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Issue 477 – March 11, 2016

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Dear Andy,

I’m the Chartered Organization Representative for a Boy Scout troop. Recently, our Scoutmaster started demanding access to the troop’s checking account. We said no, as it’s been our policy since the troop started. But he somehow went around us to the District Executive, who got him placed on the troop’s checking account without our knowledge or permission. How the heck can a council make changes to our troop funds without consulting the chartered organization or the committee?
In my 40 years as a Scouting volunteer, I’ve never seen this happen.
What can and should we do? (Name & Council Withheld)

Certainly, the troop’s account balance, expenses and income can and should be shared with the Scoutmaster when he attends monthly committee meetings: This isn’t “private” information. Similarly, this information should always be available to any parent wishing to know what the account status is. Scouting has no “secrets”—ever!

How your Scoutmaster’s name was added to the bank’s signature card is a mystery to me and should be taken up with the bank’s manager. When you speak with that manager, simply have that gentleman’s name removed. In the meanwhile, without checks in hand there’s not a lot he can do!

By the way, is your account set up so that, at least for any amount over, say, $100, two signatures—typically the committee member who’s treasurer and the Committee Chair—are required?
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Dear Andy,

We have a Tenderfoot Scout who’s asking for a Scoutmaster conference and board of review so he can advance to Second Class. He’s generally an okay Scout, but he has a serious attitude problem that manifests itself when he disrespects the adult leaders by calling them by their first names or using just their last name without “mister” as a prefix, insulting some of the adults beyond just good-natured ribbing, taking good-natured ribbing way over the line even when warned, challenging older Scouts or adult troop leaders who ask him to do tasks that are asked of every Scout, and so on.

The other issue is that I have no idea how he could have been signed off on many of the “Scoutcraft” requirements for the rank (fire building, cooking, identifying wildlife on hikes, etc.) because I attended all but one of the campouts that this Scout was on and I never saw any of these requirements completed by him while on these trip. I know that “A Scout Is Trustworthy” and that he can’t be “retested,” but I can’t in good faith sign off on this Scout at the board of review knowing that these requirements were never done, no matter what his book says.

I don’t want to just slam this Scout, which would do a disservice to everyone and probably not in accordance to BSA policies. Can it be approached in such a manner as “Look, we know you’re a very enthusiastic Scout and we know you have a lot of love for this program and can have a very successful Scouting experience; however, at your last review we tell you we noticed that some of your behaviors were not appropriate for a Scout who wants to advance, and we went over the expectations that we had for you if you wanted to advance to the next rank, but we feel you still have some maturing to do to earn Second Class. So if you still want to earn Second Class, this is what we expect to see of you over the next few months (spell out expectations), and if you feel you’ve met those expectations, then in a couple of months we’d love to see you here again to review your progress and hopefully put the Second Class badge on your uniform.”

Is something to this effect okay? It wouldn’t be “blind-siding” the Scout since he’s been repeatedly warned in the past. If we don’t do this, I feel we’ll just be rewarding bad, un-Scout-like behavior and giving no incentive to the Scout (or any Scouts) to behave appropriately.

As far as the Scoutcraft requirements, I do want also to address this issue more with the older Scouts who sign off on the requirements, reminding them that it’s not just a “rubber stamp.” I don’t expect perfection, and I don’t expect the Scout to be Tom Brown or Grizzly Adams when it comes to “surviving in the wild” on a campout, but I would expect that whoever they sign off, they’d be confident that if they needed a meal cooked that the Scout would be able to do it on their own, if the group got lost that they can depend on the Scout to use a map & compass to direct them out, if they needed a tower lashed together that they can depend on the Scout to do his part and not just stand by the sidelines. (Name & Council Withheld)

Wow! You’ve got a pretty messed up troop and an equally whacko view of advancement in it. The scariest thing you said to me was that you “don’t care what’s signed off in this Scout’s handbook,” you have no intention of believing him. And on a whole bunch of campouts you give the impression that you’ve been “stalking” him and his leaders, to see what they do. (You even told me that, for the one trip you missed, you interrogated your two sons on what this Scout did while on the trip—effectively bringing them into this “stalking mentality” as well.)

As for a young Scout showing “disrespect” because he found a way to push all your buttons—he seems like a pretty with-it kid who’s out-smarting the lot of you and enjoying how he’s getting away with it because no one’s set boundaries or enforced them… Instead, you all just blather at him and then lay down while he just rolls on! He must be having a great time at your expense. Pretty smart of him to figure you all out so quickly.

And more: In all of this, you haven’t mentioned one word about the Scoutmaster, who’s the one guy in charge of how well Scouts advance and meet the requirements, and is also the one guy who’s supposed to be training the Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leaders on how to handle Scouts like this. Plus, who are all these “adults” who are getting “insulted”? A Scout troop is run by the Scouts; not the adults. This means those adults need to bug off and go camp by themselves, so they’re not tempted to teach Scouts what Scouts can learn from and for themselves.

As for boards of review, these are scheduled when the Scoutmaster informs the troop committee that a Scout has completed all requirements and is “ready to advance.” In light of your concerns, it seems like a heart-to-heart with the Scoutmaster is in order here—again, something that I think is missing from all this. Moreover, unless you, yourself, are the Scoutmaster, you don’t talk to the “senior” Scouts; he does. Period.
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Dear Andy,

A question has come up in our Cub Scout pack related to advancement and presentation of awards. Due to a lull in the leadership for the Bear and Webelos Dens, there are several Cubs who are behind in their advancement. The new leaders are feverishly trying to help these Cubs progress and achieve their next ranks. For two, the only thing they need do is lead a “campfire”-type song or skit.

