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Issue 487 – May 19, 2016

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Some wag once said, “The good guys always finish last.” Wrong!

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll remember this letter from a Scout parent in my April 19th column (abbreviated here)…

Hi Andy,
Out of the blue, our troop’s Chartered Organization Representative started tearing apart our troop. First, he removed our Scoutmaster, and the replacement was one of his personal friends. When we protested this, this CR started claiming youth protection violations be three of our adult leaders, removed an Assistant Scoutmaster as well as both of his Scout sons, froze our checking account, threatened to remove another leader, and said that he’d only accept a prospective replacement if he swore to do everything the CR demanded or face immediate removal. This same CR then attacked our Cub Scout pack, freezing their checking account too and demanding that their trailer, equipment, and locker keys be turned over to him. We spoke to the head of the chartered organization, but he’s new and doesn’t know what he’s allowed to do or how to go about doing it. He’s on our side, but doesn’t know where to go to find out what his authority is (or isn’t). Can you help?

Well yes, of course I did help (hey, that’s why I’m here!). Meanwhile, this sparked a raft of letters from readers—the biggest ever influx of letters on a specific unit’s problems—all horrified at the situation and hoping for a positive result.

And here’s how it turned out…

Hi Andy,
We got amazing results—more than we ever hoped for! At a meeting with the head of our sponsor, plus a District Executive and two other representatives from our council, plus a “higher-up” in the sponsoring organization’s hierarchy (I’ve never seen so many “head honchos” come out to resolve a unit-level issue!), the very first thing that happened was the CR was instantly removed and a new one was appointed on the spot. Our Scoutmaster was reinstated effective immediately. The ASM who was removed was also reinstated effective immediately, and his two sons were re-registered right then and there. The sponsor head will unlock our checking accounts tomorrow morning and gave us back the units’ locker keys that night. And the CR’s wife—who, as it turns out, was the District Committee Chair—was removed from all district-level positions. Our Troop Committee Chair was removed as well, and replaced with someone who “gets it.” We’re now in the stage of dusting ourselves off, cleaning up any lingering messes, tying up loose ends, and getting our troop’s PLC and Senior Patrol Leader back in action. Thanks for all of your guidance and advice!

Is there a “lesson” to all of this? I think there is, and it’s this simple: When you know you’re right (and you’ve checked to be sure), and you see a wrong, step up.
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Hello Andy,

Can a Committee Chair invalidate a board of review, even after the committee met with the Scout and developed a plan to help him? (Name & Council Withheld)

You’re going to need to give me a bit more detail… Let’s start with this: What rank are we talking about? Next: Did the board of review not advance this Scout to his next rank and if not, why not? What was the content and duration of the “plan”? Finally, what reason did the CC give for “invalidating” the review and what does “invalidate” mean, in this context. If you can help me out, I think I can help you all get through this.

Thanks Andy! Here’s what you asked for. The rank was for Star. The board of review didn’t approve the Scout for this rank because they believed he needs more leadership training. Their plan was for him to attend Scout leadership training and work with younger Scouts to teach and help their advancement requirements (e.g., from Second Class to First Class). Our Committee Chair said he was invalidating the board of review because of perceived bias by committee (he had agreed at first, but changed his mind a couple of days later, and without further discussion made a unilateral decision to invalidate the review). My own understanding is that a CC can’t do this; that is, “invalidate” a board of review or its decision. Where does this fall in BSA policies and procedures? (N&CW)

OK, here we go… For the rank of Star, whether using the “old” or the “new” requirements, if this Scout indeed held a qualified leadership position for the required four months—whether or not “trained”—his advancement can’t be denied because “he needs more training.” Training the troop’s youth leaders is the single-most important responsibility of the Scoutmaster. Therefore, if the Scoutmaster failed to train this Scout, that onus falls on the Scoutmaster; not the Scout.

To be certain we’re clear on this point: If it’s observed that a Scout is not fulfilling his leadership role, then it’s up to the Scoutmaster to counsel the Scout and help him improve; if nothing is said to the Scout then it cannot—it must not!—come back to bite him at some later date…like at a board of review.

Moreover, if the Scoutmaster, following his conference with this Scout, notified the troop committee and chair that the Scout is ready for his Star board of review, this is a de facto statement by the Scoutmaster that this Scout is indeed ready to advance. Therefore, unless something aberrant occurs in that review (i.e., not some arbitrary opinion that “this Scout needs more training”), then that review is intended to be successful. (No, it’s not a “rubber stamp”—it’s a CONFIRMATION of that which has already been determined by the Scoutmaster.)

