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Issue 348 – March 14, 2013

Hi Andy,

We have a fifth grade boy who joined our pack last October. He’d like to earn his Arrow of Light award before crossing over to Boy Scouts. He’s just turned 11, and school gets out at the end of June. According to the Webelos Handbook, a boy has to be active in his den for three months before he can earn the Webelos badge. Then, the Arrow of Light requirement says he needs to be active in his den for at least six months and earn the Webelos badge. Does this mean that since October he can have earned both the Webelos badge and Arrow of Light badge, assuming he’s done all of the other requirements, or des it mean he has to have been working towards his Webelos badge for three months before earning it, then begin a six-month countdown before he can earn his Arrow of Light? We don’t want to discourage him from his goal, but at the same time we don’t want to promise him anything that he won’t be able to achieve, and I’d hate to submit everything to council for advancement and have it come back to us later with problems. (Jerry Kazanjian, District Commissioner, Old Colony Council, MA)

The boy’s only been in the Cub Scout program for five months, which is enough time to have earned the Webelos badge, but he needs six more months to earn Arrow of Light, and that would put the date some time next September, which means he’d miss out on the opportunity to be a Boy Scout this spring and go to Scout camp with his troop this summer. So, bottom line: At age 11 he should be a Boy Scout right now. ________________________________________
Hi Andy,

If a Scout attended Philmont, how many nights of camping does that count for, toward the 15 nights required for membership in the Order of the Arrow? I’m asking because while some Scouts go to Philmont, they don’t necessarily go on many weekend camping trips “back home” here. So, do they get credit for all 12 nights of camping, or is it some lesser amount of time?

In this regard, does one count “days” too, which would mean that a single trip to Philmont (adding days and nights together) would confer eligibility in a single trip?

Also related to this, am I correct in assuming that if one attends multiple summer camps, only one counts as the long-term camp, and the others count in total days as short-term camping (i.e., two seven-day camps in consecutive summers would count as one long-term camp and one short-term camp)? If that’s the case, and the second summer camp (or Philmont trek) is treated as a short-term trip, then does one get credit for all of the time spent camping, or only for part of the time? If part of the time, how much time? A weekend? This issue has arisen with Scouts who have attended Philmont, NYLT, and summer camp, and consequently have several long-term camping experiences but very few weekend campouts.

On weekend camp-outs, do we include days and nights both, or just nights? (The OA handbook and website talk about “days and nights” of camping, which isn’t exactly helpful in figuring this out. In the past, we’ve based eligibility on “nights” of camping; not days.)

Any guidance you might be able to offer would be greatly appreciated. (Charles Wesley Kim, Jr., Associate Chapter Advisor, Chippewa Chapter, Tiwahe Lodge, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

Well, let’s see if we can help you untangle your knickers here…

First, let’s understand that, whether a camping requirement says “days,” “nights” or “days-and-nights” the meaning’s pretty much identical.

For OA qualification, the Scout must have experienced Boy Scout (i.e., not Cub Scout” or “family”) camping for 15 days/nights, and this will include one—but only one—long-term Boy Scout resident camp experience of six days and five nights.

At Philmont, Scouts usually take treks of between eights and twelve days and nights. These trek days/nights are “on the trail;” they’re not in a “long-term resident camp.” Therefore, the trek would count toward the non-long-term/non-resident portion of the OA qualification for as many days and nights as the trek lasted.

But Scouts who “attend Philmont” might also be accompanying their parents (who would most likely be attending a week-long course at the Philmont Training Center) and staying in one of the “tent cities.” Or the Scouts might be participating in the NAYLE program, which is base-camp-oriented. Either of these options would fall under the “long-term, resident camping” experience that could be counted toward the OA qualification; however, additional long-term, resident camp days/nights aren’t “reclassified” to count as short-term camping. NYLT and NYLT Leadership Academy are also both long-term, resident camping experiences, and likewise can’t be reclassified.

A troop or patrol camping trip from Friday to a return on Saturday is one day/night of short-term camping, as is a camping trip from Saturday to a return on Sunday. A camping trip from Friday to a return on Sunday is two days/nights of short-term camping.

