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Issue 402 – June 25, 2014

Dear Andy,

Does a Boy Scout troop have to accept all boys who want to join? I’m asking because we’re a troop in a small town. There were a couple of parents who didn’t like the way the troop was being run, even though two Unit Commissioners and a council professional say we’re doing just fine. These parents decided to break apart the troop and start a new troop, which they did leaving a trail of animosity (including bullying our remaining Scouts—who stood fast and didn’t switch allegiances, nor did their parents) in their wake. Our troop is very happy and involved, despite having fewer Scouts than before. The unhappy parents who didn’t like how our troop is run are still at it in their new troop, but it’s shaky now and might actually fold. So out question is this: If the other troop does fold, do we have to accept the Scouts back (understanding that we’re going to get their parents, too)? (Scoutmaster of a Patrol Method troop)

Here’s the deal: If that troop folds, the Scouts that were in it will be out of luck if they don’t get True North Scouting from you all. They’ll miss out on critically important life lessons, life skills, and positive role models! Of course you’ll accept them back! But that doesn’t automatically mean you have to accept their belligerent, bellicose, bullying parents! You tell these yahoos, “Nope! Not a chance! You can drop your sons off, and you can pick them up, and that’s it. No messing in troop meetings and you’re not welcome on hikes and camp-outs, and if we have to get legal restraining orders on every one of you, we will. If you want your sons in Scouting, you had your chance and failed, so now it’s our way or highway.” Get your sponsoring organization and local Commissioners behind you on this one, and make it bloody well stick!
Dear Andy,

I’m a Merit Badge Counselor for Engineering & Robotics. I recently put in the application to be a STEM Mentor. Can I work with Webelos Scouts on belt loops for engineering and robotics, or does this require a different certification? (Tom Brett, National Capital Area Council)

At the moment there are no Cub Scout belt loops for either engineering or robotics. However, for Webelos/Arrow of Light Scouts (still part of the overall Cub Scouting program) there are the engineer and scientist activity badges. It sure sounds like you’re amply qualified to help out a Webelos Den Leader with these! Also, since the Cub Scouting program will be experiencing some major revising and updating over the next year or so, and the STEM program has pretty fully launched, keep your eye out for future opportunities!
Hi Andy,

My son and I (I’m a Scout Dad) are in a troop with an out-of-control Committee Chair who’s clearly on a “power trip.” I understand that one of the roles of the CC is to “interpret” BSA rules. But does this mean that a CC’s interpretation can supersede when it’s in conflict with a BSA national policy or procedure? For instance, the CC is insisting that Scouts can’t work on a merit badge with his own parent, even when that parent is a registered Merit Badge Counselor for that badge. Another example: This CC is single-handedly search for a new Scoutmaster, with no committee or sponsor involvement. Another: This CC is “sitting in” on PLC meetings, running all boards of review (instead of involving our troop’s advancement chair). How do we remove him before he totally messes up what had been a pretty good troop? We’re concerned because he apparently has “connections” at the council level that could come back to bite us. (Name & Council Withheld)

No adult volunteer in Scouting is permitted to “interpret” BSA policies, procedures, rules, or regulations. Why? Because no “interpretation” is required. Nor may any volunteer arbitrarily decide to deviate from a BSA policy, procedure, rule, or regulation. For example, when the BSA states that all Patrol Leaders are elected by their fellow patrol members, then that’s how it’s done and no one has license to alter this method. Or, as another example, when the BSA states that “…approved (meaning: duly registered) counselors may work with…any (youth) member, including their own son, ward, or relative” (see GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT, Topic no one has license to alter or deviate from that policy.

Scoutmasters are recruited by the Chartered Organization Representative (“CR”), who may choose to collaborate with the Committee Chair (“CC”). Ultimately, every adult volunteer is approved by the CR, or by the actual head or executive officer of the chartered organization. Dual registration as both CR and CC is, uniquely, permitted by the BSA. In this case, approval of the person to become Scoutmaster is approved by the CR/CC and, ideally, ratified by the head of the chartered organization. If the CR and/or CR/CC chooses to form a “search committee,” this is an excellent approach; however, the final decision is as stated (in other words, no volunteer body “votes” on the recruited volunteer).

No CC, committee member, or even Assistant Scoutmaster “sits in” on a Patrol Leaders Council meeting. This meeting is chaired and run by the Senior Patrol Leader. The Scoutmaster, who is the only adult present, provides quiet coaching, if necessary, to the SPL, but is otherwise silent.

The troop’s Advancement Coordinator—a member of the troop committee—typically chairs all boards of review, from Tenderfoot through Life ranks, and—depending on how your council has chosen to carry these out—often for Eagle rank boards of review as well. For Tenderfoot through Life, plus Eagle palms, the composition of the boards of review is: members of the troop committee.

If a unit-level volunteer needs to be removed, his or her relationships outside of the unit (e.g., with council-level employees or volunteers, the Commissioner staff, etc.) are irrelevant, because ultimately no one other than the CR or the actual head of the chartered organization has “hire-fire power” or even influence.

If a unit volunteer needs removal because of, say, his refusal to adhere to BSA policies, procedures, rules, or regulations, then it’s incumbent on the parents of the affected Scouts to rally, and demand of the chartered organization’s head that this person be removed. To do this best, it should be an in-person, face-to-face meeting with the CO head, with as many parents as possible in the room, all making the same demand. In the event of denial, then all parents should immediately remove their sons from the troop and transfer them into a nearby troop that’s delivering the Boy Scout program as the BSA intends for and expects it to be delivered.