We’re holding our Blue & Gold Banquet soon, and the Webelos Scouts picked a skit they’d like to do. We’re thinking about the idea that they can do the skit at the B&G.at the end of March. Our Bear Den Leader wants to have her Cubs do a separate skit, which would be fine by us, but she also wants to have the Cubs receive their Bear badges the same night, since the skit is their last requirement to be done.

Is it appropriate to have a Scout of any level—Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, etc.—to be actually given their rank badge literally right after they’ve completed their final requirement?

I know that, in Boy Scouts, this wouldn’t work, because there needs to be both a Scoutmaster’s Conference and a Board of Review before the rank can be presented. Is the same true of Cub Scouting? (Russell Darrington)

In Cub Scouting, there is neither a conference nor board of review for any rank. For your pack, that’s definitely good news, so no delay necessary!
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Dear Andy,

A friend in another district has hit a speed bump on his journey to help recognize youth and adults in Venturing. He believes, as do I, that the district has the right to create an award to recognize individuals for their dedication and service during for the past year.

We both recognize there’s the District Award of Merit, but only a few individuals can receive that recognition per year. My own district has successfully created awards that we present at our district dinner each year. But, in my friend’s district, there’s a professional staffer who’s telling him that that’s not permitted.

Are there any guidelines, descriptions, or documented proof that districts can create an award for adult volunteer service? We’ve been looking, but haven’t found anything, so any assistance that you can provide would be greatly appreciated. (Damon Allen)

First, remember that the Unit Leader Award of Merit (formerly Scoutmaster Award of Merit) is now available to Venturing crews for their Crew Advisors too. There’s no limit on these, so long as the nomination form is completed and submitted in proper fashion. The cool thing is that this is a national-level award.

Beyond this, a district absolutely has the right to create special, local recognitions via specially-designed certificates: I’ve personally used “Spark Plug Award,” “Extra Mile Award,” “Unit Builder Award,” and many others. The USSSP site has a link to creating certificates (check out our home page for the link).

In an organization like Scouting, there’s nothing better than recognizing those who indeed “go the extra mile” (and it also increases attendance at district recognition dinners, etc.).

As for your curmudgeonly “professional staffer,” sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness than for permission. Just go for it!
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Dear Andy,

What’s the BSA’s official stance on Scout accounts, in which Scouts receive back a portion of the funds they raise on behalf of the unit, with those funds available to the Scouts to help pay for summer camp and other outings). Our troop has taken the position that it’s like having “student accounts,” but have no actual mechanism in place for tracking and cannot tell the Scouts or their parents how much any one Scout has in his account. I personally, wish we’d do away with such accounts; however, since we have it, I believe the troop needs to be accountable for accurately tracking the funds. (Name & Council Withheld)

The BSA’s stance on “Scout accounts” resulting from fund-raising is, unfortunately, vague. It seems the BSA is sort of okay with this concept if we’re talking “pocket money” (maybe a hundred bucks or less), but they get pretty squirrelly when that number starts to creep higher. The net effect is that there are no real black-and-white BSA guidelines or policies you can use to keep this from getting out of hand, unless you enjoy trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. As a consequence—and this is only my personal viewpoint, so take it with a grain of salt—if your troop really hasn’t embraced the notion of crediting portions of funds earned to specific individual Scouts, don’t start. I’m suggesting this because I’ve just about never seen a situation that actually works, and can frequently cause feelings of ill will—if not among Scouts, certainly among parents. Plus, there’s a likelihood to wander into a morass of what “qualifies” as a “legitimate” use of such Scout account funds (e.g., if it’s okay to buy a pocket knife for camping, but does that have to be a “Scout” knife? or what about backpacks or other camping gear? or what if a Scout wants to go to a camp that’s not a BSA camp? and the list goes on and on…).

So, try, if you can, to dodge the Scout accounts bullet and, instead, just offer a bunch of modest and useful prizes to the “top sellers”—items like a new sleeping bag to the top seller, a new backpack to second place, and maybe have a bunch of flashlights, knives, cook kits, and such for the next seven top sellers. Doing it this way means that all funds raised go straight into the troop kitty and the best way for Scouts to enjoy the fruits of their efforts is to SHOW UP!

Now I’m going to add one final thought, and this is for the folks who will be tempted to write to me about how well their own “Scout account” program has been working for years and years…

Two aspects of Scouting that we all embrace are (1) service to others without seeking reward and (2) recognition for achievement. When we effectively “pay” Scouts to get out there and “sell” stuff to raise money for our troop and pack and whatever, we’re repudiating BOTH of those two foundational principles. Instead of raising money to help Scouting, “Scout accounts” turn our Scouts into commission salesmen. ==========
Dear Andy,

We have a Scout in our troop who earned his Arrow of Light earlier than all the other boys in his den, and moved on from the den to be a Boy Scout eight months ago. Now he (or his mother) wants to participate in the ceremony presentation with the other Webelos Scouts in his former den and pack. I feel it’s a mistake for him to come back to show off that he’s already a Boy Scout, and a number of parents think it would diminish their own sons’ achievements and sense of loyalty to the pack. Should it be allowed now that he’s already a Boy Scout? (Rick Bensco)

You’ve got it right: The ceremony is for current members of the Cub Scout pack; it’s not for Boy Scouts. You might want to try explaining to this boy’s mom that it’s like a high school freshman going back to middle school for some sort of belated graduation ceremony—it’s just sort of inappropriate.

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. 477 – 3/11/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]

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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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