Hi Andy,

I have some unit fundraising questions, and my unit has had some debate with our local council over these…

The “Unit Money-Earning Application” asks if the Scouts will be wearing their uniforms. As it is a pack-wide activity, our leaders feel it’s appropriate to wear uniforms, but our council says we can only wear uniforms when selling popcorn for the council’s annual fund-raiser and not for anything else the unit might do on its own. This seems to us like a double-standard. What’s your take on this?

The Unit Money-Earning Application also discourages activities like raffles, because they’re considered a form of gambling (games of chance). Yet I’ve seen several units have raffle baskets in conjunction with spaghetti dinner or pancake breakfast fundraisers, and even an Eagle Scout project used a raffle as a fundraiser. What’s the policy on this?

I’ve also seen Cub Scout packs have raffles or drawings for prizes at pack meetings, such as the Cubs get a ticket for things like coming in full uniform, bringing a canned good for donation, etc. Since these aren’t fundraising activities, but, instead, primarily motivational methods, are they acceptable techniques?
(Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, it’s a BSA national policy that Scouts (and adult volunteers) can wear their uniforms while fund-raising only when it’s for a council-sponsored fund-raising event. That said, units often have their own tee-shirts (which, technically, aren’t uniforms), so these become excellent apparel to wear when doing unit-level fund-raising!

“Games of chance” fund-raisers, for which the general public pays money in hopes of winning one or more prizes is also a violation of BSA policy. When a “drawing” is done within a unit, and it’s done for fun, with no money exchanged, then it’s pretty much harmless; however, it would be much better to recognize all Scouts in accurate uniform and all who bring a donation item, rather than encourage the idea of “winning” something by chance rather than being recognized for an accomplishment. ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

I always thought it was strange that our Scouts’ “account money” was comingled with the troop’s money in a single bank account. I’d think it would make more sense to have separate accounts. Apparently, my son’s troop is in less than great shape financially. The Committee Chair has stated that they may have tapped into the Scouts’ money (meaning the troop bank account balance is below the cumulative sum of the individual Scouts’ account balances).

The adult leadership in this unit isn’t very open about things like this, so I doubt they’d be willing to even discuss it. So I’m wondering, do the Scouts’ parents have the right to ask to see the troop’s financial records and bankbook? It seems to me that a simple showing of the current bank balance and the sum of the Scouts’ accounts would squash any rumors about the Scouts’ own funds having been tapped into. In fact, should a periodic audit of the troop’s financial records be performed, and if so, should it be done by people not directly involved in the day-to-day handling of the money? If the adult leaders and the Chartered Organization resist any of these ideas, what, if anything, can the parents demand? (Name & Council Withheld)

It’s not so much about the account the money’s kept it; it’s about the record-keeping. Otherwise, wouldn’t you need a separate bank account for each Scout in the troop? The apparent failure here is in not keeping track, in a ledger or other type of record book, of how much money was accruing in the name of each Scout.

As for access to troop financial records, this should be an open book. Any parent must be given access to financial records anytime he or she asks to see them. This absolutely cannot be kept “secret,” because a Scouting unit isn’t some sort of legal entity and has no authority to withhold such information.

A better way to handle disbursements is to require two signatures on all checks: The treasurer’s and the Committee Chair’s, making sure that a “line” position like Scoutmaster doesn’t have the authority to sign checks. Also, make sure no one can sign a check that’s payable to himself or herself. Finally, issue no check absent a bill or receipt marked PAID (better yet, always pay a third-party directly, thereby eliminating the “reimbursement” issue entirely).

Finally, every time a Scout earns money that will be kept in the troop’s account, that Scout should be given a written, signed, and dated receipt stating the amount that will be credited in his name…and the Scout holds onto these receipts the same way he keeps his portions of merit badge “blue cards.”

Thanks, Andy. So much in this group is secret, I doubt they’ll open the records, but maybe having your answers as support will help. (N&CW)

Somebody needs to contact the head of the chartered organization (aka sponsor) and flat-out demand that the books be opened. If necessary, tell ’em that this troop will not get one dime more, from anybody, until the finances are fully revealed, even if that means transferring every single Scout to another troop.
Dear Andy,

Can a troop’s Committee Chair deny a Scout a merit badge because the paperwork for it wasn’t given to the Scoutmaster along with the “Blue Card”? Can a merit badge be denied a Scout because it was completed in another state?

