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Issue 414 – September 20, 2014 (Posted from the North Atlantic between Iceland & Newfoundland, Canada)

Dear Andy,

I’m a Senior Patrol Leader with a “problem Scout” in our troop, and I could use some help in deciding what to do. On our troop’s most recent camp-out, this Scout put several others in danger while he was cooking, by igniting bacon grease. I’d told him several times before he did this that he needed to be careful not to, but he did it anyway and treated it like a big joke. He almost gave serious burns to three other Scouts who were standing near the stove. This one Scout has a history of disobedience. While our Scoutmaster says he’s going to take action, nothing’s happened. As the SPL, I have received lots of complaints from our Scouts about this particular guy and the stuff he does. I’ve looked online and in handbooks for a discipline policy but can’t find anything. Is there an official BSA discipline policy and, if there is, where can I find it? I need to learn how something like this should be handled, and I have to figure out how to keep it from happening again. I’ve already banned this Scout from cooking on our next camp-out, but how much power do I have and what should I be doing? Any help would be appreciated.

To give you some background, he’s an Assistant Patrol Leader but even though he’s an eighth-grader and has been in our troop for three years he’s still just Second Class. Maybe one of the problems is that he goes to a school that none of the other Scouts in the troop go to. I’ve also heard that his parents have said he’s going through some “tough times,” but I don’t know what they are. I talked with his Patrol Leader, and he’s said enough is enough. He wants this Scout expelled from the troop, even though he chose him to be APL. What do I do? (Joe, SPL)

As a Scout, I was a Senior Patrol Leader for a fair amount of time, so I have some idea of what your job is and know that being the top youth leader of a troop is sometimes not a walk in the park. But I also know that “almost” is a heck of a lot different from “actually.” You could have said this Scout “almost” burned down the forest and you’d be technically correct except for the fact that, in actuality, nothing happened. So let’s not get too carried away with that one. The real, underlying problem is that this particular Scout has personal issues and is “acting out.” This acting out isn’t itself the problem; rather, it’s a symptom of a much deeper problem. But here’s the situation: Even though you’re the troop’s Top Dog, this Scout isn’t your personal problem. Maybe he’s his Patrol Leader’s problem, and that Patrol Leader needs some coaching on how to handle his patrol members, so maybe you can coach him (this is definitely a part of what a Senior Patrol Leader does). But if the problem’s too big for even for this to work, then this is where you both turn to your Scoutmaster. Based on what you’ve described, I think it’s going to turn out that way, and that’s okay, because this is a big part of what a Scoutmaster is there for—to step in when Scouts themselves are faced with a bigger problem than they can handle by themselves. So let’s back up for a moment…

The big thing to keep in mind always this: Scouting isn’t about “discipline” or “punishment” or “kicking boys out of a troop.” Scouting is all about HELPING one another.

If this Scout is now 14 or so and he’s still Second Class, and he’s also going through “tough times,” this is likely to be a bigger problem than you and his PL can handle. It’s time for your Scoutmaster to step in and have some conferences with this young man (“conferences” aren’t just for “advancement”!) to find out what’s really going on, why he’s acting out, and how the troop can help him. (Kick him out, even temporarily, and you’re going to lose somebody who could really use some help right now!)

So have a private conference with your Scoutmaster. Talk over what’s been going on and ask your Scoutmaster to talk with this young man and maybe his parents, too. Your Scoutmaster needs to figure out what the problem is, and help this young man work it out. Then, between him, you, and this Scout’s Patrol Leader, figure out how you can help this guy! This is what Scouting’s all about! And, above all, don’t “lose” someone who really needs some good friends!

Thanks for your advice, Andy! I really appreciate it! We’re going to do the best we can to help him out and get him through whatever is troubling him. (Joe)

Great! He really needs friends right now…a Scoutmaster who’s willing to listen and guide him, and fellow Scouts who are prepared to stick with him!
Hi Andy,

What happens when a Scout completes all his requirements for First Class but still has a couple of “holes” in his Tenderfoot and Second Class requirements? Does he “skip ahead,” or do we change the order he receives his ranks, or do we wait till all requirements for all three ranks are done? And, if it’s that last option, how do we handle Scoutmaster conferences and boards of review? (John)

The BSA makes it pretty clear that ranks are earned in order. So, if a Scout has completed all requirements for First Class but still has a few to go for Second Class and/or Tenderfoot, he needs to complete these. Then, he can have as many as three consecutive (but not concurrent, as the BSA also points out) boards of review: First for Tenderfoot followed by one for Second Class followed by one for First Class. In doing this, note that these can all be done on the same date, one following the other; it’s not required that a day or more separate these reviews. As for Scoutmaster conferences, yes, there should be at least three of these (there can certainly be more!) and remember that, although they certainly can be, these don’t have to be the last of the requirements for any rank; they can happen anytime between one rank and the next.
Dear Andy,

Can a Chartered Organization refuse to work with the Unit Commissioner they’ve been assigned? Our problem is that our present Unit Commissioner seems to have some sort of personal vendetta against our Chartered Organization Representative (“CR”), and is making life difficult for him and us when all we’re trying to do is deliver the Scouting program the way we’re supposed to. At this point, our CR would be happy to collaborate with a Unit Commissioner; just not the one who’s been assigned to us. Do we have any options here? (Committee Chair’s Name & Council Withheld)

In that Unit Commissioners are aids and coaches to units and their sponsors (aka “Chartered Organization”), the unit and/or sponsor certainly has the right to request a specific Unit Commissioner if available and equally the right to state that a particular Unit Commissioner’s servicing methods are incompatible with the sponsor’s and unit’s adult volunteers. Neither units nor their sponsors “report” to Commissioners, so definitely get one that works for you!

