Author Avatar

Issue 342 – January 6, 2013




Your choice of 45 SCOUTING TOPICS in 50-minute sessions.
o Dutch oven cooking
o Fly fishing for Dummies
o Philmont from a Ranger’s perspective
o Trail-building Eagle projects
o Adding PIZZAZ to pack and den meetings
o Navigating the Internet
o Many more! Including…

o TWO LIVE & IN-PERSON “ASK ANDY” SESSIONS! (Come and ask the questions you’ve wanted to write about!)

Register early—before Jan, 25th—and save 43%!

For a list of topics, further information, location, and online registration, go to:

The new “Scouts for Afghan Scouts” CSP is ready, thanks to Cpt. John Green! They’re $10.50 each (the 50¢ pays for shipping). All proceeds go directly to the Afghanistan effort being carried out this very minute by American military and military employee volunteers.

This is a limited edition CSP! To acquire one or more of these, you can contact John directly at They’re great for your collection, and wonderful as gifts!
Hi Andy,

I have a concern about doing a Scoutmaster conference with a Life Scout in our troop. This Scout has completed all of the required merit badges, his service project, and has served in a leadership position for six months. But do I have the right, as Scoutmaster, to recommend that he not be advanced to the rank of Eagle? My reason is that I don’t consider him to be living according to the Scout Oath and Law.

I’m a teacher as well as this troop’s new Scoutmaster. I’ve had this young man as a student for three years in a variety of classes. In every one of these, he’s both cheated on tests and plagiarized writing assignments. In his most recent class with me, his blatant cheating resulted in his failing the class. In discussions with other teachers here, continual cheating has occurred elsewhere as well. Further, he’s been suspended from the school twice for selling drugs on campus. Had the school district administration not stepped in on the most recent instance, he would have been expelled from the school.

But there’s more. He confided in me that he was being abused by his father, and I duly reported this allegation to the school administration and local law enforcement. However, upon a thorough investigation by the school, law enforcement, and his religious leaders, it was determined that this young man had lied about this abuse because, as he put it eventually, he was “mad at his father.” But the consequence of this young man’s false allegations is that his father was fired by his employer (he is still unemployed, causing further strain on the family).

With all of this, I do not consider this young man to represent what an Eagle Scout is supposed to be; in fact, he’s apparently living his life the opposite of all Scouting values—values that I as his Scoutmaster and Eagle Scout myself hold dear.

The young man is 17, and about six months from his 18th birthday. I have been in discussion with both the Committee Chair and our Chartered Organization Representative. We are in concurrence that this young man simply isn’t Eagle-worthy. Do I, or we, therefore, have the authority to stop his advancement here and now? (Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, as Scoutmaster, you do have the right to deny this young man a conference, as well as your signature on his Eagle Scout Rank Application, thus denying him a board of review. Should you choose this option, then, per the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT section (Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances), the Scout or his parents may request a district- or council-level board of review for the rank, in which no one from the troop will be involved. Please read the entire section cited before proceeding via this route.

If, however, a board of review is conducted per your recommendation, and fails to recommend this candidate for advancement to Eagle rank, then he or his parents may appeal this decision and request a reconsideration of it. Please read the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT Section in its entirety before considering this path.

There is, however, at least one further alternative that may precede either of these options and might make them unnecessary, depending on the outcome. Let’s begin by understanding that while a Scoutmaster conference is necessary each time a Scout advances in rank (SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK, page 120), such conferences can be held at any time and used as a counseling tool. My recommendation to you is that such a “non-rank culmination” conference be held immediately.

To back up just slightly, you’ve told me that this Scout has completed all needed merit badges, has satisfactorily concluded his service project, and has satisfactorily served in a qualified leadership position for the prescribed amount of time, which would presume that he has also satisfactorily met the Eagle req. 1 (“active in troop/patrol for minimum six months”). However, you haven’t mentioned either req. 2, in which he will list the names and contact information for up to six people—including his parents, a religious reference, an educator (i.e., teacher at his school), an employer (including anyone who has paid him for labor or services including lawn-mowing, snow-shoveling, or babysitting)—who can attest to his having lived (or not) by the principles of the Scout Oath and Law in his daily life (i.e., outside of Scouting), nor have you mentioned req. 6, which is his written statement of ambitions and life purpose plus a listing of positions held in non-Scouting groups and/or organizations in which he demonstrated leadership, plus any recognitions or awards from same.

