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Issue 466 – December 22, 2015

Mary Tomchuk, of the Patriots’ Path Council in New Jersey, educator; Eagle Scout Mom; Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope, St. George and Bronze Pelican recipient; Scouter extraordinaire, has too soon Gone Home. She touched, it’s safe to say, thousands of lives including my own. She’ll long be missed by so many.

Hi Andy,

In your column December 12th, you were asked about using Scout handbooks and part of your response was that it’s “silly” for Scouts to bring in their handbooks to boards of review for requirement completion verification. I agree with you. What I like to see in a handbook is what activities the Scout has done since his last review. Sometimes the Scouts get a little nervous and with some gentle questions and with his handbook for “support,” we can help him open up and discuss the things he’s done. Like most things in Scouting, the handbook is but one of the many tools we use. (Allen Frierson, Indian Waters Council)

When the handbook is used as a “prompter” for questions along the line of “what was the best trip you’ve gone on, so far?” that’s great! Just so it’s not put under a microscope by the board members, who then “challenge” the dates and initials! Sure sounds like to see the bigger picture here.
Dear Andy,

About six months ago our Committee Chair stepped down from her role as CC and requested consideration as an Assistant Scoutmaster, which we agreed to and duly registered her as an ASM. However, while serving as CC she also held the committee role of “health and safety trainer,” a position she continues to handle, thereby continuing to attend and influence troop committee meetings, even though we have more than enough active parents who’d be willing to take on this training position on the committee. In short, she’s continuing to wear “two hats” in the troop, and I’m wondering not only whether it’s okay to hold two positions in the same troop but is this a “healthy” situation?

As I understand it, you can’t really do this; that is, be an ASM and an MC at the same time, in the same unit. I’d like to bring this to the attention of our current Committee Chair, but he seems to be a bit of a stickler on having documentation on BSA policies. Any clarification or references you can provide would be great! I’ve read many things in regards to ASM roles, including that they’re not formal members of the committee, but it would be helpful to know if there’s a specific BSA policy on this. (Scoutmaster, Council Withheld)

You’re absolutely correct: Neither the Scoutmaster nor any ASM is concurrently a member of the troop’s committee. Moreover, no one in a troop is permitted to hold a second registered position in that troop, with the sole exception of the Committee Chair (CC), who is permitted to also register as Chartered Organization Representative (CR).

Important: This is absolutely not my “opinion,” and isn’t subject to discussion or debate.

The easiest references for this (do a quick Internet search for these) are the “Troop Organization Chart” and the “BSA Adult Application.” The TOC clearly shows that there’s a marked separation between the troop committee and the troop itself, and the application (refer to page 2) states that no one can hold two positions in the same unit (exception as noted above).

ASMs report to the Scoutmaster. The Scoutmaster ultimately reports to the CC. The Scoutmaster is responsible for the quality of the Scouting program, as delivered to the troop (the “troop” is the Scouts themselves); the committee and its chair (CC) are responsible for supporting the Scoutmaster and the troop—the committee doesn’t “dictate policy” because the BSA has already done that.

So if your newest ASM wants to stay in that position, you might want to make sure the first thing she does is take position-specific training, so that she can be an asset to you. If, on the other hand, she’d like to continue handling health and safety training, there’s no reason she can’t simply continue as a committee member, in which case she just changes her registration to MC.
Hi Andy,

I’m a Den Leader in a small pack that’s been fairly loose with some stuff for a while. So here’s one of the things I’m trying to straighten out: Are Cub Scouts who aren’t in proper uniform supposed to participate in flag presentations? (Mike Paluszk)

The BSA is pretty emphatic that it’s not the uniform that makes the Scout, and no uniform is in any way mandatory. Uniforms are, however, aspirational, team-building, and create a sense of identity and “belonging.” Correct uniforming can be encouraged by letting the Cubs know that carrying the pack and American flags are an honor, and, to do so, one is indeed expected to respect both by wearing their full and correct uniforms when acting as a member of the “flag detail” for opening and closing ceremonies.

Baden-Powell put it this way over a hundred years ago (and it’s still valid today): A boy can be a Scout without a uniform, but what boy with Scouting in his heart wouldn’t want to wear his uniform?
Dear Andy,

We have a 14 year-old Scout—rank: First Class—who’s been getting into fights on our campouts. He’s punching Scouts in the face and kicking them in the shins with steel-toed boots. Most recently, he used a knife to threaten a Scout—and there were direct-observation witnesses to this, so the act can’t be skirted or “spun” as anything other than a knife-cutting threat.

In addition to these peer-to-peer abuses in our troop, this young man has, apparently, also instigated encounters and actual fist fights at school as well.

We adult volunteers discussed this problem at length and decided that I, as Scoutmaster, plus our Committee Chair, will meet personally with this Scout and his mother (no father in the picture) to discuss the situation, and to suspend his participation in overnight troop events for two months but permit him to continue participating in our troop’s weekly meetings.

What are your thoughts on this? Is there a better way to handle this situation? Thanks! (SM, Council Withheld)

There’s a fundamental BSA procedure—you’ll find it in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK—that states a Scout can indeed be removed from a troop (temporarily or permanently, based on the severity of his actions or threats) if his behavior causes or threatens to cause physical harm to himself or others.

If a striking has occurred, it seems to me that a “zero tolerance” stance by the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair is mandated. In this case, it would seem this Scout has already used up any possible “second chances” and must definitely be separated from the troop (meaning: the Scouts) until he is able to control his behavior. This would absolutely include troop meetings as well, because you have no “crystal ball” and so cannot predict whether, having been excluded from hurting others on camp-outs, he won’t resort to physically injuring his peers at troop meetings.

Keep this in mind: You’re volunteers, not professionals, and this boy appears to need serious professional help before he can be included in troop activities at some point in the future.

You won’t be “doing this Scout a disservice;” you will absolutely be protecting the other Scouts of the troop from further injury—and that’s your job!

Thank you so much for your response, Andy. We’re on the same page here. Tomorrow night, our CC and I have a meeting scheduled with the Scout and his mother. We’re going to lay out what we’ve observed and describe the consequence of his behavior, which will be that he’ll be removed from all troop activities for two months. (SM)

One small but, I believe, important point: The idea of a two-month moratorium on camp-outs might be interpreted as more a punishment than a consequence. Perhaps an alternative approach to a time-line—such as he can return to the troop as soon as he can keep him emotions and behavior in check, and no more steel-toed boots—might work better for all concerned.

Based on what you’ve described, this young man’s anger runs deep. Privately, with his mother, you might gently inquire if this is in any way related to the absence of his father. No, you don’t want to play “guard-house shrink”…but you’re looking for insights, and Mom may be able to shed some light on this.

Finally, since you also mentioned that he may be going with a crew to Sea Base soon… Frankly, the close quarters aboard a ship doesn’t bode well to me. I think I’d reserve judgment on his participating till you see how he performs on dry land, because a dust-up at sea can be life-threatening—and that’s the last thing you want or need!

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. 466 – 12/22/2015 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2015]


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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