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Issue 460 – November 10, 2015

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Here’s more on the idea of parents tagging along on every possible Boy Scout outing…

Hi Andy,

“Amen” to discouraging continual parental accompaniment! Thanks for discouraging continual parental accompaniment on overnighters and outings. In addition to interfering with peer-to-peer relationships (Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leaders, and patrol-mates), as you pointed out, here are a few of my own further observations on this point:

Any parent expressing a wish to continually attend outings along with the troop should be reminded that their place is separate and apart from the Scout at all times—this means on hikes, at training, during dinner preparation, all meals, clean-up, and even during “R&R.” Think about it: These same parents would never think to walk onto a Little League ball field or AYSO soccer pitch during a game or match. Same goes for Boy Scouts: Stay off the playing field so the boys can “play the game” of Scouting!

What do these parents think all of our volunteer training—Scoutmaster-Specific training, Youth Protection training, Outdoor Leader Skills training—is for? Moreover, most parents fail to realize they have had no such training themselves. So while they’d hardly want to entrust their sons to untrained volunteers, they have little understanding that they, themselves are untrained.

Bottom line: Coaches coach, Referees ref, Teachers teach, Ministers minister, Scouters guide, Scouts lead, and parents cheer from the sidelines. No more, no less. (Craig Snodgrass, SM, Greater Los Angeles Area Council, CA)

Hi Andy,

I once asked my father when he joined Scouts, and he told me it was on his 12th birthday—at that time the earliest a boy could become a Scout. (Later, he joined the Air Scouts and earned the Ace rank—the Air Scout equivalent of Eagle). He wasn’t around much when I was a Scout, even though the troop met at the church he was pastor of.

After he died, I was looking through his old papers…that’s when I discovered for the first time that he’d been my troop’s Committee Chair! Digging further, I discovered that he’d been a Scoutmaster before I was born, and that he’d served on advancement committees, revamped the Eagle board of review in our council, and was even Council President. I had had no idea!

What I did discern, however, was that, when I became a Scout myself, he had stepped back to “make room” for me and my own adventures! I didn’t take quite the same path… My son was elected Senior Patrol Leader while I was his troop’s Scoutmaster, but I did work hard to give him as much “room” of his own as my dad had given me.

I should also tell, however, that both my own dad and I, and my son and I, have taken long backpacking trips together—but all of these were between the two of us and outside of Scout, which is as it should be. We did, of course, use exactly the skills we’d learned in Scouting. Those were precious times. They would have been less so if it hadn’t been “just us.” (Wunder)

My dad did the same… He was a Scouting volunteer for many years, but he steered clear of my troop and me. This way, he could be Dad and I could be his son.
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Dear Andy,

The troop my son is in doesn’t allow women to camp with the Scouts. Now I certainly don’t want or need to go on every camp-out. But as a trained and willing volunteer, very familiar with Cub Scouting and getting more and more familiar with Boy Scouting (trained as a Committee Member, working on Assistant Scoutmaster as well) and currently working on my Wood Badge ticket) they still refuse to allow me to help.

The principle of having no secrets and allowing parents at least occasional access is important! My boys don’t need me or their dad there, by any means. But they also don’t mind me or us being around, especially if it makes it easier to have good activities! So being forbidden to help, based solely on my being a woman, seems counter to the BSA policies. I’d really like some written “ammunition” to show the troop that they’re making a poor choice. (Scouter & Scout Mom)

A troop that’s patently excluding women from volunteering is (a) out of date and (b) pretty stupid. Women can’t be forbidden from participating as adult volunteers with a troop, and I believe your chartered organization—which has final say-so as to who’s a volunteer with the troop and who needs to be removed—will support you.

However, this needs to be tempered with the realization that boys need positive male role models. Moreover, a woman on a camp-out often has to pretty much fend for herself and not expect “special privileges” (I’ve known of women who did the old Philmont “Walking Wood Badge”—Wood Badge while on a 60-mile trek—program back in the 80’s and 90’s and there were, at that time, no strictly female facilities in the outback—but everything still worked out okay!)

