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Issue 364 – September 14, 2013

Dear Andy,

I was a Scout in my troop and now that I’ve aged out I’m an Assistant Scoutmaster. I have some concerns about how the troop’s being run and I’m hoping to get some clarifications from you on a few questions. First, is a Scoutmaster supposed to sit on the troop committee? And does a Scoutmaster have a vote? Finally, is he supposed to be at the committee meeting the full time? My training says that the Scoutmaster is to come in to describe any concerns and such that he might have, and then leave and allow the committee to make decisions. Can you help me out here? (Curtis McQuerrey, Eagle ’09)

A Scoutmaster isn’t a member of a troop’s committee; he’s registered as a Scoutmaster (Code: SM), not as Code CC or MC, and he can’t be “double-registered” in the same unit. He’s not an “ad hoc” member of the committee, either. The Scoutmaster, in fact, reports to the troop’s Committee Chair and committee-at-large. The Troop Organization Chart in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK makes all of this crystal clear.

The Scoutmaster’s role, with regard to the committee, is to take maybe 10 to 15 minutes, maximum, describing to the committee what the Patrol Leaders Council has planned for the coming month, and ask for any assistance (e.g., filling out and submitting a Tour Plan to the council service center, paying any needed event registration fees, reserving a campsite, contracting with a canoe rental company, assuring that all parental release and medical forms are complete and current, etc.). He can also take back to the PLC any suggestions the committee might have regarding what the PLC has planned (Special Note: Neither the committee nor the Scoutmaster has “veto power” over a PLC’s plans except in the areas of health and safety or BSA policies.)

As for “voting,” the troop committee is not a legislative body; all necessary policies regarding health and safety, advancement procedures, etc., have already been established by the BSA (and are to be followed). Therefore, the committee, in its function of supporting the troop program as decided on by the PLC, has quite literally nothing to vote on. The committee is expected by the BSA to operate collaboratively. This is not a “Robert’s Rules of Order” assemblage. ________________________________________
Hi Andy,

My son, almost 17 now, is a Patrol Leader and wants very much to have a shot at getting elected to the Order of the Arrow (like his Dad and older brothers were). But his Scoutmaster has said he’s afraid that if the older scouts are in the OA they’ll have less time for the troop. I’ve told him that the OA is about serving fellow Scouts, and any Scout elected by his peers into the OA would be an even bigger asset to the troop. But this was to no avail. The Scoutmaster won’t budge. No troop OA elections on his watch. I’ve spoken with the Chapter Chief and Chapter Advisor, and they’re willing to meet and talk with him, but it seems he’s just not going to think any other way. Some of the Assistant Scoutmasters were in the OA as Scouts, themselves, and don’t agree with the Scoutmaster’s stance, but they won’t speak up. I’m thinking of taking one last shot at changing the Scoutmaster’s outlook, because I hate to see Scouts short-changed. Any thoughts on this? (Jim Kelley)

Any Scoutmaster who thinks his ungrounded fears allow him to supersede an official BSA national program that’s been in existence for over 60 years needs to either get straight or get run out of town.

Neither his “opinion” nor his “decision” carries any weight at all. Immediately, the troop’s Committee Chair needs to tell him: Either run the Scouting program right or go find yourself another way to spend your free time; you’ve been disadvantaging the very young men we’re here to serve, support, encourage, and grow into manhood far too long already, and it’s going to stop right now.

If you all “hate to see Scouts short-changed,” then stand with your CC when he steps up to the plate and reminds the Scoutmaster who he reports to and who he’s supposed to be serving.

Hello Andy,

“Can a Scout be a registered member of more than one Boy Scout troop at the same time?” Plenty of Scouters—some long-involved with the program—make matter-of-fact statements on this topic, saying, “Of course he can,” and others say, “Of course not.” But just what is official BSA policy on this? Do know a title source with page number and verbatim text that can be cited? I’d appreciate some insight here. (James Alvernaz)

For the moment, let’s begin with the more important question: Why would this occur? In a normal situation, attending one set of troop meetings is plenty for one young man; adding a second troop and its incumbent obligation to show up for meetings and outings could well put this young man into “overload.” Besides, a Scout is—first and foremost—a member of a patrol! (Troops are made up of two or more patrols; it’s not the other way around.)

