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Issue 364 – September 2, 2013

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Dear Andy,

I read your column with the question about Scoutmasters taking over the announcements really hit home—it could have been written about me! We have a good troop that’s active, uniformed, and youth-run. Thanks to you, I just made a commitment that the Senior Patrol Leader will no longer stand on the sidelines while I make any announcements. It all started because it’s “easier,” but I can see that it undercuts the SPL’s role. I’m going to write them down or collect them from others and turn it over to the SPL, so he can run the whole show!

Bravo for your response on uniforms, too! Like you and probably lots of Scoutmasters everywhere, I’ve heard every excuse in the book for boys not being in uniform, and I’ve often pointed out that this doesn’t happen with sports teams, so why Scouts? It takes some effort and maybe some fundraising, but between our troop closet and just not taking no for an answer, our boys proudly wear complete and distinctive uniforms. In the last few years, we’ve extended this to camp or activity uniforms too. Our Scouts wear designated colors of troop tee shirts with Scout pants or shorts, socks, and belts, along with hats the Scouts themselves selected (yes, they’re BSA hats). They look sharper than most units even when they’re just wearing their activity uniforms! The best thing is that they now want to look their sharpest, and they take justified pride in looking like Scouts! (Dennis Freeman, SM, Green River, WY)
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Hello Andy,

While most of the time I feel your answers are spot on and most of the time you answer respectfully, I feel you may have dropped the ball on one. In your June 8 column, “Steve” asked if Assistant Scoutmasters could do Scoutmaster conferences for lower ranks. While nowhere does it state that specifically that Assistant Scoutmasters can do Scoutmaster conferences, there is text in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK that indicates Scoutmasters can assign duties they’re responsible for to assistants, one of those being Scoutmaster conferences. So while a troop may be small enough (according to your math) that a Scoutmaster can do all of the conferences, the assistants can indeed perform them, and I’m not sure that even only applies to lower ranks. (Connie Knie, ASM, Great Lakes Field Service Council, MI)

Scouting is a remarkable movement. Just take a look at the Scout Law. It’s all about what to do; it’s not about what “not” to do! For “A Scout is trustworthy,” “is” is the emphasis. It doesn’t say “a Scout doesn’t lie, cheat, steal, or in any way be dishonest.” How about “A Scout is reverent”? It doesn’t say “a Scout doesn’t deny God or his duty to God, and he doesn’t disrespect the beliefs of others.” This is the fundamental beauty and simplicity of what Scouting’s all about. By the same token, the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK discusses how Scoutmasters will conduct conferences with Scouts. In fact, this handbook makes references to Scoutmaster conferences on eight specific occasions, yet not once does this handbook say “don’t assign this to someone else,” because Scouting is all about what we do to get it right and not about what we don’t do to avoid getting it wrong. The same holds true with Assistant Scoutmasters, which are referred to in this handbook 17 times, yet not once in these 17 times is there any reference to the notion of substituting for the Scoutmaster when it comes to conferences with Scouts. You’re correct that one of the responsibilities of an ASM is to temporarily fill in for the Scoutmaster when he’s absent from a meeting. However, of the seven standard parts of a troop meeting, the Scoutmaster (or his substitute) has only one part: The Scoutmaster’s minute, at the close of the meeting. So, just because “it doesn’t say ‘can’t'” that’s hardly a valid reason to make a substitution when it comes to Scoutmaster conferences. If this were written from a negative slant rather than focusing on the positive, this handbook would have to include “don’t substitute ASMs, don’t substitute committee members, don’t substitute parents, don’t substitute Scouts, and on and on…” Instead, the handbook tells the Scoutmaster what to do, and one of the things a Scoutmaster does is conduct Scoutmaster conferences. If this were a loosey-goosey sort of thing, these would be called “leader conferences” or “adult volunteer conferences,” or something else that lets you know you can do it any which way to please. But it doesn’t. It says “Scoutmaster conference.” Period.

If you should need something further, first check the 2011 BSA GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT: “The unit leader* (Scoutmaster) conference…is conducted according to the guidelines in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK.” (Note: *The term “unit leader” is used because Boy Scout teams have Coaches, not Scoutmasters, and because sometimes Advisors and Skippers conference with Venturers or Sea Scouts going for Eagle.) Then, of course, the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK clearly states: “The Scoutmaster conference is a visit between the Scoutmaster and a Scout…” There is no language in either manual stating, suggesting, or implying that the Scoutmaster conference may be delegated to anyone else.

