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Issue 547 – October 24, 2017

Dear Andy,

I’m proud to say our son Joey is officially an Eagle Scout. He had his board of review successfully in July, and his Eagle court of honor was last night. Even his new Scoutmaster said, “This kid is a rock star!” His total his community service hours totaled a shocking 387, and his Eagle service project separately totaled 218 additional hours. Academically, Joey’s in the top 0.5% nationally, with a 35 ACT and 1580 SAT and 30 college-level credit hours. He’s in the National Honor Society, the Principal’s “All A’s” Honor Roll 3 years running, and he’s academically lettered. He’s already been accepted at Colorado School of Mines, Preston, Case Western, and MIT—all with “full ride” scholarships. His life goal is to design cybernetics for amputees and build “Exosuits” for our military personnel.

I’m telling you all this so you know your help went towards a great kid. Thank you so much. Your advice and calm approach helped me immensely. Thank you again. You’re awesome! (Joseph)

This message arrived just two days ago. Great result, but the tale of how this happened—how Joey got here—is why I’ve kept at this column for over 16 years, and counting. For the “back-story” read on…

Early May, this year…

Dear Andy,

My son Joey completed all his requirements for Life Scout this past December 5th—five months ago. But his Scoutmaster (I’ll call him “John”) wasn’t available starting last June until this past March, so Joey’s Scoutmaster conference happened more than three full months after he was completely prepared for it. In the months in between December and March, the troop’s Assistant Scoutmaster refused to conference with Joey because he didn’t think ASMs were allowed to do this, and then the troop’s advancement chair wouldn’t schedule a board of review because the conference hadn’t been done.

Joey sent emails to his leaders regularly from December 2016 to March, but he received no replies. He also planned to talk with them at regular troop meetings, but they weren’t showing up. He also sent the emails to his Scoutmaster to keep him up to speed; again with no responses. Problem is, Joey turns 18 July, and now that’s just two months away.

Joey wouldn’t have had any timing problem, as he does now, if the conference and review had been done in December or even early January. Now, thanks to his Scoutmaster, his Assistant Scoutmaster, and the advancement chair, he won’t have his necessary six months at Life rank. To complicate this even more, in January these adult leaders told Joey to start his Eagle service project and get your letters of recommendation, too, assuring him that they’d simply “back-date” his Life review. They originally said they were “allowed” (their word) to do this “because we know the Scoutmaster was never there for several months.” But now they’re saying nope—no back-dating or anything else.

Joey has already appealed to these men, but nothing’s changed and there’s just no way he can ever be an Eagle Scout unless somebody can help get this right. As his father, what can I do, Andy? I don’t know who I can turn to around here. Can you help or guide me? (Joseph)

I’ve just read your letter and the first thing I’ll do is some research. I promise to get back to you today. Meanwhile, have you are anyone else spoken to your district or council advancement committee chair about this mess? If not, reach out immediately—by phone is best—and tell ’em what you’ve just told me.

Thanks, Andy. I did call our council service center and someone’s supposed to be calling me back. In the meanwhile, I did find this: “Unit leaders do not have the authority to deny a Scout a conference that is necessary for him to meet the requirements for his rank. If a unit leader conference is denied, a Scout—if he believes he has fulfilled all the remaining requirements—may still request a board of review. See ‘Boards of Review Must Be Granted When Requirements Are Met,’ Topic”

My son also completed his Eagle service project (even though he was a Life Scout at the time—per his leaders’ guidance), including the beneficiary’s signature of approval. He also sent out his requests for letters of recommendation, even though I’ve just read that this is absolutely not something the Scout himself should be doing. The troop’s adults are also now trying to tell Joey that he didn’t meet “active with his troop” standards, even though no “standards” were ever communicated to any Scout in the troop! Besides which, Joey’s been on every campout except one (he had acolyte responsibilities that weekend) and all troop meetings except one (it was a special parent-and-student night at his high school, and every older Scout in the troop was there!). As Han Solo said, “I’m getting a bad feeling about this.” (Joseph)

When misinformation is given by a BSA adult volunteer (or professional staffer—which hasn’t happened in this case) to a Scout—including mistakes and omissions—there’s a pathway for a time extension beyond the Scout’s 18th birthday. To accomplish this, it’s most important for you—as his father—to become his advocate (your son has enough to deal with already!).

First, you need a copy of the BSA’s 2017 Edition of the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT. You’ll find a PDF version of it here: pdf/33088.pdf

Save it.

Now go to Topic Time Extensions. There, through the first and subsequent topic numbers, you’ll acquaint yourself with what constitutes filing a request for an extension (see form Request for Extension of Time to Earn Eagle Scout Rank). You’ll note that there’s a significant amount of corroboration needed—not simply your own personal version of everything that went wrong.

After you’ve read through what I’ve described, you need a strong ally. I recommend your district advancement chair. Show him or her our correspondence and get agreement to join forces with you in obtaining the needed documentation, and in going forward “up the chain.”

Don’t discuss this with Joey, except perhaps to let him know you’re working on it. Don’t discuss this with your wife in a situation in which your son might overhear, and ask your wife’s agreement to also remain silent except for out-of-earshot conversations between you two. (Again, Joey has enough to deal with right now and since we know that Scouting has no “exclusive” on jerks, you don’t want to alienate your son from “Scouting-at-large” since Scouting itself isn’t the culprit here.)