Contact your District Commissioner and tell him or her that you’d like a different Unit Commissioner than the one you have now. You’re not obligated to go into detail on why you’d like a change; the request alone should be enough. Then, be sure to personally invite your newly assigned UC for a cup of coffee so you all can get acquainted (and also to double-check that you’ve got a compatible situation here); then invite your UC to a committee meeting and make a formal but friendly introduction. Finally, although you can certainly invite him to drop by on unit meetings, see if there isn’t some way to give him a brief “speaking part” at your next major unit event (e.g., court of honor, blue-and-gold, etc.). This way everybody gets the same message: We’re all on the same team!
Dear Andy,

I’m the Advisor to a Venturing crew. We have several Venturers working on the new Venturing awards that were released this past June. These guys and girls are very gung ho about the new program! They’ve already finished up everything for the Venturing Award and many are well on their way to completing everything for the Discovery Award! But one particular DA requirement is standing in their way. It’s req. 4: “Complete BSA goal setting-time management training course.”

What is this training and how do they complete it? Is it online training (I couldn’t find it at or is it something offered at the council, district, or unit level? Whichever it is, do you have any information on the curriculum, and how one goes about becoming a trainer or facilitator for this? I’d sure like to keep our Venturers moving forward!

I also have about a half-dozen Venturers interested in going for the Summit Award, but this requirement has stymied them. I’ve asked our council staffers about this, but nobody had any concrete answers. Before our Venturers get totally frustrated with this “hole” in their program, can you help us out? Thanks! (Greg Larson)

Yup, I can help you out, so thanks for taking the time to write! First, nobody’s buffaloing you or your Venturers. The materials you need simply weren’t available at the time you were trying to find them.

To get the most up-to-date answer for you, I reached out to the friendly folks at the BSA National Office and, as always, they were really helpful. Right now, they’re hard at work putting the finishing touches on exactly what you’re looking for. This module is in final edit and proofing as we speak, and you can expect it to be posted on the “TRAINING” page at by the end of this month, September.
Hi Andy,

I have a situation that I’m not sure how to handle… A Scouter I know who recently took Wood Badge training made up some stuff in order to complete his “ticket.” Yes, he apparently did the work (he did receive his Wood Badge “beads”), but it’s the way he weaseled his way to “paper success” that has me in knots. I just feel like this is so slimy and so unethical, but have no idea how to handle it. Do I report this? To whom? And what happens then? (Name & Council Withheld)

This guy has to live with his own dishonesty; you don’t. Shake your head in justified disappointment that somebody just doesn’t “get it” and move on. You’ve got a lot more important people to focus on than this one person who may have bent the rules for his own self-aggrandizement. They’re called SCOUTS. Also, remember this: Wood Badge is a training course; it’s neither Phi Beta Kappa nor the Medal of Honor!
Dear Andy,

I have to stop you on one thing about Eagle advancement. You stated (your Issue 410) that an Eagle Scout rank patch can be given to a Scout directly after his board of review. The BSA GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT Topic (Section 8, page 59) states: “The Eagle Scout medal or patch must not be sold or otherwise provided to any unit or to the Scout, nor should the court of honor be scheduled until after the certificate is received at the council service center from the National Advancement Team.” The rationale behind this is simple. Suppose there’s some paperwork issue that holds up the certificate, or—heaven forbid—it gets denied? We’d have a Scout wearing a badge that we might have to take away from him. So wait till the paperwork comes back. It can save a whole lot of trouble. (Chris Snider, DE & Staff Advisor-Advancement, Anthony Wayne Area Council, IN)

Having to date sat on or chaired boards of review for 194 Eagle candidates across three different councils, I’m delighted to report that, in the past 20 years, not one single time was an application returned by the National Office for any reason whatsoever, and none was ever outright denied. Nonetheless, I hear you loud and clear. And although I perhaps didn’t pound on the point of waiting till word comes back from the BSA National Office as hard as I might have, I nevertheless did recommend it.

Where I do have a significant problem is when folks hold back giving the badge the Scout’s earned way beyond what’s reasonable—most often retaining it until the court of honor itself, which is sometimes months after the board of review—with the unhappy result that all the photos taken at this event and later published, framed, showcased, and so on, all show the Scout wearing a Life rank badge with his Eagle medal.

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. 414 – 9/20/2014 – 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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