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Issue 476 – March 1, 2016

Dear Andy,

My district has established an “Every Leader Trained” emphasis to encourage volunteers to train for their position. So far, training is up four percent.

Looking at individual unit size and the number of adult volunteers, we noticed several units with very large adult registrations and discussed how this would affect training emphasis and percentages. One of the Scoutmasters in our district mentioned that one unit’s Chartered Organization is requiring every Scout’s parent or guardian to register as an adult volunteer. Now I’ll grant that this has some attractive benefits, including not having to grovel when recruiting adult volunteers. But as it turns out, the CO’s goal here isn’t to recruit volunteers but, instead, to have background checks done for every parent/guardian with a son in the unit.

While youth protection (and adult protection too) is certainly our highest priority overall, I nevertheless view this CO’s mandate to be excessive. So long as units are following the BSA youth protection standards and guidelines, this mandate seems unwarranted—even overboard.

If an adult volunteer indeed holds a specific position and plans to serve the unit in that capacity, I can go along with the CO. But otherwise, sorry, I view this as an invasion of the parent’s privacy.

From the CO point of view, they are allowed to exceed, within reason, or enhance BSA rules, regulations, and standards to meet their “own purposes,” so long as these are consistent with the aims and methods of the BSA. So my question is this: Is this Chartered Organization violating any rule(s), regulations, or standards that we’re unaware of and, by so doing, exercising undue demands, or is this okay? (Name & Council Withheld)

It strikes me that this Chartered Organization’s demand that every parent register as a BSA member is excessive beyond the pale. In addition to Youth Protection Training, each parent must also complete “position-specific” training. This is overly burdensome not only to the parents but to the volunteer training team responsible for getting them all trained. In short, it seems an abuse of the procedure by the CO. It’s also pretty stupid. Any parent who might actually have a problem in this area, and knowing they’ll be submitting to a criminal background check, will likely go find a unit that doesn’t include this nonsense. Moreover, YP, when followed correctly, largely prevents any incidents that might occur. Finally, we have proof from the San Bernardino (California) massacre that “clean” background checks hardly prevent future criminal acts.

Take this issue up with your District Executive. If the council is actually happy with what this CO is doing, then that’s pretty much the end of it, I’m afraid, and the burden then falls to the parents and trainers.
Dear Andy,

Can merit badges that have been “retired” still be earned?” I believe the answer is yes, if you can find a qualified and registered Merit Badge Counselor. I recall that, when I was a Scoutmaster in the mid- through late-1990s, I had two Scouts who were brothers ask if their grandfather, who was a MBC for Beekeeping merit badge, could still approve their work and they could earn the badge, even though Beekeeping had been retired some years earlier. At least at that time, this merit badges, although technically nonexistent, was allowed, and these two Scouts completed the requirements and were awarded it. Is this still the case?

Related to this, can an adult get qualified for a badge like Beekeeping today and counsel Scouts on earning it? If this is actually the case, the next question is: “Where can a Scout find the requirements, the merit badge pamphlet, and the actual badge?” (John M. Smilek, ACC, Tecumseh Council, OH)

Oh boy. You’re not gonna like this… The answer’s No.

“Retired” merit badges are exactly that: Retired. No longer available. Obsolete. Dead-in-the-water. Belly-up.

Thanks for taking the time to write. You may not be overjoyed, but at least you have clear facts now.
Hi Andy,

I’m a Merit Badge Counselor for Personal Fitness. A Scout started the 12-week physical fitness requirement, but stopped after five weeks due to school. He’d now like to start from “week 6.” I interpret this requirement to mean that the 12 weeks must be consecutive. Can he start today at “week 6,” or does he need to re-start from “week 1”? (Carolyn Goebel)

Although that requirement doesn’t specifically state that the 12 weeks must be continuous, I’d certainly personally agree with your interpretation.

(As a counselor for Swimming, I’m luckier than you! Both Swimming requirements 2 and 3 specifically state that the 100 yards and 150 yards, respectively, must be continuous.)

