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Issue 497 – August 3, 2016

Hi Andy,

Can to explain to me the rationale behind this anomaly in the BSA’s GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING? Here it is: In Venturing and Sea Scouts, if you have a coed group on an overnight outing, you need both a male and a female adult leader. Okay so far, but then what’s the reasoning that says a Boy Scout troop (or team) can go on an overnight with two female adult leaders and no male adult leader? (Jim Byers, SS Mate, UC, ASM)

Of course, I can only guess (I didn’t participate in writing the GTSS). My guess is that the orientation is toward the protection of female minors as that relates to male adults, perhaps underestimating the significance of the ramifications of having male minors and female adults. That guess in place, I strongly suspect that it would be extremely rare (to the point of virtual non-existence) that two female adults would be responsible for a group of boys to the exclusion of any male adults.

For an authoritative answer, may I suggest that you ask the identical question of the BSA National Office. Should you receive a reply, which I expect you will (they’re pretty cooperative folks), I’d be happy to publish that exchange.

Thanks, Andy. I did think it odd. I’ve also seen a case of a Venturer over 18 but less than 21 dual-registered as a committee member of his former troop. (Jim Byers)

Oops! Committee members need to be 21 (check page 2 of the adult application). The troop and the council’s registrar may have goofed on that one.
Dear Andy,

As an adult Scouter I vividly remember my days as both a member of the local Scout troop and a nearby Sea Explorer ship in the mid-80s. I ultimately earned both the Eagle Scout and the Quartermaster Award. My mom always cheerfully referred to this achievement as my “Double Eagle.” I never gave it much thought other than Mom’s pride until I started reading back issues of your column. While I understand that the “Double Eagle” was never a formal award, I’ve occasionally used the term when giving a little bit of my history to younger Scouts today. I use it mainly as a bridge to talking about Sea Scouting and the Quartermaster Award, which most have never heard of. I’d hate to take anything away from those who won the coveted Explorer Silver Award during the original “green shirt” days. Should I discontinue the practice and set the record straight? Thanks for your help and your dedication to Scouting. (Jim Spoor, Newburgh, NY)

I’m familiar with the Sea Scout (Sea Explorer for a brief time) Quartermaster Award: It’s an awesome achievement IMHO and definitely worthy—together with Eagle Scout rank—of being considered one-half of a “Double Eagle”! Congratulations! If I were you, I definitely wouldn’t change a thing!

BTW, among the thousands of Scouts and Scouters I’ve met in the past 40-plus years, I’ve known only two who earned a “Triple Eagle”—Eagle, Silver Award, and Quartermaster Award! Awesome!
Dear Andy,

My son will turn 11 a few days before he starts the 5th grade. He is both old enough and mature enough for the challenges of Boy Scouts. He can’t wait to join a Boy Scout troop and go camping every month, but at the same time he doesn’t want to miss his AOL year with his Cub Scout pack and den. Can he be registered in both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, so he can finish AOL and enjoy Boy Scout activities including working on Boy Scout ranks? Even though I’m on both the pack committee and the troop committee, and as District Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner, I haven’t been able to find any guidance either way, but it doesn’t appear to be explicitly disallowed. Can you help? (Janell Bunger-Spiecha)

It’s decision time for your son. He can be a Boy Scout, or he can be a Cub Scout. It’s along the same lines of deciding whether he wants to play T-ball or play real baseball, or (later on in high school) whether he wants to play JV or Varsity.

That said, how many of his AOL requirements are already completed? If he already has half or more done, then he can finish them up over the remaining summertime and then join a troop in September (or October, or even November). But to stay in the Cub Scout program till he’s almost 12? I promise you, if he’s “mature enough for the challenges of Boy Scouts” right now, he’ll be bored out of his skull if he spends a whole ‘nuther year in a den and pack.
Dear Andy,

Our troop recently changed the way the Senior Patrol Leader is chosen, and I wonder if you can provide any insight on whether or not the BSA has any hard and fast rules about this issue. I’ve read in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK and other official sources that the Senior Patrol Leader is to be elected by secret ballot by all Scouts in the troop. This is the way our troop elected its SPL for decades since its inception. But not anymore.

A new Scoutmaster took over from our retiring Scoutmaster a year and a half ago. The first SPL election went as always, with a secret ballot election and a 12-month term. But the following year, the new Scoutmaster decided to allow “absentee voting” by Scouts who not present at the election meeting, and allowed those Scouts to cast their SPL votes via email directly to him. This sounded advantageous in some ways, but it also seemed a bit suspicious to several parents because, as it turned out, the Scoutmaster’s own son was running for SPL and he, the Scoutmaster, was the only one counting the votes. Then, the Scoutmaster announced that all further SPL selections would occur only by promoting the current Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (also selected via election, including email voting). This effectively ended SPL-specific elections.

Then, another change: The Scoutmaster decided that the next Assistant Senior Patrol Leader wouldn’t be elected at all. Instead, he’d be appointed based on the recommendation of the outgoing and any former Senior Patrol Leaders, directly to the Scoutmaster, who would then approve or deny the recommendations. This has ended the opportunity to be elected to both Senior Patrol Leader and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader positions.

I’m wondering if the BSA has any official policy on SPL selection, and if this new process in our troop goes against any Scouting policy. With your long history in Scouting and your wisdom, I’m hoping you can give us some understanding of what’s correct and what’s a policy deviation. (Name & Council Withheld)

Per BSA procedures (consistent throughout BSA literature, handbooks, and online), the Senior Patrol Leader is elected by secret ballot of the troop. Further, the Senior Patrol Leader personally selects the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader(s) and all other youth leadership roles during his term, except Patrol Leaders. (Patrol Leaders are elected by their patrol members and in turn select the Assistant Patrol Leader.) This is how it’s done and the BSA makes no provision for alternative methods.

As for “voting via email,” a word of caution: Because the actual sender of the voting email cannot necessarily be confirmed, it’s best to follow normal procedure: The troop (“troop” means the Scouts, by the way) is notified of the upcoming SPL election (date, time, location, or which troop meeting) ideally by their Patrol Leaders, through an announcement made by the current Senior Patrol Leader at a meeting of the Patrol Leaders Council (which he chairs) and all Scouts are encouraged to show up so that each Scout’s vote will count. The BSA is silent on the subject of “quorum,” which simply means that whichever Scouts show up vote, and those who don’t show up don’t vote.

This troop has obviously departed from both tradition and BSA procedure. It needs course-correction, to get back to operating correctly. Since the Scoutmaster reports to and serves at the pleasure of the Committee Chair (“CC” for short) and the Chartered Organization Representative (“CR” for short), there needs to be a conversation between the CC and CR, and an agreement that this needs to be straightened out prior to the next SPL election.

As parents, you and others have the right (and obligation!) to have a conversation with your troop’s Committee Chair, to point out this departure and help that CC get this troop back on track. Now it may be that the Scoutmaster refuses to change back to the correct way of doing things. If this happens, I hope the CC and/or CR have the sense and spine to immediately state: Thank you for your services; they will no longer be needed here. (Yes, I’m dead serious about this—a Scoutmaster who goes off the reservation by refusing to follow longstanding BSA procedures can’t be allowed continue in this role.)

Good luck with this. Get it right, and then stick to your guns!

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. 497 – 8/3/2016 – 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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