Moreover, how would advancement records, Scoutmaster conferences, patrol and troop elections, election to the OA, etc., be handled? In short, unless there’s some hugely extenuating circumstance, it’s not only not a very good idea, it’s actually a bad idea.

But there can definitely be extenuating circumstances… A young man in a “shared custody” situation, where his parents live a significant distance away from one another immediately comes to mind. I’m sure there are others, but the point here is that the circumstance really needs to be significant, and not just “the kid has friends in two different troops,” because it’ll create a scheduling and logistical nightmare for the Scout, for his parents, for his patrol(s), and for the volunteers in each troop.

Aside from that, the BSA has no specific “rule” on this (the BSA likes to assume folks exercise good sense, so they rarely provide lists of “taboos”), so it’s “legal,” if you will. It’s just not a wonderful idea, for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, and more that’ll be discovered by anyone who attempts this.
Dear Andy,

Can a current 16 year-old Life Scout enter the Exploring program and still earn his Eagle Rank? (Steve Huey)

This young man would need to remain registered with a troop, as a Boy Scout, or join a Venturing crew, as a Venturer, because there’s no provision for advancement in the Exploring program (it’s part of the Learning for Life Division).
Dear Andy,

I’m Committee Chair for my younger son’s pack and a committee member for my older son’s troop. Neither unit has required all committee members to wear a uniform. In many cases, the adult’s may decide to wear the uniform, and this is definitely encouraged. But in many cases, I’m having to persuade these people to take on this position of responsibility, and adding additional requirements—such as uniform wear—would make this more difficult. For example, the mother who has agreed to be the advancement coordinator and goes to the Scout shop to purchase the advancements each month doesn’t think she needs to spend $80 or more on a uniform for herself. I’ve recently been told that all troop committee members are required to wear uniforms and, further, that troop committee members sitting on a board of review are required to wear a full uniform. If this is the case, I’ll have a lot less people on the committees. I’ve checked around and haven’t been able to find anything pro or con this requirement, so I’d appreciate your help. (John Pinchot, Longhorn Council, TX)

In Boy Scout troops, the Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters serving them are expected to be in uniform. In Cub Scout packs, the Cubmaster, any assistants, and all Den Leaders and registered assistants are expected to be in uniform. However, committee members—regardless of pack or troop—aren’t. For committee members, it’s optional, says the BSA, meaning that if a committee member or chair wishes to equip himself or herself with a uniform, that’s OK, but it’s just as OK not to. No unit has the authority to supersede these BSA national policies.

If you’ve “been told” something different by anyone, just ask that person to show it to you in writing by the BSA. (It’s rare that “hearsay” is completely accurate, and Scouting seems sometimes to have cornered the market on misinformation touted as gospel.)

Thanks, Andy. So that I can dispel this misinformation, can you point me to the BSA policy on CCs and MCs not being required to wear uniforms? (John Pinchot)

First, go to – “Uniform Inspection Sheet – Scout Leaders.” Since committee members aren’t “Scout leaders,” that’s enough (the BSA assumes its volunteers aren’t dolts). Second, demand that whoever told you otherwise show you the BSA policy supporting his or her claim, in writing. End of story.
Dear Andy,

Can you please send me an official rules and regulation site for soapbox derby cars? (Gloria)

The Cub Scout program of the BSA doesn’t include “soapbox” derbies. If you mean Pinewood Derby cars (and I’m guessing that’s what you mean), you’ll find the spec’s in the box when you purchase it. Or, you can simply Google your question… I guarantee at least one million citations!

