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Issue 370 – November 8, 2013

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Dear Andy,

I’m a Webelos Den Leader, and this issue came up at our fall campout. BSA Youth Protection says: “When camping, no youth is permitted to sleep in the tent of an adult other than his or her own parent or guardian.” However, we recently had a situation where I, as a parent and leader, was unable to sleep overnight with my son at the campground. So, by prior arrangement, my son stayed in a large, family-style tent with four others: two unrelated adults (one a fully trained leader; the other, YP trained) and their sons. Now, one of our committee members says that this was a Youth Protection violation. Our Cubmaster and I, as well as the other two adults directly involved, didn’t and still don’t see this arrangement as a violation, since there were multiple adults as well as multiple youth in the tent. In effect, this was no different than camping in a cabin. But the argument persists. Can you help us here? (Hank Eisenstein, WDL, Staten Island, NY)

Yes, there certainly is this GTSS rule: “When staying in tents, no youth will stay in the tent of an adult other than his or her parent or guardian.” However, there’s also this one: “Single-room or dormitory-type accommodations for Scouting units: Adults and youths of the same gender may occupy dormitory or single-room accommodations, provided there is a minimum of two adults and four youths. A minimum of one of the adults is required to be Youth Protection–trained. Adults must establish separation barriers or privacy zones such as a temporary blanket or a sheet wall in order to keep their sleeping area and dressing area separated from the youth area.”

The large, family-style tent you’ve described is hardly what the first rule above is intended to apply to. That rule is referring to the common two-person-type tent. The tent you’ve described, given its size and occupancy, much better fits the second rule above. So, on this basis, and in light of the circumstances, I’d say good sense that conformed with Youth Protection rules was definitely applied.

There’s also a rule for Cub Scout/Webelos Scout camping: “In most cases, each youth member will be under the supervision of a parent or guardian. In all cases, each youth participant is responsible to a specific adult.” And there is this second rule as well: “In special circumstances, a Cub Scout whose parent or legal guardian is not able to attend an overnight camping trip may participate under the supervision of another registered adult member of the BSA who is a parent of a Cub Scout who is also attending.”

Again, your description appears to conform with the second of the two rules immediately above. Based on your description, you applied good judgment here, as well. So, all-in-all, I don’t see how any Youth Protection policy was in any way violated.
Hi Andy,

Thanks for all your great advice and information over the years. I’ve learned a lot from you. Now, here’s one of my own…

My Life Scout son met with his Scoutmaster last night to go over his Eagle Scout project paperwork before getting the necessary sign-offs. The Scoutmaster told him that his project didn’t have enough work for Scouts in the troop to do and that he needed to add more things to the project so that the troop could be more involved. The project already has two parts because the Scoutmaster said the first concept wasn’t enough to be considered “Eagle-worthy.”

The original idea was to convert an alcove area in a school gym into a functional equipment storage closet, by cleaning and painting the area, installing shelves and a light fixture, and adding a door or gate that could be locked. My husband is a Class A welder and his brother (our son’s uncle) is a mechanical engineer. They, along with my son, designed a special bracket to support the shelves, because the brackets available in retail hardware stores are too flimsy to work well and also and very expensive. The plan stated that my son and husband would fabricate 24 of these special brackets. Meanwhile, my son has already asked a painting contractor and a steel supply company for donations towards the closet.

The Scoutmaster has insisted on a second part as well, which is planned to be building and installing three to four benches around a new play area at the same school. For this, my son has contacted a bench fabricator and gotten catalogs for the benches he wants to use. He has done cost comparisons for full kits versus frames-only plus our own wood, and has presented his results to the school administration. Combined, the entire project will take the rest of the school year to complete, in part because the school won’t have installed the play area until the spring of 2014.

The Scoutmaster now says my son has to add landscaping around the play area and benches, so that the troop can have more to do. My son’s work staff will be composed of a few select Scouts from the troop, plus family members, plus school staff and PTO members. Where in the BSA guidelines does it say that Scouts in an Eagle candidate’s troop have to be the primary workers on the project? Also, is there anything that says the candidate must invite all troop members to be part of the project? (Name & Council Withheld)

Unfortunately, while all of the work your son has planned is very nice, the Eagle Scout Service Project workbook notes that a Scout’s helpers—and they absolutely don’t have to be Scouts, by the way; they can be neighborhood friends, classmates, religious group members, etc.—are expected to be unskilled. Fifty percent of the purpose of such service projects is in the arena of giving leadership to others; it’s not working with skilled craftsmen, etc., because ultimately the Scout has little actual leadership to contribute. Moreover, such projects aren’t about how much work the Scout himself does; they’re about his ability to recruit and direct helpers who do the work. In reality, if the Scout never picks up a hammer, paint brush, or shovel, and the work gets done by others, that’s a success!

