious leader. This means that you can continue to have boys follow Req. 8 as written without fear of appearing biased in any particular direction.
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Dear Andy,

I’ve been reading your columns for years, and finally have a question… One of our council people made a statement at a recent meeting about e-mails and Youth Protection guidelines. He stated that, in communicating via email with a youth, an adult must copy another adult. However, when asked, he couldn’t pinpoint where this supposed rule is written. Now I do this myself as a regular practice anyway, just so there’s no mis-interpretation, but I couldn’t find anything in writing on this anywhere, either. Is this in fact BSA policy? Or not? (Curt Kamichoff, UC, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

You’re correct that there’s no specific BSA “edict” on how best to correspond via email, between an adult and a Scout, but there are certainly other BSA stipulations that, with a little thought, sensibly carry over to email. For instance, we know that Scoutmasters’ conferences are conducted one-on-one but “in public.” We also know that there must be a “buddy” when a Scout meets personally with a Merit Badge Counselor (the “buddy” can be another Scout, a parent or other relative, the counselor’s spouse or other relation, etc.). And we know from our YP training that a Scout and an adult are not to find themselves in “isolated” situations (including an adult driving a lone Scout not his or her son). So it’s a very tiny step to understand that, when emailing, it’s always best to include a third person as a “Cc,” so as to avoid the one-on-one situation.
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Dear Andy,

Are there national or local council policies on the definition of the troop committee chair, or is every troop allowed to make up whatever rules, roles, and responsibilities? In this regard, are “guidelines” considered “rules” or “suggestions”? It seems to me there has to be some national or at least regional policy defining the roles and responsibilities of a troop committee, such that troops aren’t allowed to simply make up whatever job descriptions they feel like. Can you clarify? (Ronald Anderson)

The TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDEBOOK describes the key troop committee roles and responsibilities. Alternatives to this structure and these positions and responsibilities do not exist. There is also a training course—”The Troop Committee Challenge”—that every one of your committee members is now required to take in order to maintain registration as BSA volunteers. Do that, and I’ll bet 99% of all your questions get answered.
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Dear Andy,

I’m trying to figure how to get my son into Boy Scouts. Years ago, when my older children were younger, they were all in Scouts: Three sons Boy Scouts and one daughter a Girl Scout. It’s been a while, though, and I can’t find a local troop for the area we live in, and I’d really like my youngest son to be a Scout, too. (Gail Curry, Hannibal, MO)

Here’s how to do it…
– Go to www.scouting.org
– Click on “Get Involved”
– Click on the “Boy Scouts” tab
– Enter your ZIP code in the dialog box and hit “Go”
– Pick a couple of troops close to where you live.
(If you don’t find one close by, scroll till you find the council’s contact information, and get in touch directly.)
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Hi Andy,

Several leaders in our troop aren’t on the same page when it comes to Eagle projects. Most of us agree that a Scout should wait until he’s Life rank before actually planning his project. Our source for this is Eagle Scout req. 5: “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project…etc.” We feel the only thing a Scout should do at Star rank is think about what sort of project he might like to do. Others feel a Scout can start planning and writing up his project as a Star Scout so that he can have it approved by the district as soon as when he reaches Life rank. Can you add any insights here? (Name & Council Withheld)

Whoever’s doing that sort of thinking needs to re-take his or her training, or start going to Roundtables, or call up your district’s Advancement Chair! This one’s a no-brainer and you’ve already quoted the requirement: “While a Life Scout…” are indeed the operative words. A Star Scout can certainly start to “think” about what he might like to do, but he takes no action (including writing, etc.) until he nails the Life requirements and completes his Life board of review. Then, the very next day, he can start on his Eagle project pathway in earnest. To do so beforehand is a distraction that can serve more to delay advancing to Life than it will aid toward Eagle.
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Dear Andy,

