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Issue 444 – May 26, 2015

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Hello Andy,

I just read your Issue 443 (May 19th). BRAVO! That letter to you about a troop equipment trailer and insurance hit the nail on the head! We have a “troop shed” that requires no insurance of any kind. Each patrol has their own bin, where they keep their smaller gear and equipment is kept. Just prior to an outing, each patrol goes to their bin and pulls out the stuff they’re going to need, and then they distribute the gear among their members, so every Scout brings his “fair share” plus a distribution of food for the trip, all of which the reassemble at the site or trailhead. So no need for a trailer or all of the “paperwork” that comes along with it. Besides, what happens when you’re ready to head out or come home and there’s no adult with a vehicle large enough to haul a trailer (or even has a trailer hitch that fits)? What happens to the trailer then?

So how about the Scouts build themselves a small shed or use some space in their chartered organization’s attic or basement? And then use the money the troop would have spent on a trailer and the yearly insurance to go with it, and, instead, send a few Scouts to camp or NYLT training. The idea here is to invest in the Scouts themselves! Isn’t that what we’re here to do? And the pay-off is much greater! (Heidi Bornemann, District Training Committee, former Troop Committee Chair, Westchester-Putnam Council, NY)
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Dear Andy,

Our troop has individual “accounts” for the Scouts who work on troop fund-raising events. Recently, they’ve asked me if they can use their personal account funds toward their Eagle service project. But our troop rules state that this money being held for them can only be used for Scout activities. Which way do we turn? (Paul)

The BSA discourages “Scout accounts” because, when people donate to or make a purchase from a Scout, they do so with the belief that their money is benefiting the organization or the unit and not the individual Scout. This is why councils’ popcorn sales, for example, will sometimes provide non-monetary incentives for Scouts, but never cash or cash “credits.” Same with FOS: Units receive credit but never individuals in any “cash” sense.

On the subject of Eagle project funding, the sources can be (but are not limited to): (a) the beneficiary, (b) a fund-raiser by the beneficiary, (c) a fund-raiser by the Scout (including his troop), or (d) the Scout’s, his family’s, or others’ funds. (My own personal preference is that the beneficiary, if at all possible assuming it’s an institution or organization, provides the funding, given that it’s the Scout and his helpers who are providing the sweat.)

As for what to do with your current “Scout accounts,” if the “troop rules” say that these can “only” be used for “Scout activities,” it would seem pretty logical that an Eagle project would surely comply. (If not, I’d be interested in a rationale that excludes service projects from the category of “Scout activity.”)

This may not help, but I think part of the problem, if it doesn’t, is the concept of Scouts using Scouting to raise money for themselves. Is there some reason why Scouts can’t simply get part-times jobs to earn money that’s clearly theirs to spend as they choose, rather than muddying the waters with a “hybrid” approach?
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Dear Andy,

Our son “Adam” is a 17 year-old Life Scout. He’s just completed a 10-month term as Instructor and is now ready for his Scoutmaster conference and Eagle board of review. However, his Scoutmaster just told Adam that he won’t be given credit as Instructor for Eagle requirement 4, even though this is a qualifying position and Adam carried it out for a full 10 months even though the requirement stipulates that 6 months is sufficient. Turns out the Scoutmaster wanted Adam to provide detailed “proof” of what he’d done for the past 10 months, to “earn credit” for being an Instructor, and Adam was so stunned by this he became tongue-tied. Even though he did manage to come up with a bunch of examples of what he’d taught, etc., these weren’t “sufficient” to “satisfy” the Scoutmaster to “change his mind” that Adam didn’t qualify. Up to that very moment, Adam had received no feedback at all, from anyone, and had no idea no idea his Scoutmaster was somehow unhappy with how he’s carried out his responsibilities. Moreover, even though Adam had been there at virtually every troop meeting for the past 10 months, plus PLC meetings, troop service projects, and fund-raisers, and did everything ever asked of him. During this entire time, nobody—including the Senior Patrol Leader or the Assistant SPL, had ever said a thing about his possible lack of “performance.”

