Author Avatar

Issue 416 – October 8, 2014

Dear Andy,

We’re in a pickle… We have two early high school-age Scouts: “Zack” and “Zeke.” Recently, one of their classmates at school posted a Facebook photo of Zack and, seeing it, Zeke posted a comment that Zack “looked like a faggot.” Zack’s parents obviously got upset about this, and it got worse after Zeke wrote “faggot” on Zack’s school locker. They called it “bullying” and have contacted the high school principal demanding a face-to-face. Meanwhile, the school’s swim team coach has confided to me that Zeke is often “disruptive” (the coach’s term) at team practices. For myself, I’ve noticed a less-than-positive attitude, but no actual negative behaviors by Zeke at troop meeting or outings.

Zeke and I just had a Scoutmaster conference preparatory to his moving up to Life rank. But now I’m having second thoughts. I’m leaning toward telling him his six months of “demonstrating Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath and Law in your everyday life” has been re-set to zero, with the assurance that if he straightens out for the next six months he’ll move forward to Life as planned. Before I do this, I’d appreciate your thoughts—a “second opinion,” if you would. Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)

First, I definitely think you’ve got the right idea on conferencing—probably with both Scouts, but separately. For Zack, maybe some coaching on how to deal with guys like Zeke (they’re not going to go away, let’s remember…we run into them from time to time throughout our lives). For Zeke, it’s worthwhile to have a conversation with him about how he’s been treating Zack (and possibly others as well) and discussing that “Scout spirit” requirement with him, along the lines of “Here’s what the requirement says… How well do you think you’ve lived up to it?” (Keep in mind that your “hole card”—one you hope to never have to put on the table—is that a Scout can be dismissed from the troop if he displays behavior that can potentially bring harm to others, and bullying including harassment in any form or venue definitely counts as harm.) And don’t let anyone try to pull a “boys-will-be-boys” snow job here! Further for Zeke, I think he needs more that merely This Stops Now. I’d say he needs to come up with what’s he going to “show real Scout spirit” by making amends with Zack. Coach him, but let him come up with his own ideas—he created the problem, so it’s up to him to find a way fix it.
Dear Andy,

Our pack needs to figure out how to run our own fund-raisers. We do our council’s annual popcorn program and we know a portion of what’s raised goes to the council, but we’re in a very small (less than 1,000 population) isolated rural town, so the popcorn revenues just aren’t enough. Our sponsor is a church. Can we hold a bake sale, for instance, or a pancake breakfast? I’m thinking these could be done in combination with our church’s men’s and women’s groups, with our Scouts helping out. The largest business in the area is a grain company. Most all of their employees come from either here in town or the surrounding townships. Since we’re a registered non-profit organization, can ask that company for donations? (Laurence Johnson, W. D. Boyce Council, IL)

Bake sales, pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, and the like are great ideas and no problem at all. You can also sell “ads” in a program book, or sell space on “placemats” to generate revenues (your local printer can tell you how to make this work). But do this on a pack-wide basis; avoid having individual dens do this. And connecting the pack with your church’s congregational groups is a wonderful bridge-building idea. But as far as asking for donations, there are a couple of wrinkles you need to be aware of. First, understand that your pack isn’t automatically a 501(c)(3) charitable organization just because it’s a BSA unit. The good news is that your church most likely is (I’d be shocked if it’s not). So, while Scouting units are strictly prohibited from asking anyone—individuals, groups, corporations, etc.—for direct donations, your church might be able to pursue this avenue. An interesting secondary wrinkle in all of this is that, although you can’t ask, an unsolicited donation voluntarily offered can be graciously accepted! Consult with your council’s finance chair and take a look at the BSA fundraising guidelines and form (both available online at
Dear Andy,

