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SM Approval (and not) for Rank Advancement

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I am in my 4th year as SM for a very active and growing Troop (nearly 60 active Scouts). I have attended all of the training I could, including the BEST Wood Badge course (my opinion, of course!). I am a little stumped right now, and could use some input from someone who truly knows the rules about rank advancement and SM approvals.


I have a Patrol (one of 9) of boys who stick together like glue, even to the point where they disrupt meetings and don't work with the others who are working on the same MB (we have MB work time set aside during every weekly meeting). All of the boys are either 13.5 or just turned 14. All have achieved the rank of Star, though just barely (they did not try to get a Leadership position until they discovered they needed it for advancement, so together we 'invented' a leadership project that, unfortunately, their parents did most of the work on it).


Their behavior is my primary concern, though a quick second is their lack of leadership experience or even desire to be involved in leadership. They are on the 'cookie-cutter' path to Eagle - just do what's in the book, go to camp and do 6 MB's each, get signed off and move on. Getting even ONE of them to attend the monthly PLC's is like pulling teeth.


It's now that their lack of maturity is becoming a real problem. I expect a Scout who is 13 or 14 to be a kid at heart and need some help understanding how Scouting can help them develop their leadership and responsibility skills, but their parents have (for the most part) refused to back off and let their boys be responsible for their own actions, and the boys are riding that horse to the hilt.


2 weeks ago, one of them asked for a SMC for advancement to Life. This kid is the biggest problem in their Patrol- he does not respect authority (particularly the SPL's), and gives me lip service on everything, including what I and the ASPL expect of him as Historian (typical response: 'whatever'). He has for the past 3 years been constantly disruptive during meetings (talking during announcements, refusing to put up the sign unless I look directly at him, playing cards during MB work time, etc.). He does not go on any campouts that involve tents (without platforms). He has never been to a District Roundtable (our Troop sends Jr. Leaders to every one). In short, he has done the absolute minimum as a Scout. His father is an Assistant SM, but has made it clear to me that he is here for his son and will only do 'Troop' stuff if it fits his schedule. A real one-hour-a-week Scouter (I never knew it was really possible).


This Scout had all of the requirements for Life signed off in his book except Living the Scout Oath and Law in Everyday Life and the SMC. I view Life as not only a rank achieved by fulfilling requirements in a book, but becoming involved in the leadership of the Troop and truly embracing Scouting's principles. I view any Scout who reaches Life as someone who is ready to take on the leadership responsibilities of an Eagle Project.


So I did not advance him. I told him that it was not something he was failing at, necessarily, but that his maturity needed some time to catch up with his MB work, and that I wanted him to slow down on the MB mill and focus on leadership, to consider JLTC, to go after a more challenging leadership position like Den Chief or Scribe. I also asked him to talk this over with his folks and then all 4 of us could meet and discuss this further and set some goals and timelines to help min accomplish what I needed him to in order for me to approve the advancement. Man, he couldn't even come up with a SINGLE reason why he was qualified to be a Life Scout (other than having the MB and leadership position requirements done).


His folks are ticked off (to put it mildly). His mom told me that I shoudn't use her son (only child, btw) as my personal secretary, and if I wanted to meet with her, I should contact her directly, not ask her son to setup a meeting. His father went directly to the Council, where someone there told him that I could not withold an advancement (I was not permitted to do so), and that the course of events was that the boy simply wouldn't be able to complete Eagle without the leadership skills, so my job was really just to sign papers and push it along.


Who here knows for sure whether I did the right (read: allowable) thing? I know I did the right thing for the boy, and I know I am fair in my dealings with this Scout (I have checked myself time and time again with District and Council about what to do with his behavior).


I'd like someone with the facts to help me out, maybe even let me know where to look for the facts. I am calling Council tomorrow to ask, but I'm trying all avenues.


Thanks in advance, sorry so long a post (I felt that the background was necessary to avoid discourse on whether or not this kid really WAS a problem). If you feel strongly that I did something ethically wrong, I'd be happy to read your opinion, though.




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Well I don't have the facts....sorry. However I do think you did the right thing. I am sure by tomorrow Bob White will be able to clarify everything up for you!! Also about this patrol of 13-14 year olds. I think the best thing for you to do is to break that patrol up. Put them into other patrols and maybe they will be able to take some leadership in those patrols(Patrol Leader). In my opinion it seems that the older kids that act up in troop meetings are often times bored. Maybe make a few of them troop guides or atleast the ones that are somewhat mature. I know you said that they were lacking leadership skills. However, often times by putting them into a leadership position, with your counseling, they can learn the ropes rather quickly. Just my opinion though!




