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Issue 321 – July 17, 2012

Rule No. 85:
o Opinions are never substitutes for facts.
Dear Andy,

I’m the Advisor for a Venturing crew. Our council us to start this crew with a group of 13 year-old girls, and we were told that they could do anything Venturing-related so long as they had a parent along with them. Right now, the crew has only three youth members: my daughter and a committee member’s daughter, both 13; and another leader’s daughter, who turns 13 in about a month. We’re now getting told that our crew can’t attend council events like an “adventure weekend” that’s coming up in a few weeks because they’re too young. But then we’re told they can sell popcorn. The girls are very upset about this and I’m starting to believe that the council is just making up rules as they go along. I’m confused about the age requirement, and have been since we started. I don’t understand how a 13 year-old who has completed the 8th grade is any different from a 13 year-old starting 8th grade. Can you please let me know who I can talk to, who knows the proper rules for a Venturing crew, because or council is telling us different things that seem work for them at the moment. (Name & Council Withheld)

The policy of the BSA National Office for Venturing eligibility is: Age 14, or age 13 provided that eighth grade has been completed, up to one’s 21st birthday. This eligibility policy has been in place since May 2010.

For clarification of your crew’s situation, your council’s Scout Executive is your best point of contact, because that’s where the buck stops when it comes to membership and participation standards. Avoid email. Have an eyeball-to-eyeball meeting to work this out.

Andy, I don’t understand the why there’s an “or” in the eligibility. We have three girls: one will turn 14 in one month, another in three months, and the third in eight months. All three will be starting 8th grade in the fall. What we’re getting told now is that all youth wanting to join a Venturing crew have to be 14 years old and have completed 8th grade. I’m now even more confused. (N&CW)

The “or” represents a concession made by the BSA two years ago. Prior to May 2010, the policy was age 14, period. However, the BSA national office realized that there are many young men and women who have graduated from 8th grade below the age 14 threshold. Consequently, the “or” provided for this situation. That is the current BSA national standard for Venturing youth eligibility. If your crew has deviated from this standard, and your council has permitted this deviation, then the Scout Executive must be the one to talk to.
Dear Andy,

I recently sat on an Eagle board of review in which review members had written a reference letter for the Eagle candidate. When I questioned the advisability of this, the chair of the review told me that there was no rule against this. To me, it would seem that all review members should be impartial. What’s your take on this? (Steve Treadwell, MC, Three Fires Council, IL)

The person who told you there’s no “rule” specifically stating that a reference is prohibited from participating in a board of review is technically accurate, but that’s hardly an excuse for what was permitted. The BSA usually doesn’t have stipulations prohibiting what should be patently obvious to anyone with good sense (which trumps “common” sense, BTW). However, the BSA states clearly that no one will be selected based on the preference of the Scout. Therefore, since the Scout’s selection of this individual as a reference implies his preference, it would have been completely correct to not invite this person to participate in his board of review. The chair, in my estimation, made an error. Was it a “lethal” one? No. Was it less than exercising good sense? Absolutely.
Dear Andy,

Is there a BSA policy prohibiting caravanning/convoying? The current GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING seems to be silent on this subject. (Jack Mitchell, DC, Istrouma Area Council, LA)

If memory serves, there used to be at least a recommendation from the BSA to avoid “caravan”-type motor vehicle travel. Like you, I’ve just checked the current online GTSS, and it does appear to be silent on this topic. This, however, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea now! The better way to travel, if multiple vehicles are involved, is to establish stopping points along the way, where all vehicles meet up. Of course, for shorter distances, simply meeting at the destination is sufficient. With cell phones so prevalent, a designated “phone monitor” other than the driver (can even be a Scout!) can be in each vehicle, so that all drivers are notified if one or more has a problem along the way.
Dear Andy,

One of the challenges I’m presently facing as a new Cubmaster is that the person who filled this slot before me did everything—not only the Cubmaster’s job but the entire committee’s as well. I’ve been able to delegate a lot of the committee positions to various people within the pack, but I’ve had a really hard time identifying exactly what the Committee Chair does, distinct from a Cubmaster, because there is so much overlap in the lists of responsibilities between those two positions in the official BSA literature. I want to split those two roles up, but I’m not sure where to start. What do you think would be the easiest tasks to say, “These are the Committee Chair’s responsibilities and these are the Cubmaster’s”? (And, before you say it, I know that recruiting a Committee Chair should be the responsibility of the Chartered Organization Representative, but that’s another of the hats I wear, and I’ve got to deal with one thing at a time.) (Tony Hooker, CM, Central North Carolina Council)