My first question is based on our home council’s “Merit Badge University.” The troop’s Committee Chair didn’t like this council-wide program. In her estimation, the Counselors there didn’t “teach” the merit badges to a standard she approved of. So, when the Scouts turned in their post-university Blue Cards, she would demand any “paperwork” that may have been done and “grade” the work (per her own standards, of course). And if any Scout didn’t hand in paperwork, that was grounds for automatic denial.

For the second case, the merit badge was Citizenship in the Community. Again, she denied this badge on the basis that it had been completed in another state, and therefore “outside” the Scout’s home community…even though all work needed to be done “at home” had in fact been completed in advance of the out-of-state trip.

I’ve since done a lot of research on whether or not anyone such as Committee Chairs, Scoutmasters, or even other Merit Badge Counselors have the authority to deny a Scout his badge even where requirements have been signed off as completed by a registered Merit Badge Counselor, and the answer I keep finding is: No. e approval of partial or finished Merit Badge Blue Cards once some or all requirements had been signed off. Of course the answer I keep finding is….NO! Do I have this right? (Name & Council Withheld)

You absolutely have it right! First, no “paperwork” other than a signed blue card ever needs to be turned in to one’s Scoutmaster. A blue card signed by a registered Merit Badge Counselor is all that’s necessary. The Counselor can be from or in any council; where or with whom a Scout earns a merit badge is irrelevant, so long as the signing Counselor is registered as such.

As for someone (CC or otherwise) commandeering such cards and/or applying arbitrary “rules” on accepting them or not, this is in clear violation of BSA national policies. That little tin god of a CC you described should have been run out of town on a rail for exceeding her authority and abusing Scouts. In fact, the Scoutmaster should have been leading the way in having her dumped.

Only when the rascals are run out of town will Scouting and Scouts start enjoying the true and lasting worth of this Movement.
Dear Andy,

I’ve been a Den Leader for two years: Tiger and Wolf for my second son (my older just earned his Arrow of Light and has bridged over to Boy Scouts). I’ve had a boy in my den for these past two years who has some behavioral problems. He “acts out,” refuses to listen or behave, and has actually—although unintentionally—caused injury to his den mates. In short, he doesn’t seem able to control himself. His mother is little to no help. At almost every meeting, there’s a problem that wastes time, causes me to distract myself from attending to the other boys in the den, and give this boy way too much attention. I’m about to lose some of the other boys in the den over this. Can I ask this parent-and-son to leave the den, or is there some protocol I must follow to do this? Is there any legal trouble that can come from it? I have asked the mother to be more attentive, but this hasn’t helped. Frankly, she causes just about as much of a stir as her son does! (Name & Council Withheld)

Talk with your Cubmaster and Committee Chair about this boy, and consider including your pack’s Unit Commissioner in the conversation, too. If, in fact, this boy has injured others—whether intentionally or not—and his mother is unable or unwilling to control his behavior, she must be asked to remove him from den and pack activities until such future time as he can control his behavior or she is willing to do so. This may seem harsh, but it’s not, because you have the welfare of the other boys in the den and pack to consider, and you cannot place yourself in the position of knowingly placing them in potential harm’s way. Remember this: You’re an unpaid, non-professional volunteer; you’re not a professional behaviorist or therapist or counselor, and if this boy is too much for you to handle you have the absolute right to speak up.

Thanks, Andy. I appreciate what you’re saying, but it’s very hard for me to do this. If I put myself in her shoes, I’d be crushed and angry. But, on the other hand, I now have parents who want their own well-behaved sons out of the den!

I understand your concern; it’s normal and rational. But neither this boy nor his mother falls into the “normal and rational” category. She’s likely to make a stink, because your feelings and the welfare of the other boys aren’t a part of her own thinking at all! This is why I’m suggesting that you, the Cubmaster, and the Committee Chair all do this together. Don’t project your own feelings onto another person! This is misleading. This mother quite obviously has little concern for the welfare of the other children, so “hurting her feelings” is actually an unreasonable concern, when she shows so little concern for others. Plus, you have the welfare of the other boys, which absolutely must come first.

In situations like this, we must make our decisions with surgical precision; then carry them out with compassion—and always with a solid backbone.

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. 348 – 3/14/2013 – 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

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