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Issue 360 – August 2, 2013

The NATIONAL JAMBOREE was a hoot! Over 27,000 Scouts and Venturers (the Venturing guys and gals looked great in green—wonderful additions!) supported by close to 3,000 volunteers. The venues, ranging from all sorts of shooting activities, dragon boats on the lake, five miles of zip lines, and spectacular arena shows, were all wonderful experiences for the young people we’re here to serve!

Special thanks to Ken King, Todd Plotner, and Bill Steele, all coordinating and managing the NESA exhibit and guest speakers. Guys, I really appreciate the opportunity to be aboard for this ride. Thanks for including me in a great Jamboree program!

My biggest “paycheck” came, however, not from the great audiences at the NESA talks, but from a whole bunch of boots-on-the-ground Scouters who spotted me around the Jamboree, came up to me and shook my hand with “Andy, you helped me save my son’s troop!” “Andy, you rescued my pack!” “Andy, my son made Eagle thanks to you!” Even now, your friendship means so much to me that I’m choking up a bit just writing this. Thanks, folks – You recharged my batteries!

See you at The Summit in 2017!
Hi Andy,

Great to see you at the Jamboree! Hey, here’s my question… Who has the final say on dismissing a Scoutmaster when he refuses to comply with BSA policy? Is it the Committee Chair, the chartered organization, unit committee vote, or what? (S.T.)

Thanks for stopping by the NESA exhibit and saying Hi!

No, there’s no “vote.” It’s the responsibility of the CC, in concert with the CR (Chartered Organization Representative), to dismiss any unit volunteer who refuses to comply with BSA policies, procedures, rules, or regulations. There’s no “three strikes” rule or “grace period”: He either complies or he’s history, on the spot. All that needs be said is, “Thank you for your services to the troop; they will no longer be needed.” There is no recourse through the district or council for reinstatement. Even if the troop is without an immediate replacement, this is preferable to someone who refuses to follow BSA standards.

Hello Andy,

Can you give us some direction on the CPR experience the BSA requires for merit badges? We’ve had some Merit Badge Counselors recently insist that a Scout has to provide certification that he’s taken a formal CPR class (these can take six to eight hours and seem to be excessive). Yet, the actual requirement for Swimming merit badge is simply “(2a) Identify the conditions that must exist before performing CPR on a person, Explain how to recognize such conditions; and (2b) Demonstrate proper technique for performing CPR using a training device approved by your counselor.” Having a MBC add an extra requirement that the Scout must be certified doesn’t seem right. Are we missing something, or are these MBCs being a bit over the top in what they’re demanding of our Scouts? (Roger Burcroff)

We know that the BSA’s requirements for ranks and merit badges, etc. can neither be added to nor subtracted from. This being the case, requiring a Scout to show evidence of having taken a CPR class or be certified in CPR when this isn’t specifically stated in a requirement constitutes a violation of BSA advancement policy.

Neither Merit Badge Counselors nor anyone else involved in the BSA advancement process has the authority to become a “zealot” if this means arbitrarily adding to a requirement–regardless of their intention in doing so. No one can set himself or herself above BSA standards. Period.

If you encounter a MBC who is exceeding his or her authority, or, conversely, is reducing the vitality of requirements, your first step is to have a conversation with that person about following requirements precisely as written (requirements do not permit “interpretation”). If the person sees the light, that’s all that needs happen. If there’s a refusal to follow requirements as written, then two things need to happen. First, immediately stop directing Scouts to that person. Second, report his or her noncompliance to your district or council advancement committee, so that they can take appropriate corrective action. ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

Our troop has a new Scoutmaster. He seems to have his own agenda. For instance, he doesn’t allow separate patrol meetings anymore, when all the Scouts really enjoy these (and the “independent” feelings about themselves they get from these). Now, all the Patrol Leaders do is follow the Scoutmaster’s orders. They’re afraid to speak up for themselves because they don’t want the new Scoutmaster to “fire” them from their leadership positions. One of the Patrol Leaders is my son. What should he do? Help! (Concerned Parent)

Fixing this isn’t a job for your son or any other Scout. This is where you parents come in, and get this troop back on track.

First, this new Scoutmaster needs to be educated as to what his responsibilities are (and aren’t) and this is best done by the Committee Chair to whom he reports (yes, Scoutmasters do report to the CC). The CC needs to insist the Scoutmaster take the necessary position-specific training, and then start following the BSA program for Boy Scouts as written—not his “interpretation” of it. If he stalls or refuses, he needs to be fired on the spot. A troop is actually better off with a temporary “hole” in the Scoutmaster slot than to have a tin god run roughshod over the Scouts.

Waste no time in taking action. This has to be fixed immediately, before this yo-yo destroys the troop entirely.
Hello Andy,

In a recent column, you talked about Scouts participating in dodge ball and in snowball fights. First, let me say that I’d love to see all the games Scouts play be of a Scouting nature and in a patrol competition format. That said, I’ve learned that Scout-age boys don’t always want to do what we adults would like to see them do. The Scouts in our Troop frequently choose to play dodge ball. You recommended that we should make the stretch from BSA’s restriction against human or living representations as targets in shooting sports to infer that targeting humans with dodge ball games or snowball fights would also be unacceptable. I respect the help you offer and your years of experience; however, I have to respectfully disagree with you on this point and on the logic you took to get there.