I recommend you begin by asking him to produce the necessary information for these two requirements as soon as possible but in no case more than a week, and then sit down with him (observe YP standards by doing this either “in public” at a troop meeting or—better yet!—with the troop’s Committee Chair present in the room). In this conversation, review his references with him. If you know the name of the other teacher in whose class he cheated, ask this young man how he’d feel about your requesting information from that teacher (without mentioning the incident). Ask him how he thinks his parents are going to respond, understanding that the requirement uses the plural (parents-with-an-s) so the Committee Chair will be speaking with both parents. Tell him that his school principal and possibly the town’s police chief will either be interviewed as references or may be invited to sit on his board of review. Then, ask him this question: “You and I haven’t held our official Scoutmaster conference for Eagle rank yet. Do you believe you’re ready for it, and ready to stand on your record of behavior up to now as exemplary of the Scout Oath and Law?”

If he says “yes,” you can tell him that this conference will now count as has final conference and that you are not recommending him; he can now follow the BSA appeal process (be prepared to hand him a copy of it).

If he says “no” or hesitates, then consider giving him this option: You and he will have his final conference during the week before his 18th birthday. Between now and then, he must earn back your trust and your belief that he is indeed qualified to become an Eagle Scout. However, this will be by doing more than merely “being good” for the next several months. Right now, the pendulum has swung way too far from the true and stated course, and merely returning it to a “neutral” position will not be enough; he must “DO good” and be exemplary at it. He will go out of his way to “help other people at all times;” he will actively work hard to demonstrate that he is “trustworthy,” “helpful,” “friendly,” “courteous,” “kind,” “clean,” and “reverent” because right now his “Scout spirit bank account” is empty and must be refilled. Then ask him if he believes he’s up to this challenge and prepared to turn himself around. If his answer is “yes,” then shake hands on it and be prepared to conference (briefly) with him several more times—these will be small “milepost” checks—before the final conference. If he says anything that’s not affirmative, then the conference is over and he can pursue the appeal process.

The reason I’m recommending this approach is fundamental: “Good” kids will become happy, productive, responsible citizens whether they’re Scouts or not, but that’s not who we’re in business for! We’re here for exactly this sort of young man… One who’s lost his way, or hasn’t found it yet. This is the young man who truly needs our help. As a Scoutmaster, educator, and religious leader, you’re in the unique position of having the opportunity to truly make a lasting difference in the life of a troubled young man. Yes, it’s huge challenge. Yes, the chance for success is perhaps slim. But we’re talking about the potential to literally save a life here. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
Hi Andy,

We have a six year-old son. He asked about joining Scouts, and when we asked about this I was asked if I’d be willing start up a Tiger Cub den. My husband and I are a bit nervous and have a lot of questions. Can you tell me what exactly is involved? (Michele)

Start with this link, but don’t be intimidated by what might appear to be a rather daunting list of responsibilities. There will definitely be folks in the pack who will help and support along the way:

Next, check out this pack’s guide to starting up and having fun doing it:

You can buy a Tiger Cub Handbook (which your son will be using anyway, so it’s not a wasted investment) at They only cost $6.99 plus tax and shipping. Or, go to your local council’s Scout shop.

Also, ask someone associated with the pack to put you in touch with the Cub Scout leader training person in your district or council, and have a chat! Most of all, plan to have fun!
Dear Andy,

I recently agreed to be an Assistant District Commissioner. Our District Commissioner has tasked me with recruiting new Unit Commissioners. I’ve been busy honing and delivering my “elevator speech” on what a vital and rewarding position Unit Commissioner is, but it can be daunting. (We’ve had some of our UCs serving as many as four units—not where we want to be at all!) Do you have any words of wisdom on how best to find and recruit new Unit Commissioners? (Barry Puryear, Indian Nations Council, OK)

There’s a BSA publication titled “Recruiting District Volunteers.” Ask your DC or DE to get you a copy of it. The best resource for new Commissioners is the current Unit Commissioner staff, because they already have direct contact with the unit-level volunteers and can identify likely candidates. Poll the UCs, ask them to make lists, and then select the most likely candidates that you and each UC can visit with to recruit them. Don’t try to take a “Lone Ranger” approach… Make this is a collaborative team effort!
Hi Andy,

Is a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster still able to work on and earn merit badges, ranks, and palms? (Christine Patchen)

Absolutely! JASM is a youth leadership position in a troop, same as SPL, Quartermaster, etc. The only time a Scout stops working toward ranks or palms, or earning merit badges, is when he hits his 18th birthday.
Dear Andy,

When can a Scout start working on the requirements for a merit badge? Our troop’s Advancement Chair holds steadfast by his so-called “rule” that work can’t start until the Scoutmaster signs the blue card. I have my doubts about this. For example, Camping merit badge req. 9a states that a Scout has to “camp a total of at least 20 days and nights…” By the Advancement Chair’s “rule,” any camping the Scout did before having a signed blue card for Camping wouldn’t count—and that could be a lot of days and nights! My research on the BSA website found this statement: “Unless otherwise specified, work for a requirement can be started at any time.”