My son went through similar situation to the parent who wrote to you about a troop’s Committee Chair stalling his son on his journey to Eagle. There is absolutely no reason to get in the way of a 14 year-old who’s going for Eagle. In fact, this is how my son showed his Scoutmaster that Scouting meant the world to him and that nothing was going to stop his adventure. His Eagle board of review was in December 2008 and he’s never looked back. He attended the last National Jamboree as an Eagle, and he now works at a resident Scout camp as an area director and STEM director. He’s never looked back at the time his Scoutmaster left him off the OA ballot because that Scoutmaster mistakenly thought that Scouting “didn’t matter” to my son. I applaud these parents and the Scout himself for standing up for his desire to advance and become an Eagle Scout. He’s in that tiny percent of Scouts who take it all the way because of his personal tenacity. No one has the right to road-block a Scout. Some, whose parents may be pushing them forward, might not be as solid as others, but that’s that family’s issue. Even this doesn’t give anybody the right to force a Scout to slow down. (Holly Geier)

I couldn’t have said it better! Congratulations to your son! (If truth be told—which it always is in the column—I was an Eagle before my 16th birthday, and my younger brother was Eagle while still 14!)
Dear Andy,

The BSA Annual Health and Medical Record is printed side-by-side in English and Spanish. Our families find it confusing and health care professionals equally find it aggravatingly hard to read, but I’m not writing to debate the BSA decision. What I’m curious about is a rumor that the form is actually available in an English-only version; it’s just not readily available or easy to find. Is this true? Is there an English-only version and, if so, how and where can I obtain it? (Bob Fales, ASM, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

I guess beauty (or not) is still in the eye of the beholder… I just looked at the form and noticed that, on the main page, most all categories are in English and BOLD, while the Spanish-language equivalents are below the English in a non-bold and smaller font. Moreover, the Spanish cognates (Name-Nombre, Asthma-Asma, Surgery-Cirugia, Other-Otro) are often pretty transparent. Frankly, I found this to be one of the easiest dual-language forms I’ve ever seen, but of course I have a bias: I’m an English language speaker and not in any way multilingual. As for an “English-only” form, you might want to check with your local council.
Dear Andy,

I’m a first year Tiger Cub Den Leader and I am just so excited and involved with researching advancement and awards for my boys to earn as well as myself. I have more than a few questions when it comes to a lot of processes to going about earning, and the involvement needed to earn these awards. If the requirements are fulfilled by my boys, do I also earn the award, or are there different sets of requirements for leaders? (Name & Council Withheld)

Cub Scout (and Boy Scout) ranks and awards are for the Cub Scouts (and Boy Scouts); adults don’t receive them. Adult leaders like you are there to help boys achieve them. However, various other recognitions for adult service to Scouting are definitely available, and for these you’d go here:
Dear Andy,

After having been a Scoutmaster for a bunch of years I’ve stumbled on a situation that brand-new to me, that I’m not quite certain how to handle… We have a Scout in our troop who attends another troop’s meetings too. Now just hanging out with two troops I have no problem with—I’m all for young men getting as much good out of Scouting as they can and want. I encourage Scouts going for merit badges to work with the best counselors available, even if they’re associated with other troops…doesn’t matter at all! But what about rank advancement? Can a Scout earn ranks across multiple troops? In this instance, the Scout is First Class our troop and just advanced to Star in the other troop, which filed an advancement report stating that. Is this OK? Or should he stick to earning ranks in just one of the two troops? If both, which one keeps the records? Or are duplicate records kept? (Mike Murphy, SM, Daniel Boone Council, NC)

This is a bit weird, but it’s not the first time I’ve encountered the situation you’re describing. The key question, of course, is this: Is he (a) registered and active in one and hangs out in the other, or is he (b) a registered member of both troops?

If it’s “a” the answer on ranks and merit badges is easy: All advancement recording is handled by the troop in which he’s registered, because this is the only way is BSA membership ID number is going to be able to correctly track his advancement records in the council service center’s data base.

If it’s “b”—he’s actually a dues-paying registered member of two troops—then you and the other Scoutmaster and the advancement coordinators of both troops are going to need to put their heads together and decide on a standard procedure they’re going to put in place and then stick to, for the duration of this young man’s Boy Scouting life. In this regard, it would seem to me that all advancement through just one of the two troops is the way to go…unless we’re enamored of mayhem, of course.