Not having ever been told he’d need to “defend” his performance, Adam hadn’t kept specific notes on what he’d taught, etc., but the other day he sat down and reconstructed as much as he could remember, and it seemed to be a pretty decent list when he shared it with his father and me. He’s now requested a second conference with his Scoutmaster, to better “present his case.” But I have to say, as a parent I’m shocked that an adult would do this to a kid! We now have a son who’s questioning why he should bother continue at all, when his own Scoutmaster—supposedly the top role model in the troop—is treating him this way.

Thinking positively, this second conference may resolve this issue…but what happens if it doesn’t? Adam’s dad and I have done some reading, but we can’t figure out what happens of the Scoutmaster doesn’t find Adam’s list acceptable. Does Adam then need to repeat his work for the next 6 months, minimum? What happens next? Can you help? Any insights you can provide would be greatly appreciated. (Name & Council Withheld)

Topic 4.2.3.4.4 of the BSA GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT, titled “Meeting the (Position of Responsibility) Requirement in the Absence of Unit Expectations,” offers this advice (I’m paraphrasing, so check the book for the exact language, and note that the use of capital letters is mine): “When support (for the position) is not provided, or when there are no clearly established expectations (in advance, obviously), and it is left to the Scout to determine what should be done, and he makes a reasonable effort accordingly for the time specified, then he fulfills this requirement. EVEN IF HIS RESULTS ARE NOT NECESSARILY WHAT THE UNIT LEADER, MEMBERS OF A BOARD OF REVIEW, OR OTHERS MAY WANT TO SEE, HE (THE SCOUT) MUST NOT BE HELD TO UNESTABLISHED EXPECTATIONS.”

Further (see Topic 4.2.3.4.5), “If (the Scout) is not meeting expectations, THEN THIS MUST BE COMMUNICATED EARLY” (again the caps are mine), and, “EVERY EFFORT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MADE WHILE HE WAS IN THE POSITION TO ENSURE HE UNDERSTOOD EXPECTATIONS AND WAS REGULARLY SUPPORTED TOWARD REASONABLY EXPECTED PERFORMANCE.” Finally, and now we’re hitting the point precisely: “IT IS UNFAIR AND INAPPROPRIATE…TO SURPRISE A BOY WHO THINKS HE HAS BEEN DOING FINE, WITH NEWS THAT HIS PERFORMANCE IS NOW CONSIDERED UNSATISFACTORY. IN THIS CASE, HE MUST BE GIVEN CREDIT FOR TIME.”

Moreover, the GTA continues, “If, after discussion between the Scout and his leaders, he believes he is being held to unreasonable expectations…HE MUST BE GRANTED A BOARD OF REVIEW UNDER DISPUTED CIRCUMSTANCES” (see Topic 8.0.3.2).

Based on these stated policies and procedures, your son has every right to immediately seek remediation of the unconscionable situation by going—with you, his parents—to the district advancement committee and requesting a board of review that excludes the dolts in his troop. Don’t waste a minute in further conversations with them. TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY.

Thank you for making the time and having the courage to write. Per the scenario you’ve described, your son’s leaders have completely mishandled this affair and as a consequence done an extreme injustice to your son. I not only recommend taking immediate action but I also recommend sharing this with other parents whose sons may ultimately be faced with similar mistreatment.
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Dear Andy,

What are reasons why a Scout would fail an Eagle board of review? (Name & Council Withheld)

“Failure” really isn’t an option unless something totally bizarre and unexpected arises. Remember that, but the time of his review, the Scout has completed every requirement and has had six (minimum) conferences with his Scoutmaster and five prior boards of review, with no aberrations detected. His review for Eagle is no different from any prior review except that the conversation—yes, conversation—might last a bit longer, if only because there’s a bit more to talk about (e.g., “If you had your project to do all over again, what, if anything, might you do differently?” Or, “What have you learned about Scouting over the years you’ve been participating in the program?” Or, “What’s next for you, once you’re an Eagle?”)
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Dear Andy,

I read your response (in your Issue 431, January 13, 2015) about whether or not Scouts need to be involved in an Eagle project, and I have a question…

The BSA GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT Topic 9.0.2.14, titled “Risk Management and Eagle Scout Service Projects” states: “All Eagle Scout service projects constitute official Scouting activity and thus are subject to Boy Scouts of America policies and procedures. Projects are considered part of a unit’s program and are treated as such with regard to policies, procedures, and requirements regarding Youth Protection, two-deep leadership, etc.”