I’m the Committee Chair for the troop and want to do what’s right for the Scouts and right by BSA policies and procedures. What do I tell our Advancement Chair? (Larry Osorio)

Tell your misinformed Advancement Chair to take a good look at page 20 of the BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS-2012 book. Says right there that, on meeting with his counselor, the Scout will discuss work he’s already done. That’s it: Prior work (especially camping days/nights and such) definitely will count! You can also tell your Advancement Chair that he has no say-so on matters like this, anyway; his job is about record-keeping; not about governing advancement or passing judgment on anything, and certainly not about making up his own arbitrary “rules.”

That said, this doesn’t mean that if a Scout’s starting at “zero” he should arbitrarily begin work on a merit badge’s requirements before talking with his Scoutmaster, getting a “blue card,” and meeting with a counselor. After all, what’s left to “counsel” on when that happens, and where’s the guidance and insights that counselors have to offer?

Andy, I very much appreciate your response. We had a discussion on this at our committee meeting last night and I quoted the passage you pointed me to. Our Chartered Organization Representative was at the meeting and heard this discussion. Being a 40+ year Scouter, he agreed that a Scout’s work on a merit badge’s requirements before the signing of the blue card counts. Our Advancement Chair understands now, and will no longer tell the Scouts that work on requirements receives credit only after the Scoutmaster signs the blue card. So we’re good. (But you know how things can change, so I’ll keep your answer for future reference.) (Larry)

I’m delighted this has come to a speedy and positive conclusion. Yes, hang on to our correspondence, and don’t hesitate to suggest that your advancement coordinator use it when he or she needs to train and prepare the successor to that post!
Dear Andy,

I have a question about female Scouter uniforms. I’ve heard and seen it taught in Scouter training sessions that a woman can wear the uniform shirt un-tucked. But nowhere can I find this written in the uniform guide or anywhere else. Is this some sort of “tradition” (local or otherwise) that’s been going on for years, or is it a real rule? If it’s really real can you, point me toward the BSA reference? (Kristin, NCAC)

Nope, it’s not a rule or even tradition and never has been. In fact, it’s downright sloppy and sends the wrong message to the Scouts we’re supposed to be setting an example for. Just Google “bsa leader uniform inspection sheet” and tell anyone who argues with you to show you a shirt or blouse worn “out.” Whoever is “teaching” that sort of baloney needs to be taken out back and whacked twenty or thirty times with a wet lanyard! Uniforms are uniforms. Someone wants to “make a fashion statement,” the BSA isn’t the place.
Hi Andy,

Our son was born with Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD—Pervasive Development Disorder. Our son wasn’t allowed to attend a recent national event because, several years ago, his behavior was problematic to the current national event leader in our council. No one at that time was injured, or threatened, and no property was damaged, but the leader had a problem “controlling” my son at that time, and has forbidden him to attend an event now…even though several years have since passed. This leader fails to understand (or accept) that only thing that changes our son’s behavior is maturity: As he matures, the aberrant behaviors diminish. Today, they’re nearly nonexistent! But the answer’s still No. So what lessons should my son take away from this? The ones that were very clearly taught: (1) It stinks to be different, (2) Don’t be born with special needs, and (3) The BSA has no use for children who aren’t “perfect” in every way. As a result of this, I’ve completely changed my opinion of Scouting. (Name & Council Withheld)

Among other involvements both in and outside of Scouting, I’m a Merit Badge Counselor. Right now, I’m counseling a Scout with the same diagnosis as your son. I’ve had significant (but brief) conversations with his parents, and he and I are doing well together. He is far from the first Scout with challenges whom I’ve counseled or been Scoutmaster to.

In a nearby troop, a young man with severe MS was loved by his troop and—although it took time and a few alternative pathways—is now an Eagle Scout.

Yes, it does stink to be different. Yes, nobody wants to be born with special challenges. But this isn’t about the “Boy Scouts of America.” It’s about an inflexible and insensitive jerk—for which the BSA has no “exclusive.” Your son will encounter people like this his entire life. How he deals with them is going to be essential—He can remain bitter and resentful, or he can know the jerks for what they are, feel a bit sorry for their own miserable lives, and happily move on. His choice.
Hi Andy,

What does it mean when a Scout cooks a gull to perfection every day? (Candace Paragus)

Oh good grief! It means he’s done a good tern daily.

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. 342 – 1/6/2013 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2013]


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

Comments are closed.