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Issue 408 – August 5, 2014

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Dear Andy,

We have a serious situation brewing at our troop. Our Committee Chair, who took over at the beginning of the year, is verbally abusive toward other committee members, the Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmasters, and—worst of all—Scouts. He has numerous medical issues, yet insists on going on troop outings. Several of these have devolved into his verbal abuse of Scouts and his fellow troop volunteers. He’ll use his medical difficulties and the Rx regimen he’s on as the excuse for his behavior, taking no personal responsibility for his inappropriate actions and language. The most recent occurred at summer camp this past week, when he spent most of the entire time sleeping in his bunk, getting out of the rack every now and then to berate the Scoutmaster and ASMs for all the things they were doing wrong. Long-term, he’s poisoning the troop and everyone associated with it.

We—the Scoutmaster and ASMs—have had several heart-to-hearts with the Chartered Organization Representative (“CR”), and we agreed that we have to ask this guy to resign. But he won’t and is absolutely intransigent about this. We know from reading page 2 of the BSA Adult Volunteer Application, that the Scoutmaster is powerless to demand a resignation; that’s the job of the CR. But the CR is reluctant (read: afraid) to assert his authority and is trying to convince the CC to resign…which isn’t happening and the diatribes continue in the meanwhile. What do we do? Do we go directly to the head of the chartered organization and request action? Or do we go to a Commissioner or District Executive for help? We do know, by the way, that the rest of the troop committee would be delighted if this guy weren’t associated with the troop, because he’s abusive toward them, too. (At a Crossroads in California)

“John (or whatever the CC’s name is)… Thank you for your services to the troop up till now. Your services will no longer be needed. We wish you the very best in all your future endeavors. You’re no longer registered with this troop.”

That’s it. That’s all the CR needs to say, face to face and—ideally—with the executive officer of the chartered organization present. It will take 20 seconds of bravery to put an end to this nonsense. It won’t be necessary to listen to any diatribes, apologies, excuses, or descriptions on how “John” will change. He’s been dismissed and his name will have been removed from the troop roster, by instruction to the council registrar. All it takes is a spine, and 20 seconds of bravery.

As a volunteer organization (and not an employer), we don’t have to provide a reason, apply a “three strikes rule,” or anything else. We just need the courage and good sense to DO IT.

No one needs worry about having an “open” CC position. “Nature abhors a vacuum” is a fundamental scientific principle, and his replacement will be shortly revealed.

Based on your description, allowing this to persist one more instant will continue poisoning the other volunteers and the Scouts as well. We’re not in the business of sacrificing Scouts and troops to one sick puppy.
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Hi Andy,

I’ve just been appointed Chartered Organization Representative for our church’s Scout troop and Cub pack. I’m an Eagle Scout but have been away from Scouting for over 50 years. I believe it’s important to wear a proper uniform, with badges, shoulder loops, square knots, etc. in the right places, but I can’t seem to find this information all in one place on the Internet. All I can find are bits and pieces. If I’m going to spend a hundred dollars or more for a uniform, I’d like to get it right the first time. If you can help me find this information I’d be very grateful. (Douglas Niebch)

Congratulations and thanks for re-joining the Scouting movement!

One online resource for you is the BSA’s Guide to Awards and Insignia This is the BSA’s “encyclopedia” for both uniforms and insignia. Enjoy the reading, but don’t worry about spending a dime, because Chartered Organization Representatives, although members-at-large of the council, aren’t required to purchase or wear a uniform. In fact, there’s no “position badge” for CRs. Thanks for asking, and enjoy growing and supporting Scouting in your church! (And thanks for finding me, too! I hope you become a regular reader!)
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Dear Andy,