Thanks, Andy. I’ve talked with our District Advancement Chair and he fully supports us (it turns out he has a “history” with this troop’s leaders). We’re going to file the appeal, and our new ally recommended that Joey himself—with our support—write the appeal letter. Any suggestions you might have about what he should put in his letter would be appreciated. Thanks again. (Joseph)

One further thought, Joseph, and this one’s tricky… Your son, as you’ve pointed out, is a pretty sharp teenager, and of course he’s 17 years old. If someone were to ask him the following questions, how would he address them…?

– “You know when your 18th birthday is, of course, and in December you also knew that you had to have 6 months’ tenure in rank as a Life Scout. So, when this mess dragged on and at some point in January you knew that that 6-month threshold was looming, what kept you, yourself, from demanding a conference and review?”

– “If you did make the above demand, and it was denied, what did you do next? (If you chose to abide by the notion that back-dating important dates like a conference and review, how did you square this, in your mind, against the values of honesty central to the ethics of Scouting and your church’s teachings?)”

Just make sure Joey can address these honestly and without hesitation.

Joey, although terribly bright, struggles with ADHD and is on a “504” program at school. One of his manifestations is that he takes things literally—he thinks in “black and white” and had no idea that what those adults told him wasn’t true. He did what he was told to do, perhaps naively, but with a belief that they were telling him nothing but the truth. Another aspect of his form of ADHD is that he doesn’t perceive time like others (e.g., He must set alarms on his phone to remind him to ask questions of his teachers or even turn in his homework and when to go to bed. He even forgets to eat.)

Thanks for bringing up those questions. Joey will address them in his letter. You’ve been a great help. I should add that we’ve found a very smart and nice guy with our council who’s putting a committee together to review Joey’s request for the extension. (Joseph)

Even after having worked—as a Scoutmaster and also as a merit badge counselor—with Scouts dealing with ADHD, Dyslexia, and Asperger Syndrome—I’ll be the very first to admit that I can’t even begin to comprehend fully the challenges these young men face every day.

I believe it will help your son if you were to write a separate letter on his behalf, describing his challenge and including your admiration for what he’s accomplished—including reaching Life rank—despite this, just as you’ve done here but perhaps more extensively. You needn’t show this email to your son, but definitely include it in the packet of documents, because it’s important to reveal why he would take the word of an adult and why it would not have occurred to him that a timing “battle” was about to ensue.

And, in case you haven’t figured it out, I have enormous respect for what you’re willing to do here. You’ve had the option of telling him, “Well, that’s just the way it is.” Instead, you’ve decided to champion him. Hat’s off to you, Dad!

Now a new problem, Andy… Can a Scoutmaster refuse to sign off on a completed Eagle service project that the beneficiary has signed off on? There’s a new Scoutmaster now who’s not sure what he’s supposed to do for a project that was completed before his term as Scoutmaster began (Joseph)

There’s no reason for a Scoutmaster to not add his signature to an Eagle project completion document if it’s already been signed by the project’s beneficiary. Only the beneficiary—by signing—can affirm that the project was completed as agreed upon with the Scout. The Scoutmaster’s signature is, in effect, perfunctory and need not be withheld for any reason.

If the Scoutmaster, upon reading what I’ve just stated (which is not my “opinion,” by the way—it’s a BSA procedural policy), continues to refuse (or drag his heels for no reason, which is almost worse than actually refusing), then take this to your troop’s Committee Chair AND Advancement Coordinator AND Eagle Project Coach. If they can’t properly educate this new Scoutmaster, then go directly and immediately to the council Scouter ally you’ve found.

Our district and council, and now the BSA National Headquarters as well, have all confirmed that none of the earlier stuff was Joey’s fault at all and they approved him for his extension. He has everything finished and is ready for his Eagle board of review. (Of course, our new Scoutmaster is again “not sure” what he’s supposed to do with Joey’s Eagle application and other paperwork, so our district-level people are going to “educate” him right away.) Thank you again for all your help!
God Bless You! (Joseph)

To Joey: Congratulations, young Sir. YOU are the FUTURE OF AMERICA! Your commitment to excellence in all your endeavors is an example to all who know you, and you bring great joy to your entire family. As you continue on your wonderful journey, you’ll be meeting all sorts of people. Some will be not so wonderful; others will be absolutely wonderful, and it’s these latter people who are in the vast majority–thank goodness! There will be moments in your life when you’ll be confronted with difficult decisions of an ethical or moral nature. When this happens, just ask yourself, “What would an Eagle Scout do?” and the answer will quickly come to you because YOU ARE an EAGLE SCOUT!

There are three really cool things about being an Eagle…

– You bring joy to your family.

– You bring honor to yourself.

– You will absolutely delight the parents of your date!

Very best wishes for continuing success in life, and…

Happy Scouting!

Eagle Scout – Class of 1957
National Distinguished Eagle Scout – Class of 2017

Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Just to me at: 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. 547 – 10/24/2017 – 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.

Read Andy's full biography

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