Let’s take your Scout’s situation to the absurd, to see if it holds water… What if a Scout chose to do one week “on” and then two weeks “off,” and so on…? What sort of progress is he likely to make? The purpose of the 12 weeks is to concentrate on improving and then enjoy and appreciate the results.

In your shoes, I think I’d tell the Scout that of course he can re-start, but he’s re-starting at “day one” of week 1.

As for “school got in the way,” let’s also remember that the program he creates for himself (with your and his parents’ approval) is supposed to account for “hiccups” along the way…like “school.” In other words, part of the “hidden learning” here is “stick-to-itiveness”!
Dear Andy,

Although both of my sons are already Boy Scouts—one is Eagle and the other is 12 years old and Life rank—I agreed to take over a Bear Cub Scout den at a neighbor’s school. (As an already-trained Cub Scout leader, this is an easy “fit,” so when my neighbor, who’s in the Navy and on ship deployments all the time, asked, it was “you bet” right away!)

When my sons were Cub Scouts, they both earned Bear rank and 14 of the Arrow Points associated with that rank. What happened to Arrow Points? Are these new belt loop things what the Cubs get now? Why have we changed the program? I was a Cub Scout myself, and I remember how upset I was when they got rid of the Lion rank and replaced it with Webelos. Can you please let me know if the BSA still uses the Arrow Point part of the Cub Scout advancement program? (Richard Wegemann)

The Cub Scouting program, including especially the advancement aspect of it, has changed dramatically in the past year—a complete overhaul, in fact. This has been done after thorough research and a huge amount of creative time in order to bring the program more in line with boys’ interests and motivations today!

As a Den Leader, you owe it to the boys you’re responsible for to get trained in the new program right away! Start by getting hold of the new BEAR book and reading it cover-to-cover. BUT, don’t consider this a substitute for signing up and getting yourself trained! (Ship captains ain’t newbie landlubbers!)
Dear Andy,

I have three sons in Scouting. Two are still active as Eagles and are continuing to enjoy themselves and earning Eagle Palms as a way to stay involved. Recently, we moved across country from a council we were involved in since our first son was a Tiger, to a new council.

Trying to get my Eagle sons transferred accurately was actually the hardest part. I was told that while the BSA national office approves all Eagle Scout rank applications, they don’t keep records of this—that these records are only retained by local councils. I was stunned to hear this!

Luckily, I have megabytes of records from our original council as well as photos of all their books (please encourage EVERY Scout to take photos of their handbook sign-off pages!), so my sons will be okay.

But do you have any idea who tracks Eagle Palms, and how or where the records are maintained? I know it is a paper form, but does anyone keep the records? Our new council isn’t really sure how to handle this. (Robert McLemore)

Good news: You were misinformed. The BSA national office absolutely keeps track of the names and dates of all Eagle Scouts.

Eagle Palms, however, aren’t tracked name-by-name at the national office. This information is recorded and maintained by local councils, via the “unit advancement reports” that are submitted electronically by units following boards of review for ranks and palms (not merit badges, of course, because there are no boards of review for these—but there are still unit advancement reports filed).

As you pointed out, the first and most important “tracker” of continuing advancement is the Scout himself (that’s what those pages at the back of the handbook are for, and your suggestion of backup photos is brilliant). So if there’s a problem with the palms, ask your sons’ “old” troop to send copies of the advancement reports they filed for these palms.
Dear Andy,

I sat in on a presentation at Boy Scout Leaders Roundtable last week and came away with some questions that didn’t have answers at that time…

Apparently, service hours for the now first four ranks have been added or doubled. Is this in effect right now for every Scout, regardless of which set of requirements they’re working through, or does this become required at the start of 2017? And required camping days have also been doubled. Same question: When does this kick in? (Laurence Johnson, District Training Chair)

Double-check with your advancement committee, but as I understand it a Scout can complete to current rank he’s working toward using the “old” requirements and then, for any rank he starts out to earn in 2016, he uses the “new” requirements.

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. 476 – 3/1/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]


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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