What’s the BSA’s position on a parent, who’s an adult leader, signing off on his or her son’s requirements? Can only the Scoutmaster, Assistants, and older, higher-ranked Scouts sign off requirements? If there’s no policy in place, what’s your own thinking on this? Our troop’s unwritten tradition on requirement sign-offs has been that since we have plenty of Assistant Scoutmasters and experienced Scouts, fathers shouldn’t sign off their own sons on requirements, even if that father is himself an Assistant Scoutmaster. But we want to have the same policy as the BSA rather than having some arbitrary “troop rule.” More recently, we’ve noticed that some newer Assistant Scoutmasters are signing off their own sons, but sometimes they haven’t followed the requirements closely enough, which gives these Scouts an advancement advantage over others. (John Novotny, CC, Simon Kenton Council, OH)

Any leader—any registered adult, parent, or other relative—who fails to follow the requirements for ranks and merit badges precisely as written isn’t providing an “advantage” to the Scout he or she is permitting to slip by without meeting what the requirement states. This is, instead, effectively crippling that Scout because he won’t have the skill or knowledge the requirement intends the Scout to have. It’s a parallel to the student who cribs on his homework or “borrows” others’ answers on school quizzes and tests: At some point this is going to catch up to him, and it’s going to be pretty unpleasant when it does! And this definitely will happen—it’s only a matter of time. So, if some folks want to do this, just let ’em know the damage they’re doing. And be sure to let the Scouts know, too, so that they don’t wonder why they couldn’t save that life or pitch that tent or light that fire because some well-meaning but mistaken leader let him slide by.

Is this an “unfair advantage” over other Scouts because, to some misguided folks, “good enough is good enough”? Nope. And that’s because Scout advancement isn’t a race. Scouts advance at their own pace, not anyone else’s, and the Scouting advancement program is designed so that every single Scout with the motivation to go for it can reach the rank of Eagle, and nobody really cares much whether he did this by his 13th or 18th birthday. We respect the rank, not the age at which it was earned.

So, if a registered adult volunteer in your troop is given the OK by the Scoutmaster to handle some requirements and sign off on them, or if a youth member of the troop who holds a leadership position like Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, or Instructor, for instance, is likewise given the OK to teach a skill and sign Scouts off on mastery and completion, I’d say you’ve got your head screwed on right and so do they. But if some yahoo thinks he or she is still “Akela,” a quick, direct, and unequivocal conversation with them, by the Scoutmaster, needs to happen right away. And that conversation’s simple: Stop it! Right now! This isn’t “Webelos III”!

You don’t need to write a “troop rule” about this; it’s simply an exercise in good sense explained to the wayward adult by a Scoutmaster-with-a-spine (and a silver tongue wouldn’t hurt either!).
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Dear Andy,

This is about record-keeping. Specifically, it’s about recording the camping nights and service hours in a Scout’s handbook. My son’s Scoutmaster told him that this is very important because when he gets to his Eagle board of review, there will be a “paperwork audit” and if the number of camping nights and service hours aren’t all recorded and don’t match up with the rank requirements and Camping merit badge, there can be a problem. I don’t understand why. My son has complete records of his camping nights and service hours since he became a Star Scout (but not earlier). But if he’s advanced in rank he’ll have had to complete the minimum service hour requirements and camping nights. Also, to earn the Eagle-required Camping merit badge, he’d have had to complete 20 camping nights. I do know that once a rank or merit badge is earned, it can’t be revoked. So is it necessary to have all camping nights and service hours recorded in a Scout’s handbook at the time of an Eagle board of review? I’ve looked at the Eagle rank application and procedures, and didn’t see any such stipulation. I’m not sure where the Scoutmaster is getting this stuff from. Any ideas? (Name & Council Withheld)

Having personally sat on nearly two hundred Eagle boards of review, across multiple councils, I’ve never—not once—seen anyone check “camping days/nights” or “service hours” in a Scout’s handbook or anywhere else. Nor does council staff, upon receiving the Eagle rank application, check these. Nor does the BSA National Council, when the application’s submitted following the board of review.

