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No. 302 – April 11, 2012

Rule No. 68:
• When contemplating the replacement or removal of a volunteer, make the decision with surgical precision, then carry it out with compassion.
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The 6 Inescapable Phases of All Projects:
1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4. Search for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Praise and honors for the uninvolved. (anon)
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Dear Andy,

We have a 20 year-old young man who wants to work at Cub Scout day camp this summer. Our council tells us that Youth Protection Training is required for all adults working at Cub Scout day camp. But another volunteer friend suggested that if this young man registers with a Venturing crew he’ll be exempt from taking the required training. I’d understood that to be a youth member in a crew YPT isn’t required, but since he’s an adult (that is, age 18 and over) he should complete the training in order to work with youth. Can you help clarify the issue for us?

If I can ask another question… I’m working with an all-girl Venturing crew, and a teenaged boy is interested joining up. One of the crew’s adult volunteers believes this will be disruptive to some of the girls. This person is also saying that the chartered organization had specified that this crew would be for girls only. Can a chartered organization stipulate that a crew be for only males or only females? In the same vein, can a chartered organization stipulate that crew members be of a specific religion and refuse membership to individuals with differing religious beliefs? If in fact a crew can enforce remaining gender-specific, I’d think that this decision should come from the crew members; not the adult volunteers, but when it was suggested to this one volunteer to let the girls decide, this person felt that this would create issues between crew members taking polar opposite sides. However, since we’re talking about youth ages 14 through 20, aren’t we adults supposed to get out of their way and let them make their own decisions? (Ed Custer, UC, National Capital Area Council)

I’m sure that your council’s program committee and/or camping committee will agree that, for a staffer at a Cub Scout day camp, age 18 and over means adult, no matter how registered. This, then, means take the youth protection training. The bigger question, of course, is why would folks not want a person who’s going to be supervising sub-teen kids to not be youth protection trained? Takes maybe 20 minutes on-line. Where’s the “biggie” here?

On your second question: The Charter Agreement between a sponsor and the BSA stipulates that the BSA, for its part, “respects the aims and objectives of the sponsoring organization” and will provide resources to help the sponsor meet its objectives, while the sponsor, for its part, will “conduct the Scouting program according to its own policies and guidelines as well as those of the BSA.” So if, for instance, the sponsor is a school for girls, then it may want to consider that a Venturing crew would be girls-only. On the other hand, if the sponsor is a church with a mixed-gender youth group, then attempting to prevent a crew from becoming co-ed would be cause for wonder. Moreover, one would expect that by longstanding tradition or actual constitution and bylaws the crew was founded to be one gender only, and the BSA council agreed to this, then it’s a non-issue; but if not, then an artificial and rather arbitrary barrier’s being thrown up. One key is often “accommodation-related,” that is, when it comes to meetings and activities, are there sanitary facilities (e.g., restrooms and showers) available for both genders? The second key is supervisory adult availability: When both genders of youth are engaged in an activity, are there both genders of “two-deep” (minimum) adults present as well?

Frankly, I rather like the idea of at least getting input from the crew members: It’s their crew, after all! (Or do we want to keep them all “Daisies” and “Cub Scouts”?)

On your question about religious preference: Take this up with your Scout Executive. But I’ll tell you this… I’ve seen several churches try this, quite unsuccessfully (their units shrank faster than a pair of off-shore jeans in hot wash-water) and it wasn’t until they opened their doors to all youth regardless of faith that the units began to thrive again.
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Dear Andy,

Your column has served our troop well over the years and has resolved many ongoing issues in our troop. Once again we need your advice…

Our troop’s parents committee wants to purchase an automated external defibrillator (aka “AED”). We’re more of a tailgate-camping troop than high adventure-focused. Our Scoutmaster and Committee Chair both feel this would be an unnecessary purchase, since the troop is almost always near a hospital anyway, and if, while camping, the patrols split up (some hiking one place, others hiking another, and some staying at “base camp”), who would get the AED—the campers or the hikers? What are your thoughts on this idea, what does National say on the topic? (Pat Lewis, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

Let’s begin with price: You’re looking at a device that will cost more than $1,200 and can easily exceed $2,400. Next, let’s factor in that it’s not designed to treat a heart that’s stopped (i.e., flat-lined), but, rather, a heart that that’s beating arythmically (for a flat-line situation, CPR is necessary…not an AED). Further, you’re looking at a device that will, if used, most likely be used on an adult and not likely a youth of Scout age. Finally, it can only be packed along when car-camping; no one in his right mind’s going to lug it along when you’re backpacking. Plus, aren’t we supposed to be spending a troop’s funds on the Scouts; not the adults? Besides, while an AED might be useful if someone has a known cardiac problem, I’d have to ask: What’s a person with this problem doing out in the woods in the first place?