I work in law enforcement and have taken many firearms training courses. Whether through law enforcement, NRA, or BSA, there is a basic concept taught over and over again: to never point a firearm at anything you do not want to “destroy.” BSA’s policy has grown from this concept. It’s the same reason that Boy Scouts don’t go hunting—we’re teaching youth to shoot as a sport and a skill; not as a means of killing. (The BSA does recognize that hunting can be done as a sport and allows it in the Venturing program when done to meet the required safety standards.) I’m fairly confident that when the policy was written under the heading of “Shooting Sports” nobody was intending it to be stretched to cover snowball fights and dodge ball.

We don’t ban Scouts from other sports that have physical contact. In fact, we have a special relationship and outreach into the Hispanic community through soccer, in which hitting the ball with your head is a part of the game.

The BSA, their safety experts, risk management people, and lawyers have all reviewed the policies and have created a list of “Unauthorized and Restricted Activities” under the GTSS heading of “Sports and Activities.” They’ve listed activities, such as bungee jumping, that carry a higher and unacceptable degree of risk. They’ve not restricted any team sports with the exception of “Varsity or Club Football,” allowing even for this high-injury game at a lower level of play and competition. If this is allowed, then surely dodge ball games and snowball fights are acceptable.

You also suggested that martial arts were banned, due to human targeting. I would submit that this restriction may have more to do with one-on-one fighting. The discipline and values of these arts are not even recognized and understood by most adults, who also simply see it as no more than a fighting style and or skill.

The BSA has created a specific list of restrictions and, like the requirements for Scout advancement, we do our Scouts a disservice if we add to it or interpret it to mean anything other than exactly what it says. If the BSA’s policies or insurance had a concern with Scouts enjoying dodge ball or snowball fights, I believe they’d specifically say so. There is always potential for abuse and injury in just about everything we do. These examples are no exception. I think we can mitigate the risk without banning activities.

I don’t believe the Scouts need us to pick their games for them. Most of the value of free play would be lost if the adults picked the games and made the rules. Our job, I believe, is too make sure everyone is safe and being treated fairly. Meanwhile, let the Scouts pick their own games and make their own rules. (Name & Council Withheld)

This column isn’t a “forum” and you haven’t asked a question; however, I’m making an exception here in publishing your letter because I have a feeling there’s a great “learning opportunity” here—even if it’s not yours.

In no particular order… The “soccer” example is, of course, borderline silly, because striking the ball with one’s head is a whole lot different from throwing or kicking a ball at another person’s head. As for martial arts, Aikido (the only one the BSA permits) is “non-striking”—something very different from boxing, Karate, and such. Finally, the purpose of discharging a firearm at a living target is hardly to “destroy” it. Other weapons “destroy;” bullets don’t. Finally in this arena, have you considered what you’re describing when you refer to snowball “fights”?

The bottom line here is that you’d prefer not to use good sense (beats “common” sense any day of the week) and help Scouts redirect themselves toward activities that don’t involve human targets—even when Scouts themselves understand that what they’re doing has a human-to-human striking element. That’s your prerogative, I suppose. So, when a Scout is injured by another Scout in the course of a “human target” game, it will be considered an incident, not an accident, and I wish you the best of luck when your BSA insurance is denied and you’re left flappin’ in the breeze.
Dear Andy,

The 2011 Guide to Advancement says the following in Topic “It is important to note the blue card is the nationally recognized merit badge record. It has been updated from time to time and carries the information needed for proper posting and for evidence and reference as needed later. For very large events—such as the national Scout jamboree—the National Council may approve an alternative format and sizing for the blue card. This is done through the national Advancement Team.”

Should we as adult leaders be accepting forms other than the official
blue card or an approved alternative from our local council summer camps? (John Pinchot, Longhorn Council, TX)

Your best bet is to make sure the adult volunteers who accompany the Scouts to camp have a bunch of pre-signed Blue Cards for the Scouts. They can then use these when they sign up for various merit badges. If the camp, however, uses some different form, it’s reasonable to conclude that these are council-approved and need not be questioned.

Dear Andy,

I understand that a Webelo receives a special award if he completes all 20 activity badges. Can you tell me what that is? (Linda)

Check pages 60-61 of the Webelos Handbook.

Oh, and by the way, it’s Webelos (with an “s”) whether you’re talking about a den of Webelos Scouts or a single Webelos.
Dear Andy,

While discussing wayward Merit Badge Counselors in your July 5, 2013 column (No. 359) you said, “For home Merit Badge Counselors…the key contact person is…the Council (not district) Advancement Chair.

Oops! Actually, the first point of contact definitely is the District Advancement Chair, because this is the person who approves Merit Badge Counselors for the district (but yes, final approval is officially the Council Advancement Committee—not the Council Advancement Chair—and each DAC is a member of the council advancement committee, so the task is delegated to the districts). Now if the DAC doesn’t give you satisfaction, then you’d go over his head to the Council Advancement Chair. (James Eager, DAC, Gulf Ridge Council)

Sorry, no twenty lashes with a wet lanyard happenin’ today!

Yes, the authorization to approve MBCs may be accorded a district’s advancement committee, if the council advancement committee elects; however, this is not a universal practice. Since, ultimately, it is the CAC which approves all MBCs and, in fact, is responsible for renewing MBCs each registration year, it is the CAC which would typically be notified of a difficulty. When one carries out such notification, it’s a best practice to contact the person most responsible: the chair of the committee. Now the council-level chair may choose to pass the concern to the corresponding district’s advancement committee or to collaborate with that committee, or not, at the council advancement chair’s discretion.

Your council may have adopted an alternate method, and this is probably just fine; however, it would probably be unwise to consider your local procedure something that applies to the 300+ remaining councils of the BSA.

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. 360 – 8/2/2013 – 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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