Thanks Andy! Everything we thought was the procedure you’ve clarified as fact. We’re not going to give up on our issues with our Power Meister CC. (Scout Dad)

As you proceed, avoid email “wars”… Gather your parents and get in front of the chartered organization’s head, state your case, and describe your expected action. Keep it simple, avoid opinions and stick to facts and behaviors, and straighten your backbones! When you do this, don’t take “let me think about it” for an answer—Pull your sons out, without hesitation, if you don’t get immediate satisfaction.

Ask yourself this: Would you all allow your sons to play on a team where the coach doesn’t know beans about how to play the sport or how to properly coach young people? Of course you wouldn’t! So don’t tolerate this in Scouting, either.
Dear Andy,

Can a Scout hold JASM (Junior Assistant Scoutmaster) and SPL (Senior Patrol Leader) positions at the same time? (Just Wondering)

William Howard Taft was both a U.S. President and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (the only person to be both)… But not at the same time. Same with JASM and SPL. JASM is a position to which the Senior Patrol Leader can appoint a fellow Scout who is age 16 or older. A Senior Patrol Leader is elected by the entire troop of Scouts, and is the highest-ranking leader in the troop, who runs all troop meeting and outings, and chairs the Patrol Leaders Council.
Dear Andy,

A while back, you had a conversation with a reader about troop funds and “Scout accounts.” I think we really need to make it clear that the only money in a troop’s bank account that “belongs” to a Scout (or his family) is money he (or they) placed there, such as summer camp fee payments, payments for campouts/canoe trips, treks, and so on. Such payments should stay in the bank account for a very short time and any overpayments should be quickly refunded and definitely not placed in some mystical “Scout account.”

As for money raised for any purpose by the unit, this belongs to the unit. “Scout accounts” are a sometimes convenient fiction, but such “accounts” can get really messy, especially when a Scout transfers to a different unit, ages out, or moves out of the area. The unit committee can disburse portions of a unit account to the benefit of an individual Scout (e.g., helping out with summer camp for a situation of significant need), but let’s remember that this is the unit’s money, not the Scout’s.

I totally agree with you that all funds, disbursements, and deposits should be accurately reported to the committee at least once a month and should be open to inspection by anyone, inside or outside the unit, at any time. (Larry Geiger)

Yup, units get themselves tied up in their own underwear over stuff like this. My own personal experience says: Don’t comingle funds. If a Scout and/or his family raise money for the unit, then that’s the unit’s money, to do with as best benefits the troop as a whole. If it’s understood that some portion of the money raised accrues to the Scout, then give it to him and be done with it; however, better to teach Scouts how to get project-specific or part-time jobs, so the money they earn is theirs, period.
Dear Andy,

I’m an 8th grade student doing a project on the value of Scouting in today’s society. May I ask you a question and ask for an answer I could quote in my research paper? If so, here’s my question: “In your opinion, what value does the Boy Scouts of America program have in today’s society?” Thank you very much. (Star Scout, Yuba City, CA)

I’m now 72 years old. My professional career has spanned some 50 years. In that time, I came to discover I had a strong reputation among my co-workers, friends, colleagues, and clients, and it was this: Here’s a guy you can count on to be always honest (if he promised to complete a task or deliver something, he always did it on time or sooner, and it was always exactly as he promised it would be), friendly to all (he never spoke badly about anyone and made friends quickly and candidly), a good team-player (he didn’t try to “take over” when someone else was leading, and was willing to work side-by-side with just about anybody), a good leader (he always said, “Let’s go! Follow me!” and never “Go there!”), and generally a pretty happy guy (he always saw the best in everyone and could see “sunshine” even when things looked pretty dark and gloomy).

So how did this happen? Where did these “character traits” come from? Well, certainly, some of them came from my parents and grandparents. But a lot of them came straight from Scouting! You see, I joined Cub Scouts when I was eight years old, was a Boy Scout, too, and stayed involved in Scouts till I was 22 years old. In those 14 years, a lot of what Scouting’s all about not only “stuck” but I think actually got into my veins. For instance, I didn’t learn to “be good” so much as I learned to DO good in the world. I was chosen captain of my high school varsity tennis team not because I was the best player (I sure wasn’t!) but because I was always playing “for” my doubles partner instead of just “with” him, and when I played singles, I was willing to give up my slot on the team if we had another team member who could play against a particular opponent better than I might have.

“What are you? Some kinda Boy Scout?” was something I heard others ask me, most of my adult life. Even when it was nothing more than opening or holding a door for someone. And I always answered, with a smile, “You bet I am!”

You see, Scouting isn’t something we learn to do, so much as it is something we BECOME. It becomes a part of who we are and how we treat others… our friends, our teachers, our family members, our co-workers.

Today, we read so much about people who steal, cheat, bully, whine, complain, and even murder. Maybe if they had had Scouting in their lives, it might have been different. Because Scouts isn’t really about how to tie knots or go camping—Scouts is all about how to live a good life.

Think about just this one simple thing: Where else but in Scouting do you get to carry the American flag and promise to do your duty to the country it represents?

Happy Scouting!

(Eagle ’57)
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. 402 – 6/25/2014 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2014]


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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