So this Scoutmaster is correct in this regard: There doesn’t appear to be enough work for your son’s helpers to actually do, which your son would then direct and lead. But he’s not correct in insisting that most or all of the Scouts in the troop must be the helpers. There is absolutely no BSA policy to support this sort of thinking. Moreover, continuing to add to a Scout’s own idea is hardly the job of anyone—Scoutmaster or otherwise. The first concept—the equipment closet—should have been more than enough to stand on its own as an Eagle Scout Service Project. (Let’s also realize that there is absolutely no BSA rule that says painting, cleaning, building, or constructing is somehow mandatory for qualified projects.)

I’m not sure adding further landscaping is the best approach, in part because we now have two additional work plans when the first one was sufficient, and there’s no guarantee that the Scoutmaster’s going to stop at this (For all we know, “Part 4” is already in his thinking!).

Instead, I’m going to suggest finding an Eagle advisor who can better explain to your son—and his Scoutmaster—what this is supposed to be all about, and help your son develop a service project that fulfills the goals of this requirement without being “overkill.” Consider having a conversation right away with a person on the district advancement committee who can provide some needed additional guidance and direction.

Dear Andy,

The GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT states that a Scout who has earned First Class as a Boy Scout can continue to advance to Star, Life, and Eagle as a member of a Venturing crew or Sea Scout ship up until his 18th birthday. The GUIDE TO AWARDS & INSIGNIA states that a male Venturing crew member may wear these ranks on his Venturing uniform, but states nothing about a Sea Scout uniform. If a male Sea Scout earns these Boy Scout ranks, can he wear his current rank patch or pin on his Sea Scout uniform? If so, where is it worn?

Also, the same GUIDE TO AWARDS & INSIGNIA states that a female Venturing crew member who has earned the GSUSA Gold Award may wear that badge on the left pocket of her Venturing uniform. Can a female Sea Scout likewise wear the Gold Award on her uniform? Again, if so, where? (Dave Mountney, UC, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

According to the Uniform Inspection Sheet for Sea Scouts, the SEA SCOUT MANUAL, and the official website, Boy Scout (and, by extension, Girl Scout) rank badges aren’t worm on that uniform. Neither are OA flap patches or “temporary” (i.e., right pocket) patches worn on Sea Scout uniforms, per the same sources. However, the website informs us that “square knots,” if earned, are permitted to be worn above the left pocket, following the same guidelines as for Boy Scouts. ________________________________________
Hi Andy,

Great column! Thank you for providing a great resource for all us Scouters out here.

As a Scoutmaster, I help guide my Scouts through their Eagle application process. My Scouts are regularly sent back from their boards of review (in our council, these are done at the district/council level) following an unsuccessful conclusion. There are many reasons for this. Sometime they’re good ones (often a lesson in “Be Prepared”—Fix it and come back); sometimes they’re not so good.

The most frustrating not so good reason is that my Scout’s “brag sheet” isn’t good enough. “Write a few paragraphs for requirement #6 detailing your ambitions and life purpose and other leadership positions held in other activities. This requirement should be typed.” Requirement 6 is a Scoutmaster conference—that’s my responsibility. Isn’t this adding to the requirements? (Mike McCormick, Garden State Council, NJ)

First, you need to take a moment to read that requirement in its entirety. The Eagle candidate most definitely must attach to his application a statement of ambitions and life purpose and a listing of positions held in his faith, school, etc. in which he demonstrated leadership skills, etc. When you read the whole thing, you’ll see that this is part of the full “requirement 6.”

As for it being typed, let’s imagine you’re applying for a job, and a resume is requested of you. Would you seriously consider hand-writing it? This is what we’re attempting to quietly teach Scouts, and one of the ways we do that is to set appropriate expectations…one of which is using a keyboard and printer.

While a typed statement for that requirement isn’t and can’t be made mandatory, what Scout in his right mind—given the proliferation and availability of computers (they’ve been around for well over three decades now)—wouldn’t choose to type instead of hand-writing this document? This is one of the things he learned how to do in school, at home, and when he completed Communication merit badge, for goodness sakes. And let’s not forget that today’s teenagers can type faster with their two thumbs than you and I can with our two index fingers!

As for the contents of that document, having personally sat on some two hundred Eagle boards of review, and reviewed several thousand Eagle Scout scholarship applications, the one thing Eagle Scouts have in common, in my experience, is that they’re INTO LOTS OF STUFF. I’ve never yet encountered an Eagle Scout whose sole activity beyond schoolwork was Scouting and that’s all. So that statement should be a no-brainer!
Dear Andy,

I’m the new Scoutmaster of a longstanding troop. Instead of a PLC (Patrol Leaders Council), our troop has a TLC (Troop Leader Committee) consisting of the SPL, ASPLs, PLs, and any other Scout holding a leadership position. One challenge we have is to get the PLs to attend. They don’t see themselves as “senior leaders” and, as a consequence, rarely attend TLC meetings. A corresponding challenge is that many of the PLs are often younger Scouts (age 11 or 12) and they get a little overwhelmed by the 16 and 17 year-old Scouts who attend and hold other troop leadership positions.