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There are 2 requirements that these scouts have not yet acheived. First - Scout Spirt, secound - a leadership position for 6 months (these scouts should not have advanced to Star if they were not working with the troop). The place to bring up their attitude is their board of review, they should not pass, but they should be told what is expected to reach Life Scout. Now the parents may not like it but stand your ground. Call your district advancement chairperson and explain what happened (if he is unsure call the council advancement chair). Yes the parents can appeal however, you should prevail.

Just as a personal note our troop is about your size and more scouts stall out at Life Scout. The project will stop unresponsible scouts. Try to make the parents understand what is best for their kids, they should be on your side.

I was an Owl!

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I feel you did the right thing. I feel Scout Spirit & living the Scout Oath & Law is more important than the rest of the badges.


It seems the Scout in question did fullfill all the other requirements for Life. It also seems he should have been removed as the Historian since we wasn't performing the job properly.


Ed Mori


Troop 1

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WoodBadge, Have you ever heard of a "Dutch Uncle"?


I am not sure what you will be able to do with your present scout or scouts for that matter as from what I have seen most Council Offices decide in favor of the scout more times than not especially in the upper ranks.


Looking forward, I would ask how such poor examples of Scouting Spirit attained the rank of Star in the first place. You signed off on Scouting Spirit at Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class and Star and NOW you tell the scout he isnt doing as he should and hasnt "for a long time"? Did you ever tell him along the way his behavior was inconsistent with the scouting ideal? And not just your actions need to be re-thought. These scouts all passed boards of review for each rank as well, were the types of behavior you listed ever discussed with the scouts as something that needed to be improved? Do other members of the troop's adult leadership concur with your thoughts? Have any of them ever counseled the scouts regarding their behavior?


Changing the behavior patterns of a Star or Life Scout is very difficult. Unwanted behavior should be addressed as soon as it appears, not years later.

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You've mentioned a number of problems and questions. Let me try to address most of them.

First of all I want to congratulate you on the degree to which you follow the patrol method. I read your other post and agree with almost everything you do.


There are two areas where you stray from the scouting methods and by coincidence, these are the two areas that I believe have created your problem.


First... with only a few exceptions, Merit Badges are not to be done as part of the troop program (see The Advancemnt Committee Policies and Procedures manual). Also they are not to be taught by scouts (as you stated in your other post), and they are not to be chosen for the scout as your troop does (and others do at summer camp).


The reason there are 119 merit badges when only 21 are needed is so that boys can follow there own interests and choose there own path. You have scouts who fool around during MB presentations because you force them to work on topics that have no interest for them personally. Your structured MB program has made it possible for scouts to advance without individual choice or individual testing. It's cookie cutter scouting, and it allows scouts to advance who don't really want to, and aren't ready to.


The second area causing your problem is... as you posted before, you don't allow your elected SPL to select his cabinet. You get people who are not appropriate for the troop officers. If the SPL was allowed to choose his ASPL and all other troop offices (there are a couple exceptions such as Troop Guides and JASM, that the SM should do) he would have scouts who he wants to work with, and who want to work with him.


Did you do the right thing in stopping this scouts advancement? Yes BUT did you do it right? NO


By not not allowing the Board of Review to; specify to the scout why he was not advancing, what requirements specifically were not met, and what needed to be done to meet the requirements, you did not follow correct advancement procedures.


If and when the boy appeals, he will most likely be advanced, not because he deserves it but because you did not follow the advancement rules.


OGE is right, allowing a scout to advance to this point and then trying to change him is very difficult, he has been taught that he can advance regardlees of his attitude. It is not a situation he created, it is one he has recognized and taken advantage of.


Allowing scouts more direct contact with MB counselors, letting them choose their own Merit Badges, letting each scout advance or not at their own pace from Star to Eagle, and letting your SPL choose the other officers you will reduce or eliminate these problems.


One last thing, it's OK to use troop time to introduce merit badges that relate to the selected monthly program theme, but the MB is not to be the troop program. Give them a taste and let them follow their own interests individually. Use the the Scoutmaster Handbook, Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures maual and the Troop Program Features (Volumes I,II and III) for more information on Troop Meeting Programs.



I hope this helps,

Bob White


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I can't remember who said what, but here's some more info-


My earlier post may have been misleading- I have 9 Patrols, there are 5 Scouts in this Patrol. No, I do not think breaking up a Patrol is the answer, I do not interfere with Patrol membership unless there is a big age difference.


Yes, I did pass him and the others in his Patrol for Star - just barely for him and one other Scout, the other 3 were in much better shape (though needed some improvement) and still are.


As Historian, he got trained by the ASPL and SPL in the fall, and set a goal for his position (to put together the many pictures we have from last year's activities and make up a display that we could use at Courts of Honor). He did the display (at the last minute), but has done nothing else since (like I said, he seems to do the absolute minimum, but enough where I can't say he didn't fulfill the requirements).