For the same money (using just the low-end number), you can buy 8 two-man tents, plus a lightning alert, plus a weather monitor/predictor, plus 4 “Whisperlight” backpacking stoves. Imagine what you can do with $2,400…for the Scouts!

Based on these factors, I’d say it’s an unwise purchase decision. If the Scoutmaster’s against this sort of purchase, and he’s supported by the Committee Chair, then that’s the decision: No dice. This isn’t a “let’s vote on it” issue; the Scoutmaster’s in charge of the troop program and the Committee Chair is the final decision-maker on such issues, so that should be more than enough to permanently table this discussion.

As for “what does ‘national’ say about this?” you’ll need to ask them directly. You do have the option of asking your home council’s risk management committee, but I’ll eat my Commissioner’s hat if they do anything more than tell you it’s a non-essential item.
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Hi Andy,

Here’s an idea for the young lady who wanted more Venturers for her crew. She and her Crew Advisor should contact the District Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner and ask to make a presentation about Venturing in general and the crew in particular at an upcoming Roundtable. Then, they can spread the word about Venturing to the folks and follow this up by making similar presentations at various troops in the district.

As my district’s Boy Scout RT Commissioner, I arranged for members of two different crews to make that sort of presentation to promote Venturing. We used two RTs so the Venturers could describe Venturing and their crews’ programs, and to work though all the questions the Scoutmasters had. In fact, those were the only sessions in recent memory that ran overtime, because the attendees had so many questions they wanted answered! It did more to advance unit leaders’ understandings of Venturing than you could ever imagine!

We also had representatives of our council’s Venturing team, both adults and the council’s youth Venturing President, at our Roundtable. They did a great job of making sure all the information being discussed was accurate.

In the presentation, it’s crucial to tell every Scoutmaster that they don’t want to “steal” their Scouts; they just want to invite them to come along on the cool events the crew has planned.

Many troop families resist Venturing because a crew requires adult leaders. Part of the pitch a crew should make is this: “If your sons double-register with our existing crew, where we already have a committee, no one’s required to become crew committee members.”

If the Roundtable presentation is timed well, the crew can give all the Scoutmasters copies of the outings schedule for the next few months to show the Scouts in their troops.

Finally, it’s worth noting that when a council’s Boy Scout National Jamboree contingent fills up it’s now possible for Scouts to attend as part of a separate Jamboree Crew contingent. This is a good way for more youth to attend the Jamboree. (Bob Elliott, BSRTC, Northern Star Council MN)

Thanks! I’m going to guess there are likely other folks who could use your good ideas as well.
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Hello Andy,

Recently, I was asked to sit down with a Scoutmaster—an Eagle Scout himself—having issues with a Scout quickly approaching his 18th birthday and trying to submit his Eagle application for the Scoutmaster to sign. This Scout hadn’t been seen much over the last year. He was trying to use his NYLT course Senior Patrol Leader position to qualify for the leadership requirement. This brought up several issues. First, can the Scout count this as a position of responsibility? Second, is an NYLT troop actually a troop? He’s raised these questions with the council’s professional staff, but he’s received no concrete answers from them. When he asked me, I at first said I didn’t think that being an NYLT SPL would count, but I’d do some reading and asking around, to get a better answer.

The Scoutmaster also told me that back in about six months ago he appointed this Scout to an Instructor position, with the understanding that he was to attend at least a couple of meetings a month and at those meetings he’d be given time to talk with the younger Scouts about leadership and what he’d learned at NYLT. (Apparently, following this conversation, the Scout hardly ever showed up at all.)

I’m thinking that the Senior Patrol Leader position at an NYLT course could be used just as the spirit of the Den Chief position is used: The Scout is helping improve another unit’s program. A Den Chief is helping a Cub Scout pack, just like this Scout was helping a training troop with their program.