I’m an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader in our troop and take this very seriously. I’m involved in after-school sports that go right up to the time that our weekly troop meeting starts. Because of the tight schedule, I often go right to the troop meeting and don’t have time to change into my Scout uniform from my baseball uniform. Our Scoutmaster won’t allow me to sit at the head table with the Senior Patrol Leader in my baseball uniform. He says that leaders must be dressed in Class A uniforms if they’re going to sit at the leader table. Instead, he says I need to sit with the other Scouts. Is this a Boy Scout rule? If it is, can it be held against me and hurt my advancement if I don’t wear my Scout uniform? (Scout’s Name Withheld, Direct Service Council, Singapore)

There’s nothing anywhere in any BSA rules, requirements, policies, or bylaws saying that, to be a Scout, one must have or wear a Scout uniform. Not even for a board of review. However, as a Scout leader who takes his responsibilities seriously, you already know that setting the example is a very important leadership quality. Part of setting the example includes wearing your uniform, if you have one. So, let’s get creative here… Do you think you could carry a small duffel or book-bag or backpack that has your Scout uniform in it, and then change from one uniform to the other as soon as you arrive at the troop meeting? If you can figure out how to do this, or something like it (maybe there’s a place where you all meet that would be safe to leave your uniform from week to week, or maybe it’s kept in the car that gets you from team practice or game to the troop meeting), then everybody’s a winner, including the Scouts whom you’re leading.

When I was a Scoutmaster, many of the Scouts in the troop I served were into sports and other activities, just like you. So we had a standing rule (it was thought up by the Scouts themselves, and I really liked it!) that so long as you’re in full uniform, you’re OK. Depending on the season, some showed up in full baseball uniforms, or soccer uniforms, or football uniforms, or basketball uniforms, or lacrosse uniforms, and everyone was cool with this. We even had two Scouts who were in a choral group and, when they came to troop meetings straight from dress rehearsals, there they were, in white dress shirts, blue pants, and red ties, and that was their “full uniform”! It worked! No Scout ever ditched a meeting because of no uniform, and no Scout ever got “dinged” because it didn’t happen to be a Scout uniform that day. (Maybe you all might want to talk this over at your next Patrol Leaders Council?)

I like your idea; however, I’m already carrying my back pack, saxophone, and sports equipment bag from the field. Our troop committee thinks that you’re required to wear a uniform because you’re a leader and is completely inflexible on this. Wearing my baseball uniform isn’t an option, and I can’t get to the meeting in time if I take time to change (never mind taking time to eat something!). Instead of supporting my activities outside of Scouting and applauding my coming (sweaty and all!) to the meetings right from the field, I think they’re giving me the wrong message, basically saying that the uniform and not me is what matters. I don’t know what else to do.

Under other circumstances I’d say go find another troop, that “gets” what’s important. As things stand, I guess that unless you can get creative about how to get into your uniform (sweat and all—so what!) or have a conversation with your Scoutmaster, telling him that you can be in uniform but you’ll be a few minutes late, you’re pretty much out of luck given his inflexibility. Time to get creative! But baseball season doesn’t last forever, either.
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Dear Andy,

We have a Scout returning to our troop after a two-year absence. He attended summer camp way back when, and completed quite a number of requirements for advancement: most of Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class, as a matter of fact. It’s my understanding that this Scout won’t need to repeat the requirements completed back then, correct? He doesn’t have his old handbook, which had been signed off by an Assistant Scoutmaster, but several do recall his presence and know he was in a larger group of first-year Scouts who went through the regular first-year Scout program. What do we do? (Bo Cook)

If this Scout can find his handbook, and it shows initials next to requirements and ranks, they’re done and absolutely don’t need to be repeated. If he doesn’t have this, hopefully there’s a troop records kept in Troopmaster or ScoutNet, or hard copy of some sort. If not, then relying on his memory and the memory of some adult volunteers is OK, too. Bottom line: The BSA is very clear on the point that, once signed off, a requirement’s done and “re-testing” is prohibited. Same with ranks, obviously. So welcome this young man back with open arms and big grins! (Never forget: He’s the ultimate volunteer! Nothing says he “must” return except his own desire to be a Scout!)

Happy Scouting!

Andy

Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to askandybsa@yahoo.com. Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 303 – 4/17/2012 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2012]

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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.

Read Andy's full biography

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