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  • Board of Review - what should be considered?

    My apologies for skipping the "I'm new here" intro post, but I'm hoping for some quick feedback on a situation in my troop.

    I've been SM for about 5 months now, having been troop committee chair for about a year before that and advancement chair for a year or so before that. The troop is about 4 years old, but is still fairly small ... 16 boys, most of them 1st class & below. We held our first Life Board of Review during our troop meeting this past week, and the board (of which I was obviously not part) chose not to advance this particular scout. Naturally, he and his parents aren't happy about this ... and I'm hoping that y'all can help me understand a) whether this was a poor decision, and b) what the next step(s) should be.

    This scout has met the requirements for Life ... namely, he served as SPL in our troop for 6 months while a Star Scout. He has earned the necessary merit badges, performed the necessary teaching in troop meetings, participated in service projects, etc. We had a SM Conference a few weeks ago where I shared that I was pleased with how his performance as SPL improved over the course of his tenure, and I offered some suggestions for positions of leadership within the troop as Life. I also offered some constructive criticism around what I see as some significant gaps in his "scouting knowledge" ... namely a weak command of some of the basic Second Class & First Class skills. He earned these ranks before I was really involved in the program side of things ... though I did hold the Board of Review meetings that awarded him those earlier ranks. But, the Board of Review is not supposed to be a "retest", so I can't speak directly to how rigorously these requirements were taught. But, I digress ...

    Basically, what I have gathered is that the board members understand and agree that this scout has fulfilled the requirements (save the Board of Review) for Life Rank. However, they seem to have based their decision not to advance this scout on these things:
    1) A perceived lack of interest in being a positive role model / mentor / teacher to younger boys in the troop ... indicating that he planned to take on one of the approved PoRs but disagreeing that part of his role in the troop is to help mentor / lead / teach the younger boys.
    2) Not having answers to open-ended & leading questions like, "Can you think of ways that you could help the younger boys in the troop, or the new (13-year-old) SPL?" His response was apparently, "I don't know." Similar responses were received to questions like, "Did anything that you learned at NYLT over the summer help you in your role as SPL?"
    3) Not appearing prepared for the review (handbook was forgotten, when retrieved from the troop meeting area he returned with the wrong book and had to go back again to get his own).
    4) When asked to "properly recite the Scout Oath & Law", proceeded to recite them while seated with his arms folded (upon being asked "As SPL, would you have accepted the Scout Oath & Law recited in that manner from the boys in the troop?" he did stand, put the sign up, and recite them properly). (Side note, this is standard fare in BoRs in our troop, dating back to when I held them, including every BoR this particular scout has been through.)

    The scout was advised that the board felt that he was not ready for Life rank. He was advised to reach out to the new SPL (a 13-year-old who is, frankly, struggling) as a mentor, demonstrate that he understands that this sort of leadership is part of what the troop wants to see in senior scouts, and appear before the board again next month.

    So, my question is ... what are the factors that should be taken into account when deciding whether or not a boy passes the Board of Review?
    When doing BoRs for younger boys, I often had to prompt them to properly recite the oath & law as above, or have them retrieve forgotten handbooks ... but personally I would expect a Life candidate to be past that having been through it a number of times. But, is that really something that should be considered when deciding whether or not to award a boy rank?
    Given that this scout did meet the written requirements for leadership (holding a PoR as Star), should the indicated disinterest in being a mentor / role model be considered?

    If a BoR in your troop had been similar to the one above, would the scout have been awarded Life Rank?

    My personal opinion is that he met the requirements for Life, so while his position on leadership/mentoring isn't the response I would have expected ... I could see that as more of a teaching opportunity and something to keep in mind for the next BoR. As for the other things ... they sound minor, but by the same token, they sound like basic stuff that should be second-nature to a Star or Life scout.

    So, long story short ... I'm looking for feedback from folks who have most likely a lot more experience here than I do. Further, if the board did make a poor decision, would holding another BoR be appropriate? I know that there is an appeal process, and the parents may go that route. As SM, though, I don't believe I have any real "say in the matter" here ... so I feel somewhat helpless.

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    You are asking a huge question and you will NOT get a consistent answer. People have different opinions. And, the details of each situation greatly affect the comments.

    Does a BOR have discretion? Yes. Can a BOR prevent (deny or delay) advancement? Definitely. But if this were taken up the chain to district or council through a protest, it would be overturned.