As for the Instructor position that the Scout didn’t carry out, my feeling is that time served is time served, and since no one reached out to the Scout to inform him of his duties and shortcomings in this position, and the troop didn’t try to assist the Scout in his performance, then it’s a done deal. The Scoutmaster was quick to point out that if someone doesn’t show up for work he’d would be fired and wouldn’t get a paycheck, but my thinking is that one would have to be told by the boss that he’s fired, and in this case no one told the Scout he was fired, so it still counts, just like it says in the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT (4.2.3.4.5).

So those are two possible ways for the Scout to qualify for the requirement. Then there’s a third consideration: The board of review also needs to use common sense and a balance of positive activities outside of Scouting. Apparently, this Scout is in the National Honor Society, the youth group at his church, an Order of the Arrow lodge officer, and invited back on NYLT staff for the next year. I think there’s enough here to piece together enough leadership time in two years as a life Scout to fill the required six months of leadership responsibility.

Can you add any thoughts—one way or the other—to this scenario? (Name & Council Withheld)

There are definitely some points needing further consideration…

Let’s start with Den Chief. This is a qualifying position for Eagle rank but not because the Den Chief “helps a pack;” it’s because the Den Chief is the appointed leader of a den of six to eight Cub Scouts. It is therefore not in any way comparable to being Senior Patrol Leader of an NYLT youth training staff. In the first place, NYLT is at best a week-long course, so even allowing extra days for staff development time, this falls well short of the six months tenure required for Eagle rank. Moreover, it’s not cited by the BSA as a qualifying position, for which there can be no exceptions.

You mentioned that this Scout earned his Life rank some two years ago; then, six months ago he was assigned the position of Instructor. Does this indeed mean that for the first year-and-a-half after earning Life he held no leadership position in the troop? If so, I’d have to wonder what the troop was thinking (or not), to allow a Scout of significant rank to simply molder on the sidelines for so long. Or was the Scout absent too often to be considered for a position of responsibility or leadership? This is something only the Scoutmaster and Senior Patrol Leader at that time can address.

As for his position of Instructor, I believe guidance is provided by the GTA section 4.2.3.4.3 (page 23—Italics by BSA; boldface mine): “When a Scout assumes a position, something related to the desired results must happen. It is a disservice to the Scout and to the unit to reward work that has not been done. Holding a position and doing nothing, producing no results, is unacceptable.” Based on your description, this Scout did nothing. On this basis, a decision is clear. But let’s take this one step more…

Further guidance is given in section 4.2.3.4.4 (page 23—boldface mine): “…if it is left to the Scout to determine what should be done, and he makes a reasonable effort to perform…for the time specified, then he fulfills this requirement.” According to your description, the Scout made no effort at all. Based on this, the decision remains clear.

Finally, it’s not unreasonable for a member of his Eagle board of review to ask such questions as, “Tell us a little about what you accomplished as an Instructor,” and “What would you say was your biggest challenge while you served as a troop Instructor?” If solid answers are not forthcoming, the board has the right and the obligation to observe that this Scout has not met the requirements for the rank.

As for this Scout’s other activities, these are not likely to justify his failure to perform as Instructor. In fact, having sat on close to two hundred Eagle boards of review, I can confirm that the one thing every single Eagle candidate has had in common with every other was that he was very active in many things both in and outside of Scouting. Therefore, this Scout’s involvement with the NHS, OA, NYLT, church youth group, etc., in no way would mitigate his failure to do anything with his Instructor position.

However, if this Scout held a qualifying position for any total of six months (consecutive or combined—it doesn’t matter) in the one-and-one-half year window between earning Life and being appointed Instructor, and actually carried out the responsibilities of the position, then his board of review should definitely proceed.

In a perfect world, this Scout should have been made aware of these aspects during his Scoutmaster conferences. If he wasn’t, that’s a pity, but it doesn’t detract from the facts that we apparently have an unfortunate situation of nonperformance. Yes, the Scoutmaster can choose to send this young man into a board of review, either as a way of showing support or possibly as a way of avoiding the task of bringing unhappy news, but based on your description, a board of review may well lead to a sad conclusion to an otherwise pretty good Scouting experience. When these sorts of things happen, as they do more often than anyone would want, we need to keep in mind that no one, apparently, has yet asked the Scout himself, “Do you believe you’ve fulfilled the letter and the spirit of the requirements for the rank of Eagle 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. 302 – 4/11/2012 – 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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