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5yearscouter

58 page constitution, bylaws aaarrrrggggghhhh

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I agree Beavah

there are just so many documents one should stay up to date on to truly do justice to "following the rules and guidelines of the BSA" that it gets overwhelming. If you'd like to write up a summary of each of those publications--a list like that would fit nicely in a troop guidebook-- it would be marvelous!! I doubt you have time or inclination to do so though, do you?

 

When BSA keeps changing the documents, it's going to be nigh on impossible to keep a troop detailed bylaws up to date. every time BSA changes, the other documents have to follow.

 

Now a bylaws could say for advancement details always check the current addition of the Boy Scout Handbook --and then give an overview of progression of ranks and details of how the troop has boys sign up for scoutmaster conferneces and boards of review. but not detailed to the point of listing al requirements for tenderfoot.

 

 

Or Safety issues see the guide to safe scouting (and other publications) with these issues the troop finds that we need reminders of (or troop policy) maybe sheath knives or maybe there is a troop rule of who or where you can teach totin chit.

 

right now the bylaws say that they choose COR, and annually vote for committee chair, co-chair, secretary and treasurer. CC can then appoint other people as standing committee chairs.

 

Last time COR changed the troop asked committe, someone volunteered, troop told the Chartered Org and they approved them as COR. they ask in pen committee meetings for volunteers for committee chair and other troop positions the people who volunteer get the job. COR will change at the end of the year when the chartered org changes. committee chair should change based on the mess he's made with filling out and turning in applications in a timely manner to council. but that's my opinion. ;)

 

I am COR of my pack, and have been CC of the pack for the last about 6 years now. I've had a boy in the troop for 4+ years, so overall I know they can run a reasonably good program or we would have left. Only when my son became SPL did it become very apparent how much the committee controls the actions of the boys.

 

They are very Roberts Rules of order- move, 2nd and vote on everything that happens including approving the boy's choice of activities and changing or cancelling activities when they want to (not due to unresolveable financial or plannin issues, jsut they don't like the event).

 

I'm trying to fix the wording of the troop annual permission slip which hasn't been changed since 1994, and planned to use BSA's hold harmless agreement wording. they want the committtee to approve it, and then the committee wants to take it all apart and rewrite it. I explained that BSA has lawyers writing that mess, we don't.

 

COR and CC are actually just figureheads in my honest opinion, all the power is in the committee members with the old fogey loudmouths often swaying all votes in their direction. I've told them loudly and clearly if I take over positions, they aren't going to like it. I'm going to follow the BSA guidelines and where the bylaws don't agree, I will try to have bylaws changed to be more in line with BSA guidelines. The big difference I want to make is to define things as committee area of decision making, and program side for decision making. the scouts with guidance of the scoutmaster have control over these things. they take their decisions and refer them to the committee who works to make them happen (mostly events/campouts/outings paying for it, supplies, etc). If the committee can't make it happen as the boys planned it, they refer it back to the boys to see what adjustments can be made--committee doesn't just change or cancel things.

 

It does get their goat when some of these big gruff guys talk about things their boys can't do and an adult needs to do it[planning events mostly], and I pipe up and explain that even as just a cubbie mom (as they see me) I think most of the scouts could do it if they are given the opportunity and guidance. I come at it that there is nothing the boys can't do for themselves, they just may not know how to do it yet. so we guide them and show them and let them go try it out for themselves.

 

(This message has been edited by 5yearscouter)

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Now a bylaws could say for advancement details always check the current addition of the Boy Scout Handbook

 

Nope. Da Handbook is rarely current. It gets updated only 10 years, but advancement requirements can change every year, documented in the Boy Scout Requirements Book. :) Yeh gotta love the system. And no, I'm not inclined to do those summaries for yeh. ;)

 

For the rest, I think yeh need to accept some of what's in place and then nudge a few important things.

 

For instance, if the CO prefers the committee to send a recommendation for COR, there's nothing wrong with that. Similarly, there's nothing wrong with the committee electing CC, treasurer, etc. as "officers" and then the CC appointing others. Similarly, there's nothing at all wrong about being formal Roberts Rules about voting on stuff and taking minutes. It helps avoid or manage disagreements. Similarly, I agree with your old gruff fellows on the legal stuff. The BSA's hold harmless wording is poor and very generic, and written more with camps in mind than unit programs. It should be adapted to your organizational structure and the law of your state.

 

So I wouldn't sweat that stuff, eh? I'd stick to where your main interest seems to lie on the program side.

 

Now in the BSA guidelines the program plans of the boys do require approval by the Troop Committee. So in the BSA program, the committee certainly can exercise a veto. So yeh might perhaps want to establish a local rule that your committee doesn't follow the BSA materials in that. That would be OK and more like traditional scouting. Or yeh might want to just nuance the BSA guidelines and say in your own bylaws that the troop committee only approves the annual plan as a package, it does not micromanage on an outing-by-outing basis except where there is a clear safety issue.

 

And of course the committee doesn't "make it happen" as you suggest. The boys do. The committee only provides expertise and support. But you knew that. ;)

 

Beavah

 

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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I get what you are saying 5year: It's not about the scouts at all.

 

Matter of fact, most bylaws and rules, SOP's are not about anybody but the adults!

 

Really, I wouldn't set a predetermined set of pages or volum of how big/long the bylaws should be. If youi do that....you end up adding a bunch of fluff to fill the space, but that fluff will make loophole after loophole in the good rules>

 

Some stuff you can figure out ahead:

When dues are due, wether the pack will carry a scout until dues are paid? If so, how long?

