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Issue 525 – April 4, 2017

Hi Andy,

Long time ago, as an Assistant Scoutmaster then, I “taught” the Scout handshake to one of the troops I now serve as commissioner. Happily, they not only adopted it back then, but even today they execute it correctly, both youth and adult: When I visit the troop today, even the new Scouts and adult leaders who weren’t around “back then” extend their left hands. Awesome!

But I’ve also noticed that this is fairly uncommon in other Scouting venues, where the non-Scout handshake predominates, including our Chief Scout Executive on stage at the most recent Jamboree (!) and most staff and volunteers in my home council. And then we have the “I’m not in uniform, so can’t do/won’t use the Scout Handshake,” for which I’ve never quite understood the logic.

My own philosophy is that when it’s Scout-to-Scout, Scouter-to-Scouter, or Scout-to-Scouter (or vice-versa), we always use the Scout handshake, regardless of where we are, what we’re wearing, or the formality/informality of the circumstance.

Then there’s the issue with “fingers”… The 13th Edition of the Scout Handbook clearly states that the handshake is: “Extend your left hand to another Scout and firmly grasp his left hand.”

I know there are OA handshakes and historic BSA handshakes involving interlocking fingers. But for general Scouting greetings, are the interlocking fingers just a blast from the past, and today’s correct handshake is left-handed with no interlocking fingers, hip bumps, wiggle-waggles, elbow bumps, or fist bumps (even if they’re left-handed). Do I have this right? (Mitch Erickson, UC, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

Baden-Powell’s original SCOUTING FOR BOYS, published in the late 19th Century, described and illustrated a left-hand “Scout handshake” (with no interlaced fingers). But the First Edition of the BSA’s HANDBOOK FOR BOYS (page 33), notes that the Scout handclasp incorporates not only use of the left hand but also the interlocking of little fingers as well as thumbs.

This American-style Scout handclasp remained in place for the BSA’s first 62 years; the interlocking little fingers of the left hand went away in 1972, with the publishing of the Eighth Edition of the SCOUT HANDBOOK (page 61 specifically states that the little finger is not separated when executing the Scout handclasp).

This change occurred 45 years ago, which means that lingering notions about that little left-hand finger should have gone away for anyone now living, up to age 56. Anyone older than 56 may remember the “old” way, but should also understand that it went away nearly a half-century ago!

Why was the change made? My guess is that our American Scouts (and Scouters) looked and felt a bit awkward at World Scout Jamborees, when every other Scout and Scouter on the planet has been using the left-hand/no pinkie handclasp from “Day One.”

This makes good sense. And whether one is in uniform or not is—in a word—silly. If you’re a Scout or Scouter, you greet a fellow Scout or Scouter with the Scout handclasp—anywhere in the world.

Case in point… Some years ago, while on vacation in France (and in “civvies” as you might suspect), I noticed a British Scout group on tour (in uniform, of course). I walked over to them, smiled, and, without a word, extended my left hand. The response was instantaneous. Every single one of them—Scout and Scouter alike—wanted to shake hands with the “Yank” Scouter! In short, that simple extending of my left hand said it all, and these blokes were instantly my friends!

Nuff sed?
Hi Andy,

I wound up chair of our troop’s committee about five months ago. Since then, there’s been nothing but head-butting with not only our Scoutmaster but with a “select” group of parents, too.

The Scoutmaster and I have no working relationship. He and his assistants mostly refuse to respond to my emails or messages, and, when they do, it’s invariable in a condescending or sarcastic tone. Because we had a sort of “women’s auxiliary” in the past, he, among others, still view what is now a mixed-gender committee as a group of women to be tolerated at best so they can get money for trips and such.

To help deal with this, I requested and was assigned a Unit Commissioner and, on his advice, I’ve restructured the committee in line with the recommendation in the TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDEBOOK.

Despite this, we still have ongoing issues with a group of five parents who attend our committee meetings, demanding to hold troop-wide fund-raisers but only for the benefit of their own sons, who want to go to a high adventure camp this coming summer and want the troop to pay for this. I did due diligence and after researching this issue, I informed these particular parents that it’s against BSA guidelines to fund-raise for just a few Scouts and not the troop as a whole. Their response was immediate and—no other words can describe it—both rude and manipulative, including this from them: “It doesn’t matter that we’re not following guidelines because we won’t get caught!” They then proceeded to write up a “Unit Fundraising Application” and, without telling anyone, brought it to the council service center for sign-off (even though, as CC, I hadn’t signed it, and neither had our sponsor’s representative). Bringing that council-signed application to a recent committee meeting, they demanded we vote on it—and then they, themselves, voted as well!

Although (remember, I’m still on a “learning curve” here) I later learned that these parents had no right to vote (thereby skewing the vote in their favor), and I’ve since reached out to our Scout Executive for help, no help has been forthcoming.

