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Beavah

Unit Bylaws

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Posted (edited)

A great discussion.

I would question whether there is a practical difference between bylaws and various "Guides". I believe that in treating Scouts and families fairly, either would be as binding and should be equally hard to amend, exactly to the extent that the chartered organization is willing, toe review and enforce them. 

Several agreements might be necessary. Bylaws might best be reserved for spelling out hard and fast rules for Adult interaction, and interaction with the Charter Organization, and created as an agreement between Committee and its Charter partner. Guides are published to parents and is the agreement between families and the Unit, represented by the Committee, for the interaction between Scouts, families and the Unit.

Generally, I'd recommend keeping both simple, specifically prefaced with a statement that if BSA policies are found to conflict with the guidance, or are changed such that there is a conflict, BSA policy controls. There are several areas where Units and Scoutmasters are specifically given authority to make a judgment. For example:

  • Determining what qualifies as service hours, and how to credit the service - that is, whether a Scouts service can count for multiple purposes: JTE hours, Eagle hours, rank advancement, Awards, or other (Church, School, Order of the Arrow, etc).  Rather than leave that issue open and arbitrary, the committee and the Scoutmaster should work out a consistent guideline and publish it to Scouts and parents.
  • Financial reporting, auditing, and signature authority.
  • Identifying the Committee responsibilities for Eagle Project review.
  • Determining the conditions and process for removing an Adult from a volunteer position, particularly service as SM or CC.
  • Determining the conditions and process for youth replacing a youth leader, say, a "no show" SPL or PL.
  • Defining an "active" Scout

and so on.  There are a number of areas where guidelines are needed, or should specifically be identified as the personal discretion of the SM. Some of the issues mentioned in the discussion seem less like a matter for either bylaws or guides, but simple public announcement: meeting times, meeting places, dues, etc. should be a matter for discussion and revision based on circumstance. A simple public announcement should be more than adequate.

Edited by sasguy

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Welcome to scouter, @sasguy.

The Chartered Partner is the legal organization of a Pack, Troop, or Crew. The Committee ismerely an operating committee of that organization.

The items you mention, if the need to be written, should simply be the units’ guidelines for the committee and handbook for parents. 

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Posted (edited)

Yes, as I said.

As a Commissioner, many of the issues I have had to mediate have been entirely due to conflicts coming from areas that have been specifically left to the discretion of the unit or the charter organization, but have remained undefined - so Scoutmasters that think that they "own" the unit, Committees that don't exercise their oversight responsibility, different treatment of Scouts in similar circumstances, and the infinite interpretation of a selected phrase to mean that a scout or unit may do something that is strictly and specifically forbidden by BSA guidance.

The relationship and reporting among the parties should be spelled out, I think.  The Committee does operate independently of the CO, generally, but the specific relationship varies widely. From LDS units where the Bishop may be out with the unit regularly, to Elks and VFW units, which may provide a hall and nothing more, those organization should spell out the agreements. The CO also has a varied relationship with the parents and Scouts. The Committee also has areas which are specifically theirs to define, similarly the Unit and the SPL and youth leadership has areas that should be spelled out for members of the Troop.

In each case, the statements are equally binding. In each case, it's agreements between different parties, that are specifically the responsibility of different leaders. They should cover only specific matters that the BSA has left to the discretion of the units, or reiterate the specific BSA policy. Identifying specific areas of discretion is the challenge.

(original statement amended slightly for clarity)

Edited by sasguy

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Amen @ParkMan.  The Scout Oath & Law are the only policies & procedures we need.  Clarke Green, nailed it for me on a ScoutmasterCG post from 10 years ago:  https://scoutmastercg.com/troop-rules-or-resolutions/

Quote

If we respond to problems by instituting troop rules or policies we become enforcers.

Few rules don’t have legitimate exceptions, so we also become judges.

When rules are broken there must be a penalty, so we end up having to dole out punishment.

As the matrix of rules and policies grow most of our time is spent enforcing, judging, and punishing.

A system of enforcement, judgement, and punishment obscures the aspirations embodied in the Scout Oath and Law, and our aim of building character by examining those aspirations.

I think we are much better off seeking resolution to difficulties rather than reacting to them with rule making.  When a concern arises we ask: ...

“What part of the Scout Oath and Law would you apply?”

 

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4 hours ago, ParkMan said:

... bylaws are not really needed.  ...

Fully agree.  The only limitation I'd have is if the troop really has special unique rules.  Such as if the scoutmaster requires service hours to be pre-approved or done within a troop coordinated event.  If that's the expectation, I'd fully document it in advance.  Same with eagle project proposal approvals.  ... but I'd argue ... units just don't need to create special rules.  Keep it simple.  Keep it fun.  BSA has lots already documented and laid out.  The scout is already carrying around his Boy Scout handbook.  I would not expect a scout to carry around bylaws or have to read a committee written legal document.  

Units need to document ...permission forms for camp outs ... where do you meet ... how much are dues ... how are fundraiser results used ...  Units really don't need to HAVE special rules or punishments. 

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