An “invalidation” by the Committee Chair is something that’s simply not done. What, in fact, should be done RIGHT NOW is to reconvene the reviewers, bring in the Scout and his Scoutmaster, and inform them both that an error was made the first time around and that this Scout will indeed become a Star Scout effective immediately.

I truly hope you all follow through on this. We’re here to support youth; not “judge” them, and it falls to the Scoutmaster to more fully understand his primary responsibility.

One more thing: None of this is my “personal opinion.” Everything I’ve stated can be found in the BSA’s GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT.

RTFM – Read The Friendly Manual!
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Dear Andy,

For 2016 and beyond, what are the exact training requirements for Pack Trainer. Are they Youth Protection, Cub Committee Challenge (C60), and Trainer’s EDGE (D70)? (Ron Krawczyk)

Pack Trainer is a committee-level position. This would certainly mean “YPT” and “Committee Challenge.” After that, it gets slightly fuzzy… The BSA states: “Pack trainers should participate in a Trainer Development Conference.” However, “should” is one of those curious pear-shaped words that doesn’t mean “mandatory” (as “must” does), but it’s obvious that this “would be a good idea” for somebody who’s going to be responsible for getting 100% of the pack’s adult volunteers trained. I’d have to say that, based on the BSA’s language choice on this one, it doesn’t appear to be “required.” However, councils are permitted to alter such requirements when the alteration is more (not less) stringent that BSA national requirements. This means that you’ll need to check with your own council, to see what their standards are.
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Dear Andy,

We have a 16-year old Life Scout in our troop who’s working towards Eagle. But, as often happens with “older” Scouts, his attendance and involvement in troop activities is beginning to wane. I know that Eagle rank requirements 1 and 4 clearly address this, and we will assess those accordingly. But right now, this Scout is pressing one of our committee members—who is also a counselor for a couple of merit badges this Scout needs for Eagle—to be his counselor. This Scouter is questioning (among us other adult volunteers; not to the Scout) whether this young man’s commitment to being active (req’s. 1, 4) is sufficient. We’ve been aware for some time that this Scout has repeatedly refused to take on any youth leadership positions suggested by our Scoutmaster, and so we’re wondering if he should be allowed to pursue these final merit badges as is, or should we insist that he be more active with the troop before we allow him to proceed with the merit badges. I’m hoping you might have a little guidance for all of us, to get through this rough spot without doing something that might make everyone angry. (LM)

We have several intertwined issues here. Let’s see if we can separate them out, and deal with each one…

A Merit Badge Counselor, when asked by any Scout to be his counselor for a merit badge, should be saying yes unless that counselor’s schedule at the moment doesn’t permit him or her the time to counsel properly.

To hold a merit badge hostage based on factors over which the MBC has no authority is a miscarriage of the merit badge program. If this particular counselor is resisting, the Scoutmaster needs to immediately step in and provide to the Scout the names of other counselors who have no hesitation in helping a Scout move forward in the BSA advancement program.

The BSA clearly states that in order for a Scout to move from Life to Eagle, he needs to have served for at least six months in a qualified leadership capacity (see Eagle Scout requirements for qualifying positions). The BSA also states that these six months can include more than one position and do not need to be continuous.

Further, if the Scout has indeed completed his six months at some time after attaining Life rank, it’s not required that he continue to do so up until his Eagle board of review.

However, if the Scout has not served in a qualifying leadership capacity for the required six months, then it’s time for his Scoutmaster to conference with this Scout, to be sure this requirement is understood and to encourage the Scout to step up. (If he’s indeed “refusing” it’s important for the Scoutmaster to sit down with this Scout and figure out what’s going on in his life that he’s reluctant to do this…There’s obviously a problem here and his “refusals” may be a symptom of an underlying problem that needs to be brought to light, so this Scout can be better understood, and helped.)

If a Scout appears to be less than optimally “active,” according to the perceptions of his Scoutmaster, it’s time for a conference, so that the Scoutmaster has a clear understanding of the other factors operating in this young man’s life. This can range from commitments to a sport or sports team, music (e.g., marching band, orchestra, etc.), theater, special clubs (e.g., math club, chess club) that might be engaged in tournaments, religious activities (e.g., church or synagogue youth group, etc.), and home life (part-time job, caring for younger siblings, etc.). The BSA is very clear that “metrics” (e.g., some percentage or number of troop meetings or outings) must not be applied to any Scout for any rank. Moreover, the BSA also states that “time counted as ‘active’ need not be consecutive’.” There are also “Alternatives” available to the Scout, and I’d like to refer you to the BSA GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT: Topic 4.2.3.1.

Our key responsibility is to HELP Scouts SUCCEED, but in a way that leaves them “in charge” of their own lives and destinies.

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. 487 – 5/19/2016 – 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.

Read Andy's full biography

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