    The vague part is that BSA doesn't clearly enumerate the boundaries of the discretion. The BOR is supposed to be more a celebration of the journey and a friendly discussion and not really a test or pass/fail situation. The quote (from the above link) that might apply is "A positive attitude is most important..." But even then, I'm not sure that applies here.

    <b>QUESTION #1</b> - Is it possible there is one or more adults on the BOR that the scout has had trouble in the past? In that either they have an issue from outside the BOR ... OR ... the scout does not feel comfortable talking with them because of some past issue or incident? I know that some scouters can alienate all but the most confident youth.

    <b>QUESTION #2</b> - What is the Life rank requirement that the board thinks the scout did not complete?

    While a specific style of leadership or attitude is commendable, the lack is not a show stopper. If the SM signed off on the POR, then I find it hard to say NO in situations like this.

    IMHO, either this BOR/scout combinbation did not click or the scout doesn't really care. You as SM can probably guess which happened.

    STRONG SUGGESTION - Don't let this BOR sit with this scout again. The BOR should have all new members.

    Less strong suggestion but still... - Consider holding the next BOR as soon as possible.


    • #3
      Duplicate. Whoops.


      • #4

        The good news is you have a clear understanding of what is important to the committee. Remember they are your allies, and they are supposed to see things in the boy that you don't. So, really you all now have to feel like you can be a better team. Have the members of your committee been going to round-tables and other district meetings? Are they trained? Is there someone they trust who can give you all constructive feedback?

        On the boy's part, ask him what he thinks will help him to be a better scout: appealing the board's decision or working on a few of their suggestions? Let him know that you'll support him in watever he decides. If he chooses to work with the board, set a reasonable time-frame for the next BOR. This means you may need to set aside some time for some mini-SMC's each week, what he thinks are good answers to each of the board's issues.

        Be positive in all of this. Especially with the parents. Remind them we all have to work together. Frankly, when our board turned down my son (once and I forget for which rank, but it involved not having his book), I made it clear that the only option for him was to go back the next week looking sharper.

        Oh, and yes, our troop expects the boys as they advance in each rank to look sharper, say the oath and law in proper form, be able to express what those points mean more clearly, and give us a better evaluation of where he and the troop is going.


        • #5
          Yes you will get differing opinions.. Mine is that there may have been things to hold him back for, but your BOR members were out of line to give him a task to preform of mentoring the young SPL.. The BOR has no authority to assign tasks. Mentoring the new SPL is not a requirement to meet a rank..

          As for the sloppy handling of the Oath and law and answers like I don't know.. Hmmm.. This may be a reason to ask him to return when better prepared.. But, I would ask if the BOR is being harder on this scout for some reason, or if this is the bar they set for all Life scouts..

          You stated the following "I could see that as more of a teaching opportunity and something to keep in mind for the next BoR.".. But, that is the crux of hte matter, and why you expect much more from a life scout then the lower ranks.. For your troop BOR's this is the last one you will hold with him.. Therefore the highest standard set should be at this BOR.. But it should be a gradual incline, expecting a little more at each rank. You should allow the scouts to be equally sloppy at each BOR, except for Life which you then expect perfection.

          His next BOR will be for Eagle, at the District BOR (not your troops).. Do you want him going to that sitting down to do the oath & law, and answering questions with the ever meaningful "I don't know" answers... They may pass him, but they will not be impressed with him and get the impression your troop is very slack in preparing your scouts for Eagle..

          Others will tell you the BOR is just a rubber stamp and should pass a scout no matter how bad they flubb up.. I just am not one of them who believes that.


          • #6
            I don't expect a BOR to be a "rubber stamp". However, I do expect that a BOR follow BSA rules.

            Where does BSA state that a rank can be denied based on something that is "preceived" will happen, or not happen, in the future? Are we to believe these BOR members are psychic?

            Where does BSA state that a rank can be denied because a Scout recited the Oath/Law sitting down, vs standing?

            Where does BSA state that "a weak command of some of the basic Second Class & First Class skills" is a reason to deny the rank of Life? Personally, I find that a big weakness at the TROOP level, not with the Scout. A decent Troop should be providing lots of opportunities for Scouts to keep current with, and improve, their basic, and advanced, skills. As the, very true, saying goes - "use it, or lose it".

            This BOR was a joke, and from this Scout's actions at the BOR, he knew it.


            • #7
              The seeds of this event were sown long before the BOR, mostly likely. Chances are that the boy was part of the 'setup' but if so, then so was the leadership for failing to recognize his weaknesses and strengths. By the time of the BOR everything was set.