But here’s the thing: All Scouts, first and foremost, are members of their patrol. So, are we saying that this Scout is a member of two patrols…that he can stand up for election in both patrols…that he has a responsibility on the duty rosters of both patrols…that he hikes and camps with both patrols…that he attends all meetings—week in, week out—of both troops with his patrol(s)…that he goes on weekend camp-outs with both troops…that he attends summer camp with both troops…and, finally, that he and his parents are willing to fork up two annual registration fees and two troop dues (I assume he’d have a “Boys’ Life” subscription through one troop, but be a non-subscriber for the other, thus keeping the second troop from ever earning the annual “100% Boys’ Life” ribbon)?

As for Merit Badge Counselors, they’re independent of troops—they’re their own cadre unto themselves, and registered as such. Yes, some MBCs elect to counsel Scouts from only one troop, while other enjoy counseling any Scout from any troop, but that’s their personal decision; not the troop’s. So hanging out with a second troop to capitalize on the MBCs there seems a bit out of whack, especially since working on merit badges is a clearly inappropriate “troop activity.”!
Dear Andy,

When did professional Scouting come about? Surely when the program started there weren’t District Executives whose main focus is hitting their Friends of Scouting fundraising quotas! I believe in Scouting and understand that the organization needs some sort of funding, but I get the distinct impression that many of the district- and council-level workers are more focused on collecting funds for funds’ sake instead of focusing on bettering Scouting in their area. What’s the story? (Scouter in Last Frontier Council, OK)

The movement started with volunteers. At the beginning, Commissioners were the highest-level volunteers in American Scouting. The movement grew rapidly. Troops were springing up all over the place, and within the BSA’s first decade formal “councils” (each a not-for-profit corporation) began to emerge. With this emergence and fantastic growth, volunteers could no longer handle the work-load. This led to the birth of professional Scouters. These Scouters managed the myriad “back room” details, purchasing land for camps, running a “Scout store” (or “Trading Post” as they were called), organizing new units, lining up sponsors, maintaining advancement records, accounting for health and safety, establishing training programs for the influx of new volunteers, etc., etc., etc… Scouting ultimately evolved as a legitimate profession and has now been around for many, many decades.

It’s a tough profession, at best. And any Scouting professional will tell you: It’s not “family-friendly” for their own personal lives, to those whose calling is a Scouting career. More wash out than stay on, in fact. It requires full-time day-work plus night after night of meetings with volunteers.

Our professionals have an entirely different mission from us volunteers. While our job is to deliver the program at grass-roots level, theirs is to provide the overarching infrastructure of committees and Commissioner cadres to support unit efforts and provide for units and their youth members what they can’t provide for themselves, like Camporees, Cub day camps, Klondike Derbies, area-wide service projects (e.g., Scouting For Food), etc., etc., etc….

The evaluative metrics for professionals are different from us volunteers. Fund-raising, which is actually a district- and council-function carried out by volunteers, is important because annual membership fees don’t stay in the council—they go straight to the national office. So, unless they can convince and support volunteers in fund-raising efforts, there’s simply no money to pay their salaries (and, if you think teachers are at the fuzzy end of the lollipop stick when it comes to salaries, you’ve never had to live on a D.E.’s salary!). So cut ’em some slack. Here are a few unvarnished facts…

They put in 40 hours “on the job” and then another 40 hours on evenings and weekends, to support us!

They put up with our grumbling and griping about what “the council” and “national” are doing to “mess up” the program, and how “We tried it that way once but it didn’t work,” and “That’ll never work…” and the list is endless.

They take up the slack when a volunteer who promised to do something walks away from the responsibility or, worse, just doesn’t deliver.

They effectively have no life! Give ’em a break! And, when you get a really good D.E., the way to keep him or her is by supporting FOS, Popcorn, special fund-raisers and the like. Fail at this and the D.E. you love so much but fail to support will be gone in a heartbeat!

Last point: I’m a volunteer, just like you…and I have immeasurable respect for anyone who chooses the professional life in Scouting.

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. 416 – 10/08/2014 – 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

Comments are closed.