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Issue 467 – December 29, 2015

Dear Andy,

Last week (December 22 – Issue 466), in response to a 14 year-old Scout who’s been getting into fights, with punching Scouts in the face, kicking them in the shins with steel-toed boots, and threatening Scouts with a knife, you ended by saying, “…since you also mentioned that he may be going with a crew to Sea Base soon…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!

Overall, you had a great answer, except for that last comment about being in close quarters aboard a Sea Base ship. I’ve lead multiple crews to Philmont, Sea Base, Northern Tier and Maine High Adventure base, all of which lead me to judge that it’s way better to deal with the anger that may come from telling a family “No, your Scout can’t go on this trip” than to have conversations with lawyers (or undertakers) after the trip. Just like when climbing, unless I’m 100% certain that the Scout is “on belay,” I’m not letting him to go over the cliff with me, period. Scout high adventure expeditions are no place for “behavior modification therapy.” (Al Best, SM, Crew Advisor, Wood Badge Course Director)

Hey Andy,

I’d immediately remove that Scout from the Sea Base trip. As a leader on the trip, I’m just not willing to take on that risk. (Wunder, ASM, Advancement Committee, Pacific Skyline Council)

These are just two examples of the raft of letters I received about my “reserve judgment till…” so let me be a bit more direct so there’s no further confusion: I’ll make the final call after I see this kid back in the troop and on an outing, where he’d better be a bloody angel or there’s no way I’m putting him on a boat! Does that work better?
Dear Andy,

This one’s about Scouts fundraising for their Eagle projects. I’ve run across a Life Scout working on his project for Eagle project and has created a “GoFundMe” account asking for donations to his project. Is this appropriate and within BSA guidelines? I’ve asked our council folks but I can’t seem to get a straight answer. The Scout isn’t doing any other kind of fundraiser; he’s relying on funds generated by this crowd-funding site. Can you advise? (Kim Stanton, UC, Seneca Waterways Council, NY)

Service projects that need to acquire supplies or materiel (paint, lumber, plantings, soil, cleaning materials, etc.), whether for Eagle rank or otherwise, can be funded in a variety of ways. The recipient of the service, for instance, can offer to provide all needed supplies or materiel as a way to express tangible appreciation for the service rendered. A second way is for the unit or Scout to request supplies or materiel (or discounts on same) from local merchants. Third, a community-wide fund-raiser can be carried out. Fourth, specifically for Eagle-qualifying projects, they can be self-funded by the Scout or his family (although we’d certainly hope this would be modest to minimal, and the BSA encourages no funds necessary wherever possible). Fifth and more recently, in light of the rapid growth of social media, “crowdfunding” has entered the arena as a possibly viable option and the BSA does say it’s okay for Scouts working on their projects to use these sites to raise funds for materials, equipment rental, etc.

That said, it’s important to recognize that Eagle projects aren’t evaluated on how much they cost and, as I just mentioned, the BSA would prefer project-related costs to be either minimal or nonexistent: “Eagle projects carried out with minimal, if any, expense are always preferred to those with high price tags. The BSA prefers there not be any fundraising at all for an Eagle project.”

For a longer description and discussion, go to my friend Bryan Wendell’s blog-site: “Bryan on Scouting” —
Hi Andy,

The question I have is regarding the performance of the BSA National Outdoor Challenge. What does it mean to have the troop “conduct a Leave No Trace program”? I understand what Leave No Trace is and means, but I’m not sure what the programs are. Thanks! (Jeremy Workman, ASM, Grand Canyon Council)

If you refer to the LNT website, you’ll find a set of seven ethics to consider on any outing. It seems to me that, if you base your outings on these you’ll be right on the money!
Dear Andy,

Is it specified anywhere how often a troop committee must meet? If so, can you direct me to that reference, please? I’ve heard three different takes on this: monthly, every other month, and at the discretion of the Committee Chairman with the chartering organization’s consent. Obviously, it can’t be all of these so I’m trying to find the definitive answer, if there is one. (Tom Scarpelli, MC, Tidewater Council, TX)

First, check the BSA’s TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDEBOOK. In there, I believe you’ll find that troop committees work best when they meet once a month at a regularly scheduled time and place. Most troops hold committee meetings at the same location as the troop meeting, selecting the meeting of the month farthest away from the troop’s major outing-of-the-month, in order to make sure that all necessary arrangements not handled by the Scouts themselves (e.g., tour permit, campsite reservation, outfitter fees if any) are taken care of sooner rather than later. This once-a-month arrangement also allows for three (minimum) committee members available at least once a month for rank advancement boards of review for the Scouts.

Thanks, Andy, this does it perfectly! Our troop has had monthly committee meetings for most of the more than a dozen years I’ve been associated with it. But our new Committee Chair has starting scheduling meetings on an irregular basis. Our last meeting was over two months ago, and the next one scheduled is some two months away, based solely on his unilateral impression of when we have “pressing business” to attend to. Monthly meetings had worked well for the troop in the past and several of us want to get back to that schedule so we can continue to support troop operations effectively and in a timely manner. (Tom Scarpelli)

I’m delighted I could help! When a committee like this takes two months off, it’s the Scouts who are likely to suffer most. The key to remember is simply this: We’re here to serve the Scouts of the troop (not the other way around).
Dear Andy,

I’d like to comment on your November 10th column, and the question on Eagle Palms and “active” participation. The GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT addresses this exact situation in Topic Paraphrasing, “…If the Scout doesn’t meet the unit’s ‘active’ expectations, then an explanation of why is should be given,” and “Would the Scout have been more active if he could have been? If so, for purposes of advancement, he is deemed ‘active’.” The GTA then goes on to specifically mention other youth activities as acceptable reasons. Also, the GTA (Topic states, in part: “When he believes he has completed all the requirements for a rank, including a Scoutmaster conference, a board of review must be granted.”

Unfortunately, for Eagle Palms there’s no appeal process, as there is for Star, Life, and Eagle ranks. So ultimately I’d recommend a mist-treated Eagle Scout changing if this information doesn’t immediately sway the troop’s adults into corrective action. You call it “the tin god syndrome” and you’re right: Eagles who are denied palms because—at their age—they’re involved in lots of stuff and Scouting isn’t and shouldn’t demand to be an “exclusive, maybe this should go to the Commissioner staff or the District Advancement Chair, for corrective “instruction” of the adults involved (Wayne Brown, DC, San Diego-Imperial Council CA)

Yes, you’re right on the money! (My actual response to the parent was a lot longer than what made it into that column.)

Don’tcha just love it when a Scout makes it to Eagle and then some yo-yo finds a way to “ding” an active high-schooler?!? (And we wonder why so few palms are earned!)
Dear Andy,

You’ve lots of advice to give, but it’s very rare that, along with your advice you recommend contacting a pack’s or troop’s Unit Commissioner? Why is this, if you don’t mind my asking? (Hal Facre, American Heritage Council)

I don’t mind at all. Simple fact is this: If folks knew who their commissioners were, because enough folks volunteered to service in this capacity and then got out there to let their assigned units’ parents and adult volunteers know there’s someone right there to help them with problems, questions, and finding solutions, I’d hardly be needed at all! So my final advice for 2015 is this: Get out there, roll up your sleeves, and put me out of business!

Happy Scouting! Happy New Year! And we’ll see you back here next week—same Andy Time, same Andy Station!


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. 467 – 12/29/2015 – 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.

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