Yes, parents can’t be “forbidden” on camp-outs, but at the same time, these parents need to realize that all adults (no matter their gender) save the Scoutmaster and perhaps one ASM serve their sons better by camping separately and apart from the Scouts…and I mean not only out of sight but also out of sound of all patrols, and with no interference (not even at mealtimes) with the Scouts during the entire camp-out, save perhaps (and only “perhaps”) at a Saturday night campfire program.

So consider your sons’ troop and alternative troops carefully, and also examine carefully what it is you want to personally accomplish as a parent-volunteer!
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Dear Andy,

My son, an Eagle Scout, requested a Scoutmaster conference for his first (bronze) Eagle palm, but his Scoutmaster turned him down on the basis that he didn’t meet the troop’s criteria for “active participation.” The troop has the following bylaws:

1. Troop activities include: Troop meetings, one-day events, hikes, monthly camp-outs, Camporees, summer camp, service projects, and fundraisers.
2. All Troop activities are equally important; a Scout will not advance without actively participating in them.

The Scoutmaster quoted the percentage participation my son had over the past year, including the number of camping trips and the like, and stated that my son “was not participating.” I, as his father, took it upon myself to inform the Scoutmaster of the reasons for my son’s participation level being lower than before he became an Eagle Scout, mainly the result of increased extracurricular activities at his high school, but the Scoutmaster firmly stated that only troop events and camping-outs count, and would not consider any sort of “life outside the troop.”

As a result of this roadblock, I called our council service center to get some further information on what “active” is supposed to mean for high school-aged boys. Their answer was, “Just find another troop.” They pointed out that troops operate pretty much independently and that they have no real “authority” over the troop; only the chartered organization actually can make any changes. But they did tell me that I can submit an appeal on the decision for my son’s palm, and I do plan on doing this.

In the interest of future scouts who might find themselves in this situation, I’m hoping you can point me to someone within the BSA who can look into this and determine whether or not this troop (and its bylaws) is in the best interest of Scouts and, if not, can take action to correct this. (Name & Council Withheld)

If your son was informed in advance of the troop’s stipulations regarding active participation, and he agreed to these, but subsequently was unable to meet their “standards,” he definitely has a bit of a problem. One solution should be plain as day: Describe the variety and intensity, and the time-demands, of school and other activities he, at his age and level of accomplishment (i.e., he’s an Eagle Scout, for goodness sakes!), is involved in. If, after this, this troop still denies one of their own Eagle Scouts a palm, I’d have to say this is not the troop for your son any longer…and may not be for any other Scout presently in it. These so-called adult “leaders” seem to have forgotten that the very first “Scouting volunteers” are the boys themselves.

Yes, you can call for an “investigation,” but the most likely outcome with be further intransigence rather than relenting for a Scout who’s already demonstrated he’s an exceptional young man, and, ultimately, rancor and animosity between the two opposing factions. This leads me to the same course of action: Find a nearby troop that will welcome with open arms a high-achieving youth leader and role model!

Thanks, Andy. And I agree that finding a troop that’s more in line with what we believe is the best for our family is the way to go. However, I’m still unsure of any additional action I should take. This is important to me, because my actions will help teach my son the type of citizen he should be. If we believe the troop is making decisions that are in violation of mandated BSA policy, and we’re unsuccessful in addressing this with the troop, what should we do? Should we ignore the action and let it continue? Or should we challenge the organization to follow BSA-mandated actions? If so, who do we go to in the BSA to challenge this? (N&CW)

Re-read my second paragraph (above)… They’re not so much “in violation” as they are simply wrong-headed. Violations can only be punished and corrected; wrong-headedness can rarely be changed. My very strong recommendation is to realize “this ain’t the hill worth dying on”! Support your son; the rest, in time, will take care of itself. Time may heal all wounds, but time also wounds all heels. That said, if this is truly something you’re hell-bent to pursue, then start by reaching out to advancement.team@scouting.org and tell ’em what you just told me.

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. 460 – 11/10/2015 – 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.

Read Andy's full biography

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