Taking this one step more, check the even more current 2013 BSA GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT. In this definitive reference, “Scoutmaster conference” for the purpose of advancement is cited no less than five times (see Topics 4.2.3.5, 8.0.0.2, 8.0.3.2, 9.0.1.1, and 9.0.1.3) and in none of these citations will you find even the most minimal suggestion that anyone but the Scoutmaster carries these out.
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Dear Andy,

Can you let us know what the proper procedure is to remove a Cub Master from his duties? Are non-committee members allowed to have a vote in the decision process? Should it be done at a meeting with all who are involved? Can you also explain the procedures to remove unruly child from a pack, when another unruly child remains without consequence? (Name & Council Withheld)

Neither committee members nor certainly non-committee members (i.e., parents) do any voting of any sort on matters like this. Decisions on the continuation or removal of an adult unit volunteer rest entirely with the Chartered Organization Representative, with support by the Committee Chair (unless it’s the CC who is being contemplated for removal, in which case the CR solely makes that determination).

In the instance of a Cubmaster, the CR and CC would speak with him or her along the lines of, “Thank you for your services; they will no longer be needed.” That’s it. It’s now done and there is no recourse on the part of the removed volunteer through the district or council.

Before taking such action, however, I would caution those involved. Unit volunteers are, as you probably know already, not necessarily easy to come by. I would strongly recommend a person-to-person counseling conversation first (no emails!) to work on resolving whatever issues have arisen that would cause contemplation of removal. Keep in mind that removal on the basis of an unpopular instant decision in the midst of a pack meeting—when no one else may have intervened to correct the immediate situation—may not be in the best interests of the pack as a whole.

As for the behavior of Cub Scouts, the first level of corrective action is provided by his Den Leader and/or Assistant Den Leader; failing this, the responsibility naturally falls to the boys’ parents.

The best way to avert untoward behavior among the Cub Scouts at a pack meeting is for the dens to be seated side-by-side in a single row, with their Den Leader at one end and an Assistant (or selected parent in the absence of an ADL) at the other. All dens sit this way, in the front rows, with parents and other family members sitting behind the rows of dens. This provides the best control over comportment during meetings.

In the case of a boy who fails to cooperate when behavioral issues are present, “discipline” in the form of punishment is never, ever employed. Instead, the Den Leader simply removes the boy from his seat, escorts him to where his parents are seated, and asks them to remove him from the meeting room until such time as he’s able to control his behavior appropriately.
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Dear Andy,

My son earned his Eagle rank in December 2012. He has enough additional merit badges to qualify for five Palms. He’s maintained both leadership and participation with his troop since earning Eagle.

Can you clarify the “palm” process for me? Would it take him 15 months to go through the process of earning five Palms, factoring in leadership, participation, Scout spirit, Scoutmaster conferences, and boards of review? Or would it be that he go through the process of doing two Scoutmaster conferences and two reviews plus the other requirements to receive a silver and a gold palm? (Patrick Lesley, Bay Area Council)

Yup, the minimum tenure per palm is three months…Just like your son’s handbook says! So, three months after his Eagle board of review date, he was eligible for a review for his first (bronze) palm, then his second (gold) three months after that, and so on.

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Dear Andy,

Can or should a Scoutmaster have Scoutmaster conferences and sign off other requirements for his own son? (G Hanes, French Creek Council)

Sure! Why not? (Unless that Scout would prefer someone else… When in doubt, just ask the Scout!)

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Dear Andy,

I was sitting in a coffee shop one recent Sunday afternoon, waiting for another Scouter to arrive to plan an event, when he burst through the door and told me that he and I needed to sit on an Eagle board of review down the street because they were short of reviewers. The Scout we were meeting with had submitted his all his appropriate paperwork just before his 18th birthday, and then had left the country for a year because his school was foreign-based. At the time of his original submission, his Scoutmaster had refused to sign the Eagle application—the issue was “didn’t show Scout spirit.” The chair of the board of review later convinced him to sign it, so that we could conduct the review, and the Scoutmaster relented.