As for that Scoutmaster, the only thing I know is that the universe is composed of three things: matter, emptiness, and opinions, and unfortunately, folks often confuse #2 and #3 with one another.
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Dear Andy,

From what I’ve read, once a requirement is signed off in the Scout’s handbook, no further testing is allowed. So my question is: Who is authorized to sign off? Is there an official policy on this? And, if not, what, in your experience, is appropriate? (Robert Burden, MC, Silicon Valley-Monterey Bay Council, CA)

It’s right in the Scout’s own handbook… Check pages 432-443. There are three columns of requirement rows. Starting on the left, there’s a box to check off a completed requirement; next, there’s a description of the requirement itself; and third, there’s a box for “Leader initial and date.” The “Leader” will likely vary depending on the rank. For Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class, the Leader can be the Scoutmaster or an assistant of course, but it also might be the Scout’s own Patrol Leader, or Instructor (a youth leadership position), or even a Scout of a higher rank assigned responsibility for teaching a skill (E.D.G.E. method, of course); or any combination of these. For Star and Life, the Leader is most frequently the Scoutmaster or an assistant, but, again, this has flexibility depending on the specific requirement (e.g., the service for req. 4 (both ranks) will be approved by the Scoutmaster but certainly another Leader (youth or adult) might initial in the handbook to acknowledge completion).

In thinking about this, apply good sense, keep the program Scout-led, and use the “ARF” method for decision-making (ARF = Absolutely Rigid Flexibility).
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Hi Andy,

We have a Life Scout in our troop who’s planning on doing his Eagle project with the Venturing crew he’s also a member of. After having the troop’s Scoutmaster and Committee Chair sign off on the project proposal, nothing else was communicated to them about the project. They learned of the project’s work day conflict with a troop event from another Scout’s mother who happens to be planning her son’s Eagle court of honor on the same date. So, is it proper that the Scout not involve his own troop, or any of the troop’s adult leaders in his project? The Scout has indicated that he’s going to complete his project using only his Venturing crew members. Ultimately, doesn’t he need to get the Troop’s Scoutmaster to sign the completed project’s documentation? If that’s the case, how will the Scoutmaster know that the Scout demonstrated leadership? (Name & Council Withheld)

Understanding that a Scout can choose any helpers he’d like to assist him with his Eagle project, including classmates, neighbors, members of any sports team he’s on, church youth group members, and so on, it seems weird to me that he’s running the project paperwork through the troop but not involving any of the Scouts of that troop to help him with his project. This isn’t to say that this Scout “must” choose fellow troop members; it’s simply a bit weird that he hasn’t.

The second thing that’s a bit strange is this: Since the troop’s adult volunteers signed off on his project proposal, what’s prevented them from proactively staying in touch with this Scout as he progresses? Not that this is mandatory—it’s not mandatory at all, says the BSA—but it would be the logical and Scout-minded thing to do, or so it seems to me.

Maybe it would be simpler, and better, to replace the troop signatures with signatures from the adult volunteers in the Venturing crew, since this seems to be where this Scout’s primary loyalties seem to lie?

As for the Scoutmaster (or anyone else) determining “leadership” by direct observation, that’s not part of the process. The degree of leadership given to an Eagle project is determined by the members of the Eagle board of review, based on the young man’s project workbook write-up.
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Dear Andy,

Is it a good idea to teach merit badges at troop meetings? I personally don’t like doing this because I see it as a production line. I like it when the Scout takes the initiative and contacts the Merit Badge Counselor himself. I think he gets more out of the merit badge process this way then sitting in a troop meeting being “taught” merit badge stuff. That’s almost like coming from school to go to school at Scouts. The reason I’m asking is because our troop has just started doing this and I need good advice to talk to the Scoutmaster and committee about this. (Bob Dornic)

If you go to http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34425.pdf you can get a copy of a template for the Troop Meeting Plan that’s been used across the country for many, many decades—in accordance with how the BSA expects troop meetings to be run (NOTE: All parts but the last—the Scoutmaster Minute—are run by the Senior Patrol Leader and no one else!). Trying to shoe-horn merit badge stuff into troop meetings is (a) completely unimaginative and (b) an interference with literally one-half of the objectives of the merit bade program itself. This sort of spoon-feeding is the antithesis of what Boy Scouting’s all about.

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. 408 – 8/5/2014 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2014]

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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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