Yup, you’re between a rock and a hard place, but there’s a way out… Get yourself a copy of the CUB SCOUT LEADER BOOK, then read \ Chapter 4-Leadership, especially pages 4-2 through 4-14, to get yourself straight on the fact that the Committee Chair and Cubmaster do not have overlapping responsibilities (I’m not going to recite the differences here—this is your “homework” if you’re willing to do it). Then, take a second look at the BSA Adult Application (page 2) where it tells you that the Cubmaster is not permitted to double-register as Chartered Organization Representative. Third, refer to your Cub Scout Leader training notes, which will confirm all of this.

Next, call a mandatory meeting of all pack parents. At that meeting, describe precisely what the Cubmaster’s role is, and what it isn’t, and tell these parents—point blank—that you signed on to be Cubmaster; not to be the “one-man band” for the entire pack operations. In advance of this meeting, make up a set of 5×7 index cards (or other similar) each with a job title on it: Committee Chair, Committee Member, Committee-Treasurer, Committee-Advancement, Committee-Outings Coordinator, etc. Use masking tape and put these cards on the front wall of the meeting room. Tell the parents that they need to remove these cards from the wall and sign on in the position they’ve chosen. Make it clear that if a card isn’t chosen, that absolutely doesn’t mean that the job reverts to you—you will not do it. Period.

Do this with good humor and with a sense of anticipation that everything’s going to be OK. Before you have this meeting, enlist the aid of someone from your district’s commissioner staff to be at your side. Don’t hesitate to ask your District Executive to help you through this, too. And, further, ask the head of your sponsoring organization to attend this meeting as well, so that he or she can make it very clear that a Cub Scout pack is parent-run and parent supported—”BSA” absolutely doesn’t mean “Baby-Sitters of America”!

If you don’t do this immediately, it’ll be more and more difficult to do it later, because your natural tendency will be to “pick up the slack” and parents will start feeling, “Hey, why should I show up? We’ve got a good thing going with our ol’ Cubmaster, here, who’s willing to carry the whole bucket o’ fish!”

So there’s your prescription and game plan. Now it’s up to you.
Dear Andy,

I’m a new Scoutmaster for our troop. Several Scouts who just joined up in the past month were approved to be Den Chiefs by the previous Senior Patrol Leader and Scoutmaster. We also now have a new Senior Patrol Leader. In the past week or so, several newer Scouts have asked to be Den Chiefs, but the Senior Patrol Leader refused; instead, he told them to wait a while so he could get to know them better, first. This upset these newer boys’ parents, because the immediately previous boys are friends of their sons, and are now Den Chiefs. I tried to be diplomatic by explaining that the Senior Patrol Leader doesn’t know their sons, and since he’s responsible for who the leaders in the troop are, he needs to make a sound decision. But the reaction of some of these parents was that their sons will be disappointed and will lose interest if they don’t have the Den Chief title while doing the work of one.

I did give all parents online links so they could read about what a Den Chief’s qualifications are, and mentioned to them that “older Scout” isn’t defined, but I believe it would be Life rank or age 13, but I’m only advising the Senior Patrol Leader. It’s still his decision, and if he says yes then I more than likely would honor it, unless there’s some known issue about a particular Scout.

Anyway, I guess my question is this: If a Scout is selected to be a Den Chief so early in Scouting, can he be Den Chief again for his later ranks that require a leadership position? (Name & Council Withheld)

This is feeling a bit like I’m standing on fish, but let’s see if we can’t separate out some of the issues here…

If you’re talking about “approved” to hold the position of Den Chief, while this certainly can be done by the Senior Patrol Leader, the Scoutmaster is expected to “help the Senior Patrol Leader make his decisions” (ref.: SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK). On Den Chiefs in general, my counsel would be that you, as Scoutmaster, need to advise the Senior Patrol Leader that arbitrarily withholding this position would be unfair to a Scout if he’s already been asked for by a Den Leader because, as Den Chief, he’d be working directly with a Den Leader, responsible for his training.