There were three reviewers that day: My Scouter friend, myself, and one other non-troop Scouter, a member of the Scout’s troop committee, and two of the troop’s Assistant Scoutmasters. During an hour-long and most uncomfortable review, one of the troop’s ASMs began to challenge the Scout and his “Scout spirit” by bringing up old issues having to do with the Scout’s behavior toward others (it struck me that this was pretty ancient stuff, but I can’t say for sure). In the end, the vote of the reviewers was negative, based on the Scout spirit issues raised by the ASM and for questionable leadership of his Eagle project.

But now that I’ve had time to process and reflect on what happened, I have some questions. First, should the application and his Eagle book have been forwarded to a board of review without a Scoutmaster’s signature? (It seems to me that the candidate and his family should have followed the GTA Topic 8.0.3.2—Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review under Disputed Circumstances—process the moment the Scoutmaster refused to sign. Second, should two of his own troop’s Assistant Scoutmaster have even been in the room as reviewers?  If these two hadn’t been present, the board may have taken on quite a different tenor, and perhaps a different outcome. Finally, if the review as inappropriately convened, does the Scout have grounds to ask the advancement committee for a new (and correct) review, rather than seek an appeal? (Name & Council Withheld)

On your current Eagle candidate situation, there are a bunch of hiccups. In no particular order…

ASMs and SMs of a Scout’s home troop are never permitted to sit on any board of review for any rank or palm.

“Lack of Scout spirit” is often malarkey. Tell me: How does a Scout complete six ranks, earn at least 21 merit badges, hold a bunch of different positions of responsibility, give service to others along the way, and carry out an approved Eagle service project without “showing Scout spirit”?

Even if a Scoutmaster refuses to sign an Eagle application (which ultimately didn’t happen, right?) a board of review can be held “under disputed circumstances” (per the Guide To Advancement). You’re correct, however, that the Scout, or a member of his family, could (and likely should) have instantly requested a review under disputed circumstances rather than allow an entire year to go by.

At the Eagle board of review, it’s the responsibility of the district or council advancement committee representative to keep the playing field level (and to remove any reviewer who [a] shouldn’t have been there in the first place and/or [b] starts brow-beating the Scout). Where was he? Or, if you didn’t have one present, then it’s not a duly recognized board of review!

To talk about “a Scout’s interactions in his time with the troop” is indeed dredging up ancient history. As such, it’s inappropriate and should have been stopped. The only thing to talk about is the Scout’s life since completing Life rank—that’s it! It sounds like somebody was out to nail this Scout’s hide to the wall.

This Scout can and should appeal this so-called decision, for all of the above reasons. I hope you’ll be the one to help this Scout move forward, which is his absolute right.
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Dear Andy,

Can a Chartered Organization Representative (CR) and/or Committee Chair (CC) remove a unit adult volunteer based solely on that volunteer getting upset and/or verbal with senior Scouts (only) over issues that transpired while at summer camp, after noting that although the troop’s Scoutmaster was there and was informed he did nothing about it? (Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, a CR has the authority to dismiss any unit volunteer, at any time, for any (or even no) reason. If the CR and CC are on the same page, it’s probably over. The best one to stick up for you, in light of the situation you refer to, is the Scoutmaster himself. If you don’t have his willing and open support, it’s likely you’ll be fighting an uphill (usually un-winnable) battle. ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

Our troop is planning on going to a space center program to participate in their Space Exploration merit badge program in November. We make it a practice to invite Webelos Scouts to events in the fall, leading up to their Blue & Gold Dinner. If a Webelos Scout attends this event with the troop and completes all the activities, and then later bridges to our troop, could a Merit Badge Counselor for this merit badge sign off next March on work that was done as a Webelos in November? (John Pinchot)

We know that only Boy Scouts earn merit badges, from which we can easily extend that only Boy Scouts work on merit badge requirements. So, for those Webelos, there’s ample time to collaborate with their Den Leader to design the event so that what they do can be credited toward one or more Webelos Activity Badges.

Happy Scouting!

Andy

Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to askandybsa@yahoo.com. 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 – 9/2/2013 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2013]

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About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy 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: 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 & Cliff Dochterman Awards, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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