As the new Scoutmaster, I’d like to encourage our SPL and ASPLs to restructure our TLC into a PLC. The TLC structure not only isn’t in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK, but it doesn’t seem to foster strong patrols.

Further, our patrols are established by age group. All first-year Scouts are in a patrol, second-year Scouts in the second-year Scout patrol, and so on. I’d like to have the patrols contain Scouts of various ages and experiences. I’d like to have the TLC deliberate on this.

So, in light of these difficulties, where does my influence begin and end? Who do I need to convince that we should have a PLC to foster stronger patrols? Is it the Scouts who need to perform PLC and Patrol restructuring, or is it me? A larger question is, am I going down the wrong path altogether? (Name & Council Withheld)

As Scoutmaster, you’re literally responsible for the quality of the troop program, and that includes having a correct and functioning PLC. “TLC” is an old set of initials, from back when this program-planning group was called Troop Leaders Council. However—and believe me, I’ve done the research on this through every handbook back to day one—whether called “TLC” or “PLC” the composition has always been identical: It consists of the Senior Patrol Leader, the Patrol Leaders of each patrol, and the troop’s Scribe for note-taking only (no “voice” in the meeting). Look at any troop organization chart (start with your own SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK) and you’ll see exactly what I’ve just described. It’s always been this way and it’s never, ever been different. Just because a Scout wears a “position badge” doesn’t mean he automatically a member of the decision-making group called the PLC. Therefore, what your troop has is a misunderstanding of what a PLC is supposed to be, which has produced an anomaly: This so-called troop leaders committee.

My recommendation is to show the troop organization chart to the troop’s Committee Chair, show him how this “committee” thing is wrong and doesn’t produce the sort of “mini-democracy” that’s supposed to exist in the troop, and then tell him that, effective immediately, you’ll be converting this “committee” into a correct and correctly-run PLC. If you get push-back on this, best to go and find a different volunteer position in Scouting, because this troop, in perpetuating a significant error that’s produced the problems you’ve described, will never be able to self-correct.

As Scoutmaster, you have the authority to do this. There’s no “committee vote” and it doesn’t continue this way just because “the Scouts like it” or “it’s a troop tradition” or anything else along these lines.

As for patrols by age group, I’d recommend leaving that one alone. A Scout is a patrol member first, and a troop member second. A brand-new, first-year patrol of new Scouts should, by all rights, stay together right up to their 18th birthdays! Mixing ages in patrols guarantees that every Scout in every patrol who’s youngest is most likely to get more dumped on than boosted up. Besides, remember when you were a kid? Who did you hang out with? Guys your own age, or guys two and three and four years old than you? And, later on, when you were a Junior and Senior in high school, who did you hang out with? Freshmen? Sophomores? I’ll bet not! Same’s true in Scouting.

So, bottom line: Get the PLC straightened out, remove all but the SPL and PLs from attending, and keep the patrols—with their own elected Patrol Leaders—intact. And then—and this is the “biggie”—empower the Patrol Leaders to give voice to what their patrols want to do: Camping, hiking, attending Camporees and Klondike Derbies, etc., including who runs the troop meetings and what the content of these meetings will be!
Hi Andy,

I’m an Assistant Scoutmaster in my son’s troop. A group of fellow adult leaders (the Scoutmaster and several ASMs) recently attended an NRA Range Safety Officer course so that we’d be able to assist in shooting sports activities within our local council, as well as volunteer at summer camps. We all received certification, and I have ordered NRA RSO patches for us. But now the question: Is it OK to wear these patches on our uniform shirts? Any guidance you can offer would be greatly appreciated. (Wesley “Nick” Nickum)

Congratulations to you and your guys for going the extra mile! Not that this should be a big deal (you didn’t do this to “get a patch”), but the answer’s no. Only official BSA badges may be worn on a BSA uniform. (Save yourself some time asking others for their “opinions” This is a longstanding BSA policy.)
Dear Andy,

I’m the Chartered Organization Representative (“CR” for short) of an organization that charters both a Cub Scout pack and a Boy Scout troop. Their unit numbers aren’t the same. So, do I wear both numbers on my uniform, no numbers (like a Commissioner does), or pick the one I like best? (Jim Sundergill)

Although the BSA’s supply division sells a Chartered Organization Representative Emblem (SKU 490), it’s no longer listed in the most current edition of the BSA GUIDE TO AWARDS AND INSIGNIA, probably because there’s so little demand. The CR isn’t a uniformed position, unless the CR chooses to on his or her own. When the CR position is held simultaneously by the unit’s Committee Chair (one of the very few times double-registration in a unit is permitted) that person (should he or she elect to wear a uniform—again, optional) usually wears the CC emblem. That said, if you want to wear the uniform, and in the absence of a direct BSA policy (at least not one I can find), I’d follow the policy that says a CR is considered a voting member of the council. On this basis, no unit numerals but silver shoulder loops would be most appropriate.

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. 370 – 11/8/2013 – 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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