              When I first entered this unit a similar situation had been brewing. The boy sat for a BOR and he basically was unresponsive at the review. No uniform, no book, complete inability to recite either oath or law, basically clueless about scouting. The BOR realized that this represented a monumental failure for both the boy and the program. But rather than fail him, the board 'continued' the review and left the process open to give him some time to prepare and try again. Considering what I later learned about the history of that whole situation, in retrospect it seems a fair decision. The boy never returned. He was within days of the time limit which would still allow him to complete the Eagle requirements and from what he told me later, he had been pushed by his parents ever since first class. He really didn't want to be a scout anymore and to me THAT was the basic problem. He aged out a little more than 6 months later with the rank of Star.

              The solutions to problems like these are to avoid setting them up in the first place. Otherwise the boys and the program suffer the consequences later.


              • #8


                • #9


                  You've got some good replies, here are some random, though related thoughts.

                  Sit down with the CC, Advancement Chair, and Charter Org Rep and discuss what expectations are for scouts in this troop. Ask for feedback from them.

                  Get everyone's views out, and come to a common understanding of what you expect from scouts in this troop; particularily in the area of scout spirit.

                  (some people believe that scout spirit is a "gimmee", others expect not just the avoidance of bad behavior, but the demonstration of positive behavior, at an increasing level comensurate with rank).

                  Then sit down with your ASM(s) and work out a program that includes elements that provide the opportunity for the boys to rise to those expectations. Sit down with each scout and explain expectations in a friendly, mentoring kind of way. At SM conferences ask probing questions, explain expectations, and, for a SM conference in preparation for a BOR, if you are unsure that the boy has demonstrated the expectations for scout spirit in the way that you agreed with CC, Adv chair and COR, then don't sign the scout spirit requirement, tell him that you dont think that he is ready for a BOR, explain why, and talk about what you need to observe for you to agree that he is demonstrating scout spirit.

                  If I had been the advancement chair, I would likely have come to you after the BOR to give you feedback that the BOR felt that this candidate was weak, and have a discussion as to whether this was just a bad night for this scout, or if you and others had noticed a similar lack of interest in making the troop better, in courtesy to others (i.e., the responses to the BOR). It certainly is possible that a member of the BOR has a bad relationship with this particular scout, and the scout was acting out because of it. You can probably find out if that was the case with a few conversations with others. And if the scout had always been sharp and attentive during troop meetings and activities, making his behaviour at the BOR uncharacteristic. If the rudeness that he demonstrated to the BOR was uncharacteristic of him, then have a quiet conversation with him about what is going on in his life; you may find that there is something that is troubling him, and you can help him by bringing it to the surface. Then meet with the advanc chair, explain the situation, ask for another BOR for the scout. And prep the scout about expected behaviour at the BOR; that he should look and act proud. If the scout's behaviour was not uncharacteristic for him, mentor the scout and help him self-evaluate and look within himself. Try to remember that advancement is a method to use to achieve the aims, and if scouts are advancing without demonstrating continued improvement in character, citizenship, and fitness, then you will need to evaluate if your troop adult leaders are using the method to its full advantage.

                  Note that the scout may simply not be motivated by advancement, and perhaps even think that the whole advancement method is a game run by adults, particularily if he has seen other scouts get lauded and awarded that the rest of the boys in the troop don't think met the requirements. Or it could be that the scout just had a bad day. You won't know until you sit with the scout and have a heart to heart discussion. A discussion with this particular scout has the potential to reveal a lot about the troop that you, as an adult, simply weren't aware of.

                  Good Luck


                  • #10
                    Not that I would ever thump the Rule Book, but sometimes, it does come in handy, SoloT, its up to you and your committee to decide how you are going to advance scouts, within the rules of course. Saying that, when a Board of Review decides not to advance a scout, there is a section in the Advancement Guide that you should read:



                    • #11
                      This seems like one f those things where we really can't get the sense of the nuances involved here. I would be inclined to trust the decision of the board.

                      That said, I think Vini is on the right track. What's up with the kid? Does he usually behave this way? From your description it's hard to tell if he's being a jackass or depressed.

                      This is where you want really good, experienced folks on the board who have the sense to understand that everything doesn't revolve around Scouting. You put off the BOR and get to the bottom of what's up with the attitude. If the kid was just being a PIA, the board may have been justified in it's decision, but they could have handled it better. They let him control the situation. They way they win that game is by not playing. Denying the rank essentially escalated the problem. The high road would have been to tell the kid "you seem to be having a bad day. Perhaps we should put this off a week."

