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Reason for Denying Eagle

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I generally agree with your sentiments but in this case, it is too late - this is already in the legal system. It's no longer a matter about trust between scouter and scout - now that it's in the legal system, anything this lad says to an adult leader about this is subject to examination in the court of adjudication. You can be compelled to appear in deposition or in court to determine what was discussed, and what the boy said. Part of building character is helping the lads determine when its time to back away and not get involved (and I think we all generally agree that this covers getting involved in harmful or illegal activities) - this is one of those times. It shows your character to all of the boys when you tell them you aren't going to put up with rumors, you are not going to talk about this, and you are not going to discuss this with anyone because it is not appropriate to do so. If the boy approaches you, the correct response to him should be "If you want to talk about this after everything has been settled, I will be here to listen, and I will listen to you now on any subject you want to talk about - but on THIS subject, you need to speak with your parents and attorney. As much as I would like to, I can not talk to you about this now because it is possible that I could be called to testify on what you say" Now that it is in the legal system, it is not appropriate to discuss, no matter what you personally would like to do.


I'm not suggesting that should the lad ask you to appear as a character witness you back away and not get involved, but this is definitely a time not to try to do you own investigation. Consider this possible scenario - you are on the stand, things are going well for the lad, then opposing counsel asks if you've discussed this case with the boy. You say yes and he asks you to tell the court what he said - and what you tell the court is a virtual confession of the boy that he has not made elsewhere. Think religious confession, without the legal protection. That's something to think about.


As for Eagle - nope - most measurements are objective, including all those in merit badges. If you are asked to swim 25 yards, and you swim 25 yards, you have objectively met the requirement - you either did it or you didn't - there is no opinion involved. You can't say he swam the 25 yards then decide not to pass him on it. You can either tie a square knot or you can't. You can't say he tied the square knot then decide not to pass him on it. You have either done the Eagle Service Project or you have not. You can't say he met all of the requirements of the Eagle Service Project then decide he didn't do it.


Subjective matters are such items as Scout Spirit, following the Scout Law and Oath. There can be a variety of opinions on whether these were met - and that's why they should be given lesser weight than the objective requirements. If you ask a boy if he has lived up to being reverent and he says yes, you may disagree (perhaps he doesn't go to church every week and you see that as a failure to be reverent). Though you may disagree, he has still met the requirement in his subjective opinion. If he's rejected on this basis, you can be assured he will win in appeal.



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As a former Criminal Defense Attorney, I would agree that you probably don't want to be asking questions about the incident while it is pending before the Court. I am think legal grounds and leadership grounds here. The legal grounds have been touched on and very jursidiction to jursidiction. But the leadership grounds are pretty universal.


In Scouting, no matter the level, Cubs, Webelos, Boys, Venture, etc., we are working with children. During this process, we, in part expect respect and trust from our charges and their families. However, these must also be earned. We constantly talk with the boys and get to know them and their families. We are there as a resource for them. We sometimes are "parent in locus" in many outings and meetings. Sometimes, in times of need, these kids turn to us for advice, somebody to talk to and help. We give them advice, punish them for misbehaving and reward and recognize them for good deeds. Sometimes, we are the ones that the kids feel the most comfortable to talk with regarding problems, concerns, etc. If word gets out, that a Scout Leader knows about the activities of the Scouts that is accused of a crime, and Law Enforcement tries to get information from the Scout Leader about what the boys has said to him, and there is no privilege in the Scout Leader/Scout relationship, puts the Scout Leader in a bad situation. Generally, the State Laws say you need to tell Law Enforcement what you know. But now, you have breached the confindence with a Scout. He could have been looking for direction or help and made a decision based upon that or followed the advice of his parents or attorney in dealing with the Criminal Case. We want boys to come to us with their problems and if they think we will breach those confindences, they might not. I know this opens a whole can of worms, because what if they come to us because they are being vicimized or abused. Leaving that at the side for the moment, the boys need to trust us on a lot of things.


The boy in question here will need to face the consequences of his actions. It could be a juvenile disposition, it could be being denied an Eagle, it could be loosing other things, ie. sports or other school associate activities.


I don't think anybody here is saying throw the boy away, but a question on how an Eagle Scout should be preceived and how Scouting will look if they award this boy the highest honor in Scouting. Unfortunately, there are Eagle Scouts that get into trouble after they have been awarded their Eagle Scout, does that diminish the award? In my opinion, the award should focus on the boy and his actions and accomplishments. Most juvenile cases are resolved fairly quickly, unless it is a major felony. I say support the boy and be a resource for him and be there to help him through this. You don't have to condone his actions, but you can support the learning and rehabilitation that comes with the consequences of his actions. I would contact the parents and tell them that the grapevine says he maybe in trouble and what can you do to help him. It appears the decision on Eagle can be postponed, I would worry more about the boy than the award.

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Yah, Calico, I hear ya. There is dat small risk that a particularly obnoxious DA might try to subpoena a scout leader to extract an indirect confession. Of course, that comes with da risk that the scout leader, being up in years, might simply forget exactly what was said... or may decide that the boy was in fact a patient.


My first rule is that "help other people at all times" has no exception for worry of legal risk exposure. First do what's right. If that means listening to a boy, crying with him, or whatever, you do that. Yah, our legal system is occasionally weird, but it gets it right 99% of da time. I can live with the consequences of the other 1% more than I can live with not caring enough to do the right thing.