It’s that “two-deep leadership” part that has me wondering if your answer was slightly off the mark. Since the project is a BSA event and the Eagle candidate himself is probably there, one of the adults would have to be registered with the BSA and over 21 years old. I guess it doesn’t have to be someone from the same troop, but somebody should be registered with BSA. I’m asking because the person in our council who’s in charge of Eagle boards of review says this is how he interprets this. (Greg LaForge, Plainwell, MI)

“Two-deep leadership” is typically meant for outings away from one’s own community…like, out in the woods, where Boy Scouts go. Image, by contrast, if a patrol wanted to get together to go to the movies at a theater in town… Do two adults need to accompany them? Or how about for pizza, or to play “sandlot” baseball some Saturday afternoon? Two-deep leadership there, too? Even summer camp… When patrols split up into Buddy Pairs to go to the rifle range, do two adults need to be tagging along? Or how about holding a patrol meeting at the local library? Two adults, again? If we carry this to the sublime, boys never ever get to “be boys”!

Most Eagle projects are in the Scout’s home town…at his church or school, let’s say. And, first off, there’s nothing that says only Scouts—and nobody else—can be the Eagle candidate’s helpers! One candidate I knew quite well (maybe I already mentioned this story?) was going to re-paint all his town’s fire hydrants (the special paint, and a demonstration of how to do the job, was provided to everyone in advance by the town’s Fire Department). He started with his fellow Scouts, each buddy pair assigned to a different street, but neighbors got nervous: “Hey! What’re ya doin’ messin’ with that hydrant!?” So he switched to “Plan B” and recruited his high school’s all-girl cheerleading squad. The girls loved it, and complaints disappeared! So, where would “two-deep leadership” have fit in? He would have had to have a pair of adults for each buddy pair of painters, since there were buddy pairs of cheerleaders were all over town! Nuff sed…?
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Hi Andy,

We have a Scout in our troop who’s ready for his Eagle board of review. Since before his Life rank, this Scout has attended a private boarding school that’s about a half-hour drive away from our troop meeting place, and students there aren’t allowed off-campus much, if at all, so that during the school year he hasn’t attended meetings or campouts. Over the past summer he did show up to a couple meetings, but we don’t meet much during the summer, anyway. All along, his parents and a couple leaders have really pushed him to complete his Eagle requirements, and, on paper, it looks like he did. But I don’t feel he did all the work required for his final merit badges, and he didn’t do anything for his position of responsibility: he had it in name only. But if all the paperwork is signed off, is there anything that can be done to question if he actually completed the requirements? (He turned 18 about a month ago, so I’m not sure what happens now.) (Name & Council Withheld)

It’s a pity the boarding school problem wasn’t headed off in advance by registering this young man as a Lone Scout and providing him with a Lone Scout Friend & Counselor. This would have alleviated any post-mortem concerns like yours and assured this young man a quality Scouting experience, even if of a solo nature.

“Active” is subjective and expectations of “active” need to be based on each individual Scout’s “life situation.” One would expect him to attend as many troop and patrol events (meetings, outings, service projects, etc.) as possible, so the key—especially for this Scout—is the question: What is actually possible for him?

As for merit badges, the final arbiter on requirement completion (except in comparatively unique and rare situations based, we’d hope, on more than speculation) is the Merit Badge Counselor. If you truly feel a particular counselor is slacking on requirements, you would report this to the council advancement committee. To arbitrarily confront the Scout would be, well, I think the term is un-Scout-like.

Scouts who hold positions of responsibility are mentored by the Scoutmaster. If the Scoutmaster has signed off on a Scout’s tenure-in-position, it’s a fait accompli and not subject to challenging. (Even if you were to ask the Scout, “What did you do as (position)?” and his response is “Not much,” then shame on the Scoutmaster for inadequate mentoring, but we don’t punish the Scout for the failure of an adult.

So yes, if all signatures are in place—Scoutmaster’s and Committee Chair’s—then this is a clear statement that these two key troop leaders are in agreement that this Scout is ready to advance to the rank of Eagle, and the board members need begin by honoring those evaluations.

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. 444 – 5/26/2015 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2015]

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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.

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