                      At this point, Solo, you need to sort things out and settle things down. Talk to the Scout and see if you can find out what's up with him. Why was he behaving the way he was? Is this a Scouting problem or is something deeper going on with him. Filing an appeal isn't going to help things. Talk with his parents. They need to chil out and help you understand what's going on with their son. If there are deeper issues going on, maybe dealing with another BOR isn't the best thing for the young man.

                      Once you find out what's up, then you can make a plan for moving forward.


                      • #12
                        Yah, SoloTS, welcome to da forums!

                        Two thoughts for yeh.

                        First is that those Board of Review members are good eggs. Yeh should be grateful for them. Rather than just goin' through the motions, they care enough to do their part to help this lad learn a valuable lesson, eh? No matter how good you are on paper, you can lose your chance of going to your first choice college or your chance of getting a job or foul up your relationship with your future father-in-law by having a bad interview. That's an important lesson for this boy to learn, and yeh should thank 'em for their part. Now you should do your part, and meet with the boy and be a mentor, eh? Let him gripe and complain, then help him to see the point. Give him the talk about how yeh can be the best candidate for the job, and lose it because of a poor interview. Then help him to do a better job for next month. Help him develop a plan, meet with him for a new SM conference to practice before his next BOR. "Why do we fall down? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up again."

                        Now, da second thing that yeh need to do is sit and reflect a bit as Scoutmaster, and maybe meet with da board or CC. Because they're also tellin' you something as SM, and that's that yeh might need to be strengthening your expectations a bit. Scout units are here to achieve some goals for kids, and within da unit the Committee should be the representatives of the owners in terms of the goals. They're tellin' yeh that your first Life Scout is not what they expected from a Life Scout, and they want to fix that in the program before they're dealin' with it at Eagle time. That's wise and prudent on their part, eh?

                        So it's worth sittin' and thinkin' about what in your program led the boy to have the attitude that he did? What could yeh do better to teach respect and responsibility? More opportunities for mentoring and leadership, perhaps? More practice at a slightly more formal Scoutmaster Conference to learn how to handle interviews? I'd be particularly concerned about the boy not takin' anything away from NYLT to bring back to the troop and be effective. Perhaps yeh should have met with him after that and laid out a plan together as to how he was goin' to put those lessons into practice? I'd also be concerned about his lack of servant-leadership feeling toward the younger fellows. What examples is he seeing in the troop to show him that the very best of men are those who care for the newest and weakest members?

                        Bein' a good troop means always workin' hard to improve, because da laws of nature are that things run downhill. If yeh aren't constantly workin' to improve you're gettin' worse. This is great feedback to inspire both you and the young man to be thoughtful and reflective and improve.



                        • #13
                          undecided on who is right or wrong on this whole thing, but I will suggest a couple of things.

                          Every SMC I do I have them sit and let them know we are going to start and that I'd like them to stand and repeat the oath and law. I let them know that they will do that again at the beginning of their BOR. We talk over the things they did for whatever rank. I ask them questions - if they give good detailed answers I let them know that they are giving good answers and that is how they should speak when answering questions at their BOR. If they are giving little short or "I don't know" answers I let them know that that's not how to answer questions. I will help them dig a bit and come up with fuller answers.

                          For early ranks: tenderfoot - 1st class I will focus on what they enjoy with the troop, if there are issues they are having, what would they enjoy doing, and such.

                          For higher ranks: 1st class - life I will ask those same qustions but I will focus on merit badges and leadership. What badges they enjoyed the most, what badge has been the hardest. What position have you enjoyed the most, what position has been the hardest, what position do you feel is your best, are you up to challenge yourself with a different position.

                          For Star and Life - I also stress to them that they are higher ranks, more is expected of them: how they behave, how they lead, and how they respond to questions.

                          We try to do SMC and BOR the same day... usually someone will contact me for a SMC and I will set it up just before the meeting begins and then during the meeting the committee and the scout will meet. I think having things fresher in the mind helps a great deal especially if you have a scout that gets nervous or has some medical issues (for example if they have ADD I will make sure they seem calm and are able to concentrate well before sending them in for their BOR)

                          I also pay attention to when a scout is coming up for SMC/BOR and if I see things that will make him not pass I will pull him aside and have a little chat with the young man about what I'm seeing or what others have seen and relayed to me... and then we discuss what needs to be changed... that way it's not a shock that he gets denied - it's done before he's up.