Dear Andy,

What are the sign, motto, and handshake for Venture Scouts and Varsity Scouts? (Gloria Rogers, SM, Buffalo, WY)

For Varsity Scouts and for Boy Scouts who are members of a Venture Patrol, they’re the same as for regular Boy Scouts. If you’re asking about Venturers, who are members of a Venturing crew (and not a troop or team), then go here:

That said, understand that this will be changing; shortly, all youth members of the BSA will use the same sign, handclasp, Oath, Law, etc.
Dear Andy,

My son (Troop ASPL) ran into a situation at his troop meeting last week. A First Class Scout wanted him to sign off a requirement for Star Scout (Requirement 5, which is serving 4 months actively in a leadership position). My son didn’t sign and told the Scout politely that he should have the Scoutmaster sign off on the requirement, since, as ASPL, he was not an actual member of a patrol and only the Scoutmaster can sign off on Star and higher requirements. Is my son correct in interpreting who should sign off on requirements on Star and higher ranks?

By the way, my son is a 13 year-old Life Scout and was an ASPL in the
Troop as a 12 year-old Star Scout (this is his 2nd term as ASPL). Our Troop doesn’t have the nonsense of blocking Scouts from taking whatever merit badges they want, advancing at whatever pace they wish through the ranks, telling Scouts that they can’t have a leadership position because they aren’t First Class yet, or telling Scouts that they aren’t active even though they are in band, orchestra, choir, sports teams, debate, robotics, participating in science competitions, and any number of other extracurricular activities. (This troop is located in a city that has one of the top school districts in California and has Scouts who attend three high schools, all rated in the Top 100 according to Newsweek and US News & World Report.) And we have 50 Scouts in the roster and are going to have 20 Webelos joining shortly! So I guess we’re doing something right! (Yunchi Hsaio, MC, Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, CA)

I’m delighted to know of a troop that’s getting so many things right! Bravo!

As for your son’s decision, of course he’s correct. The sign-off on such requirements as positions of leadership, active tenure, and having earned the merit badges required for Star, Life, and Eagle should always come from the Scoutmaster. (Maybe the Scoutmaster needs to make a brief announcement about this, or—better yet—mention it in a Patrol Leaders Council meeting so that the Patrol Leaders can carry the message back to their patrol members!)

Thanks, Andy. I figured that my son did the right thing in telling the First Class Scout to have a Scoutmaster sign off on a Star requirement. And this was actually an isolated incident, since all Scouts in our troop seeking advancement to Star and above have always had the Scoutmaster sign off.

I think what happened is that my son has the habit of signing off requirements in both English and Chinese in the handbook (our Scoutmaster thinks it’s cool) and the other Scout wanted something unique in his handbook. (Yunchi Hsaio)

Chinese? Awesome! So, after the Scoutmaster signs the Scouts’ handbooks, your son can counter-sign in Chinese! How’s that for a cool way to have the best of both! ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

I am working very closely with a Cub Scout pack in our district and have been presented a question that I’ve not come across before. There’s a boy who’s a Webelos II and has completed all requirements for Arrow of Light. In his school, however, he’s been held back a year, so that now he feels closer to the Webelos I Scouts, since he’s in their classes at school. His parents don’t feel he’s ready to move on to Boy Scouts; they want him to repeat the Webelos II program. I shared concerns about him doing that, because although he may be with boys he knows, he isn’t going to be earning any badges or pins, because he’s already earned them, which means the likelihood is that he’ll get bored with the program and just walk away.

Is it really acceptable to have this boy repeat his Webelos II year? From what I understand, the Webelos I-II program isn’t designed for this. But, I don’t want to loose a Scout, either. The boy wants to be in Scouting, but his parents have said they don’t want him in Boy Scouts right now, so I really don’t know what to advise them. Can you help? (Kim Stanton, DC, Seneca Waterways Council, NY)

Has anyone described these options—including the pro’s and con’s—to the boy and asked him which way he’d like to go?

Hi again, Andy. If he does want to stay with his (new) friends and do the Webelos II program over again, can he? (Kim Stanton)

A lot depends on his age… If he’s about to turn 11, he may want to simply skip over to a Boy Scout troop, and his parents can hardly quibble if he’s old enough to qualify for Boy Scouts (and also old enough so that it disqualifies him from being in the Cub Scout program any longer).

But the most important aspect is this: What does HE want to do? (If he’s indifferent, I’d suggest moving him to a troop.)

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. 364 – 9/14/2013 – 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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