As far as "objective" goes, I contend there's always opinion involved. What does "swim" mean? Thrash in a forward direction without needing rescue until exhausted after 25 feet, or actually doing a reasonable stroke? What does "in a strong manner" mean for the swim test? A board of 3-6 people decides subjectively whether the requirements for an Eagle project are met in our district. And ya can't find me a single MB that doesn't have multiple requirements open to the interpretation of the counselor. But I'll give you "square knot"


That's as it should be; boys should be benefitting from the experience and judgment of caring adults.... which requires the adults be allowed to exercise judgment.


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I do agree with much of what you post, and I understand why you think "There can be a variety of opinions on whether these were met - and that's why they should be given lesser weight than the objective requirements", but agre more with Beavah that "That's as it should be; boys should be benefitting from the experience and judgment of caring adults.... which requires the adults be allowed to exercise judgment".


Keep in mind the aims - character, citizenship, fitness; - they are not objective, they are subjective. They are more impacted by the objective requirements; scout spirit, actively completing the duties of a POR, than they are by objective measures - 21 MB's, swim 25 yards.



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  • 1 year later...

Pete, I'm not sure if I understand what you are asking. As far as I know, once a boy has earned a rank, you can't take it back from him. So if a boy has earned Eagle and then he does something wrong, you'd need to find some way other than through rank advancement (or regression!) to respond. This assumes that he is still active with the troop; otherwise, it may not be a matter for your consideration at all.

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With respect to the scout, Lisabob is correct.


Beyond the scout, it may be appropriate for SM/ASM/CC to meet to review this particular scout's activities, actions, and behaviours within the troop. The goal being to consider if changes in how the program is run, and how advancement is used to further the aims. It may be that the lad was a fine example of a scout, but that something in his life changed, and the criminal activities were a result. It may be that in retrospect, you can see signs that the lad was troubled, and leaders can learn to intervene if another scout is seen in a similar situation in the future.



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Yah, PeteM. If you were a coach, what would you do with a boy who had earned MVP da previous year but is skippin' practices and being unsportsmanlike this year?


Advancement is a recognition. While in some extreme cases, National has revoked an Eagle rank already awarded, it's mostly a done deal.


So now yeh got 7 methods left to keep workin' with the young man. So you use the Outdoors, Adult Association, Patrol Method, Youth Leadership (peer pressure), etc. to keep helpin' him grow.


Of course, this does depend a bit on what da crime is, eh? If it's somethin' serious enough yeh may just need to cut him loose. But for first-time and minor offenses, I'd play "good cop". Be the stable set of friends that recognizes and brings out the good part of him, eh? He's gettin' enough of "bad cop" from his parents and the justice system, I expect, so he doesn't need you pilin' on if he's already remorseful. Yah, use da Methods, let Scoutin' continue to work its magic.


Yah, that's it for the lad; now for da program. It might just be worth reviewin' whether yeh were a bit lax on the "Scout Spirit" requirements for all the ranks along the way. Maybe, just maybe that let this lad skate through to become less of an Eagle than you hoped. Did yeh see earlier signs? Did yeh not respond because you thought Scout Spirit was "automatic"? Did that perhaps cause yeh to miss opportunities that might have helped the boy struggle through things earlier on? Always worth a bit of reflection, even if in the end you conclude yeh did all you could.




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Pete, let me give a name in connection with your question:


John Ehrlichman, the advisor to President Nixon


He not only was an Eagle Scout but was a Distinguished Eagle Scout. He was then convicted in connection with Watergate and did time in federal prison.


Eagle Scout is a rank in Scouting with requirements. If the boy meets the requirements, he is awarded Eagle Scout rank. If his character later becomes less than Scouting would like, it doesn't change the fact that he did meet all the requirements. He is an Eagle Scout and will be one for life.


There is at least one Eagle Scout that I know of who was executed for murder in Texas. He was an Eagle Scout. He met the requirements.


Being an Eagle Scout does not mean that one can continue to be connected with Scouting, can continue to be registered or can be a leader. If you find it appropriate, you can deny any or all of those in your unit with this Eagle Scout. But it doesn't change the fact that he is an Eagle Scout any more than it would if he were a Tenderfoot Scout.

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  • 1 month later...

From Terry Lawson, National Director of Boy Scout

Advancement and NESA

>>The Eagle Award cannot be removed once it has been earned and posted at the National Office. While we would hope every Eagle Scout would continue to live his life according the Scout Oath and Law, what would become the dividing line should we remove it. An Eagle who commits a felony? A Congressman (Eagle Scout) who has an affair with his secretary? A judge who gets picked up for Driving Under the Influence?


These are all hypothetical instances and the policy, at this time, is that we do not remove the Eagle Award. Hope this helps



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Hello Aquila,


I do not believe that the Eagle Socut award has been revoked for "avowed homosexuality." Individuals deemed "avowed homosexuals" may be denied registration in the future, but that does not change what they accomplished in the past.


For example, I do not believe that there was ever any suggestion of revoking James Dale's Eagle Scout award. The BSA considers him an Eagle Scout, simply one who is not now eligible to be registered with the BSA.

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What about a hypothetical case where advancement requirements are discovered - after award of the Eagle - to have been falsified? Say the Scout forged a blue card for the Swimming MB and then lied to his SM and the EBoR. Can the award be retroactively revoked?


(This message has been edited by Trevorum)

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