I know that you’ve urged unit committees like ours to not “vote” at all, but reach an overall accord instead, so I stuck my neck out and have told these five parents that no such “vote” is going to “count” here. But they’re not letting it go, and want to bring it up as often as it takes to get their way.

So I really need to know for sure: Is this type of fund-raising allowable, and how do I respond to these parents, who still feel they’re entitled to vote to get what they want?

To make matters even more complicated, my husband—a registered Assistant Scoutmaster—while in a meeting with a member of our sponsor’s congregation, our Chartered Organization Representative, our Scoutmaster, and our assigned Unit Commissioner, and another member of our council, that he was “no longer welcome” as an ASM for the troop. I was not informed in advance that this meeting was going to be held, and my husband was not advised beforehand of its agenda. If effect, both he and I were completely blindsided.

We suspect the reason from my husband’s removal from the troop roster may be connected with a recent troop campout, at which the Scoutmaster had brought a bunch beer along (I later learned that this was definitely not the first time he’d done this) in which all adults except my husband partook.

I’ve also learned from a completely reliable source that, on another occasion, the Scoutmaster had made several public and highly sexist, derogatory remarks about the “anatomy” of our chartered organization’s female Pastor.

I’ve reached out to our Unit Commissioner on all of these issues, but he’s not responded despite multiple attempts on my part. I really need some guidance as to how to proceed with this mess! (Name & Council Withheld)

You’ve got a hairball of intertwined issues here! Let’s see if I can focus on some key issues for you…

To deal with that reluctant Scoutmaster, hold formal troop committee meetings once a month and let him know that you’re expecting a 10-minute report from him at each meeting that summarizes the troop’s activities (troop meetings, hikes and campouts, and Scout advancement opportunities provided) for the past month and plans for the coming month. If he resists this, it’s definitely time to consider replacing him (refer to page 2 of the BSA Adult Volunteer Application for a description of who has the authority to do what). Consider a heart-to-heart with the sponsoring church’s Pastor (skip the CR), since you revealed that there may be some further issues that demand his immediate dismissal.

While parents are welcome to observe committee meetings, they must be told that, unless they’re registered committee members (which you control, by the way) they have no voice at these meetings and are to remain silent. (If they have issues that they’d like to discuss, they can do this with you, the CC, outside committee meetings and you can offer—if you choose—to bring their concerns or requests to the committee at the next meeting.) You may need to calmly but succinctly point out to them that, obviously, no non-registered parent has any sort of a “vote” at committee meetings.

Regarding unit fundraising, the BSA has already established fiscal policies that prohibit raising money for only select Scouts; fundraising must be for the entire troop, not just a select few. For any parent that has a problem with this, suggest that they take up this issue with the council or the BSA itself; until the BSA changes this policy, the troop’s fundraisers will conform to written policy. Further, send out your own email to all Scout parents advising them of the BSA policy and telling them that this troop will conform to national fiscal standards, period!

As for money needed by a few Scouts for a special trip: The BSA’s first standard for something like this is that these Scouts should get off their duffs and go out and earn the money they need…not by doing a fundraiser but by actually working for pay.

When it comes to troop money used for summer camp, this is okay so long as it includes all Scouts in the troop, without exception. But, just to be clear, it does NOT include adults.

Your Unit Commissioner can direct you to specific BSA resources on fundraising and other fiscal policies.

No one can “push through a vote” unless the Committee Chair permits this to happen. Here’s where you need a solid and straight backbone. Remember this: You’re not there to “make new friends” or “try to get everyone to like you”—you’re there to follow the policies and guidelines of the Boy Scouts of America, and that’s that!

You mention that, at a meeting that didn’t include you, as the CC, your husband “was told” that his service as an Assistant Scoutmaster is no longer needed…but you didn’t say who told him (and I can’t guess), so I can’t really address this one for you, except to point out that the ONLY person other than the CC who can decide on adult volunteers is the CR (Chartered Organization Representative) or the head of the chartered organization.

Looping back to the top here, and perhaps bringing some closure to this whole brouhaha, any Scoutmaster (or any other adult volunteer with the troop, for that matter) who publicly ogles and comments on any female’s “anatomy” is subject to immediate dismissal from the troop. Further, the presence of or consumption of any alcoholic beverage, in any quantity, in the presence of youth members, WHEN DULY REPORTED (go to for BSA Incident Reporting) calls for immediate dismissal of all involved. This alone will eliminate all future difficulties not only with that Scoutmaster but also with any other adults involved, whether registered or not. (Yup, I’m saying ALL adults who were a part of the beer-at-a-campout incident are history!) Work with your Unit Commissioner, and get the Pastor and CR (in that order) involved, to make this happen.

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. 525 – 4/4/2017 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2017]


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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