As for being an “older Scout,” this is hardly mandatory. Scouts who are closer in age to Cub Scouts—even those who are 12—can make wonderful Den Chiefs (I’m making that statement as a former Den Leader and Webelos Den Leader who selected and worked with Den Chiefs of this age). Life rank? Absolutely unnecessary. First Class? Just fine, because it’s more about attitude and interesting in learning leadership skills that’s much more important than rank.

Later on, if a former Den Chief would like to do it again, I can’t think of a single reason to dissuade him.

That said, while the Den Chief position is a qualified leadership position, it’s rarely sought by a Scout of any age or rank. This makes me wonder whether it’s the Scouts who actually want this position, or is something else operating here that hasn’t yet been brought to light.

As Scoutmaster, I’m working closely with the Cubmaster, since he has a potential need for as many as seven Den Chiefs. I’ve been involved with the pack and now the troop for a while now, and I’ve never seen the need for so many Den Chiefs at once, or having so many Scouts wanting to be Den Chief for the same den.

If there are seven dens, that’s OK. Each one can have its own Den Chief. But I’m getting the uncomfortable feeling that something entirely different is operating here. These boys are now Boy Scouts. Most packs have minimal summer activities, which would mean that there’s little for any Den Chief to do for the next couple of months—the real action usually doesn’t start till September. So right now, these new Boy Scouts should be focusing on being Boy Scouts. This means going to summer camp with the troop, earning their Tenderfoot and at least Second Class ranks over the summer, with their troop, and so on. I’m feeling very uneasy here… It sounds like somebody wants to keep ’em “small”… as in shoe-horning them into the role of “senior Cub Scout.” This is big-time wrong! As Scoutmaster, it’s your responsibility to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

Thanks for the great advice. I presume it’s OK if all five Den Chiefs work for the same den within the pack, or do I need to address this (no other den in this pack has a Den Chief. The one Den Leader is asking for all of his former Webelos Scouts to come back and be Den Chiefs for his now-Webelos II den (that has his younger son in it).

OK, we’re getting closer to what’s really goin on here, and the answer’s No! A Den Chief is absolutely den-specific. They’re not “general helpers;” and they’re not “senior Cub Scouts.” They work with specific dens, under the guidance and training of one specific adult Den Leader each. This Den Leader is misguided in his attempt trying to “recapture” his former Webelos Scouts. This is absolutely not right.

When I mentioned one den = one Den Chief, this raised another question. The pack has a den with two “patrols” in it. One has six to eight boys and an Assistant Den Leader and the other has four with an Assistant Den Leader. Couldn’t that den have two Den Chiefs?

Based on everything you’ve described to me, this is a bit of an “off the radar screen” pack. Dens are intended to have a maximum of eight boys, and there’s quite literally no such thing as “sub-groups” within dens. If there are, for instance, eight Wolf Cubs, then that’s one den. If there are, let’s say, nine or ten Wolf Cubs (or Bear or Webelos–doesn’t matter), then the sensible pack creates two smaller (and incredibly more manageable) dens, each with its own Den Leader. So, for the den you mention, that has ten to twelve Cubs, the proper way to handle it is to create two separate dens. These dens don’t necessarily need to be identical in size. But the concept of a single den, with two sub-groups, each managed by an Assistant Den Leader will be found nowhere in any BSA leader guide or pack organizational chart. So, until the pack gets itself straightened out and organized properly, I’d be cautious about linking too closely with them.

As far as brand-new Boy Scouts wanting to be Den Chiefs, frankly, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m convinced that this is just plain weird.

Most boys of this age want to be in their Boy Scout patrols where they can build peer relationships and advance through the three foundational Boy Scout ranks: Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class. I’m sure you’ve read the requirements for each of these three ranks, so you already know that holding a leadership position is not required for any one of them. There’s a solid reason for this: These foundational ranks are designed to help boys learn all of the essentials of being Boy Scouts! Leadership can come later, after they’ve gained the necessary knowledge and skills.

All of this leads me to wonder who’s pushing so hard for these new Boy Scouts to be Den Chiefs. If it’s the folks in the Cub Scout pack, or the parents, or that already misguided Webelos Den Leader, then maybe your best approach is to tell them all that they need to wait a year before they get their Den Chiefs, because these boys need to be full-fledged Boy Scouts first.

In short, let the pack deal with its own issues and straighten itself out while you concentrate on helping these new boys become real First Class Boy Scouts instead of devolving into “senior Cub Scouts.”

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to 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. 321 – 7/17/2012 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2012]


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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