Yes, I do know what a Dutch Uncle is (my boss, a former police captain, taught me what that meant). Yes, I did cover ALL of the issues with him at his 1st Class and Star SMC's, the behavior, the lack of taking on leadership, the not participating, everything. I also told his folks that these were issues I needed to see improvement in.


I even told him (at his Star SMC) I would not advance him to Life unless he corrected the attitude and behavior and started really living the Scout Oath and Law in his Scout life as well as his every day life.


At his Star Board of Review last year, the Board came back and questioned me why he was advanced given his poor showing at his Board. I told them that he was marginal, that I had had some serious discussions with him about what needed to be done, and that his parents were also informed.


Thanks for everyone's responses.

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Bob White-


Thanks for your response (and everyone else's). I was in the middle of composing my last post when your post came in, so I'll address yours in this one.


I'd like to have the discussions about running MB's in the Troop meetings and electing the leadership positions in the Open Discussion - Program Forum, as I feel your advice and instruction will better serve that Forum. I'm not disagreeing with you at all, I'd just like to keep this thread focused.


I am confused about your comment, "By not not allowing the Board of Review to; specify to the scout why he was not advancing, what requirements specifically were not met, and what needed to be done to meet the requirements, you did not follow correct advancement procedures."


Aren't I supposed to specify to the Scout why I am not approving his advancement? Or am I supposed to have the SMC and then let the Scout go to his Board and let them decide whether to advance him or not? It was Requirement #2, Demonstrate Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath (Promise) and Scout Law in your everyday life, that I did not feel he had completed, and I explained this to him in detail.


I do discuss each Scout's SMC with the Board before their Board of Review.


I do need to read the Advancement Policies manual you mentioned. I'll pick one up at lunch.


Also, I have indeed been affected a little by parental pressure with these 5 Scouts, particularly at their Star SMC's. It's hard not to, and I resist it, but I also do not consider myself all-knowing and flawless, so I listen to everyone's input to temper my own opinion for improved fairness. Although I had some problems advancing this young man to Star, I felt I had made my point about his behavior and that with some time and effort, I would see some improvement. I have not.


OGE is right, it's tough to advance him this far and then try to change him. I thought I had provided an improvement and learning opportunity at his Star SMC and Board. Like I said, he did meet the requirements (the leadership project they did for Star was self-selected and I acted as a counselor, and it was beneficial to the Troop, I just felt that there was too much parental involvement after it was done). Hindsight.


Thanks again.

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I'm confused (so, what's new?)

If the SM sees the scout is not exhibiting Scout Spirit and has discussed this with the scout, why should he sign off on that?


BSA obviously has this requirement in there for a reason. How can the BOR know in the 15 to 30 minutes they have, if the scout is showing Scout spirit? I know sometimes it will be obvious he is NOT, but what if he puts on a good act in the BOR?



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I hope I get this right, but the members of the Board of Review, should know the scout by more than just his name. In out troop most of the committee members know the scouts by name. This makes the "20 minute act" impossible to pull off. Our Commitee members attend meetings, are merit badge counselors and a few attend campouts. All these factors add up to knowing the scout before a BOR is done.


Now, the important question, are we doing this right?


OOps, almost forgot, the Scoutmasters opinion is very important concerning Scouting Spirt. He should address his concerns to the scout as soon as he sees an issue develop.(This message has been edited by OldGreyEagle)

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So, if my research and understanding of what has been posted here is correct, I believe my fundamental mistake was to advance him to Star given that I had a problem feeling he had not fulfilled requirement #2, and that sets the stage for the complaint of, if I approved him then, why not now?


Aside from the fact that I have program-related improvements to make, I'll chalk that up to a learning experience.


It also will not end my life, as I do understand that there is only so much I can to to help boys take advantage of what Scouting has to offer. Our Troop is doing great, and I am happy with that.


Thanks everyone!


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WoodBadgeEagle, sctmom,


As far as the actual advancement refusal.. the problem was not in your not signing scout spirit but in not allowing the Board of Review to review him and set specific criteria for actions he needs to take to complete the requirements.


The Scoutmaster is allowed to talk with the Board prior to the scout being present. If you have concerns about the scouts spriit share it with the board. Give them actual circumstances that lead you to this determination. Let them question the scout and make the decision. You as SM should not refuse advancement, but that does not mean you do not have a voice in it. But, let the Board meet with the scout.


Bob(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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Include me in the ranks of the confused. Isn't it Scoutmaster Conference and then BOR? If the Scoutmaster doesn't sign off on requirement #2 then the Scout hasn't completed the requirments for the Rank and thus wouldn't go to the BOR?


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