 

Who can order supplies? What is the policy to get reimbursed? How many people does it take to sign a check?

 

Who can open, close or "square up" bank accounts?

 

What is the quorum number for a vote to count?

 

 

 

Yeah, as nice as it would be, the scout handbok does not help one bit. Sure, there is an oath, but there are also laws about bank robbery, embezelment, and murder....how are those working out so far?

 

And the thing is, you know, I know, and most active /experienced scouters know what and how to do stuff.

 

But all it takes is one or two parents who are new, who are rogue, or just think they know better thaneverybody else..... and it all falls apart!

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The one consistent thing I disagree with Beavah on is the need for " troop bylaws" and "troop guidebooks" and all that other sort of nonsense rather than just using the information the BSA already provides. And yes, I think of it as nonsense because it leads to statements such as the following:

 

"COR and CC are actually just figureheads in my honest opinion, all the power is in the committee members with the old fogey loudmouths often swaying all votes in their direction."

 

and

 

"They are very Roberts Rules of order- move, 2nd and vote on everything that happens including approving the boy's choice of activities and changing or cancelling activities when they want to (not due to unresolveable financial or planning issues, jsut they don't like the event)."

 

and

 

"right now the bylaws say that they choose COR, and annually vote for committee chair, co-chair, secretary and treasurer. CC can then appoint other people as standing committee chairs."

 

These are the kinds of things that you get when the adults put together a set of by-laws - they do things contrary to what the BSA has set forth. All these by-laws end up doing is contradicting the BSA program, because obviously the people who put together the by-laws know better than the BSA, and the thousands of hours of work the BSA has put in, using volunteers and professional staff, to develop the program and materials.

 

Read the Troop Committee Guidebook and point out where the COR is a figurehead, point out where the Committee elects the COR, point out where the committee votes on the program the PLC creates. You won't find it in there and not because the BSA "forgot" to put it in there. It's not in there because that is just not how it works.

 

Yes, for many units, the COR is just a figurehead - but for those chartering organizations that are more than just a rubber stamp, the COR is the second most powerful person involved with the unit (guess who is first? Nope- not the SM or the CC - it's the Institutional Head (or governing board) because they can fire the COR). The COR "hires" (appoints) the CC. The COR "hires" (appoints) the SM. The COR approves of all the leaders. The COR can swoop in and give the Unit policy directions.

 

Yes, there are a lot of books - but you don't have to read them all - as CC, read the Troop Committee Guidebook and follow it. The SM reads the Scoutmaster's Handbook andd follows it. The BSA isn't printing these things up because they look pretty and want to make suggestions - they're printing them up because they are the program materials that the CO has agreed to follow when accepting a charter. Follow them, and you'll be better off. And really, is there any reason to waste your time, the committee's time, or someone elses time taking the information from those books and putting them into yet another "book"?

 

It's like merging the Dictionary, Roget's Thesaurus, all of the Peterson's Field Guides and a set of Encyclopedias on your own so that you have just one source book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let's step back a bit.

 

The purpose of a constitution/bylaws for an organization is to define how the organization is organized. (members & member rights, meetings, officers and their duties how elected, etc).

 

So please stop staying that the Scout Law/Oath covers this. It doesn't. The SLO covers BEHAVIOR. Bylaws don't cover behavior.

 

What DOES cover this is, as others have pointed out, resources like the Troop Committee Guidebook and such. Its because of these that units DO NOT NEED bylaws. IF the BSA expected orgs to have bylaws, they would have clearly stated this, provided bylaw templates, etc. They only do this for councils, oa lodges, voas, venturing crews & ships. That should tell you something.

 

As others have pointed out, if a troop needs to put down in writing some things they do and how they do it, a list of these rules (which we would normally call "standing rules", but sometimes are called "policies and procedures") can be done. But, again, units need to be careful they aren't trying to rewrite BSA policies.

 

 

Also, FYI, in the old days orgs had separate constitutions and bylaws documents. This went out of style in the 60s, where orgs instead had just bylaws. As one person put it, 'coutries have constitutions, organizations have bylaws'. Older orgs haven't gotten the message and replaced their constitutions with bylaws.

 

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There's great benefit to defining "how we do things here". Mainly to the (sanity of) Scoutmaster and CC for consistency and thoroughness. There will always be that one situation that a parent tries to push the boundry and without a strong backbone from somebody stopping them, they get what they want. It gets tiresome being that backbone. You get worn down when a new parent shows up every couple years and decides "you're doing it wrong". So you put your thoughts down in a bylaw type form and then you can throw that at the troublesome parent: "this is how we do it here." Then they become the best country lawyer and find loopholes in it to their advantage... then it's decided they need updated... and so on and so on.

It does help define the commitee's roles and keeps all on the same page. But it can also become a weapon, a noose that is used against the leadership. That's why I hate the word 'bylaw' and much much prefer the word 'guidebook'. May be semantics, but the SM and CC MUST have ultimate authority to give and take on those guidelines and do what is in the best interest of the boy(s) effected by it and the Troop. If a unit can't accept the use of that judgement on a consistent basis, then somebody is in the wrong position.

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Beavah,

In answer to what you said

"Da Handbook is rarely current" yes, I know. The newest equivalent of the Advancement guide with some interesting changes is due out at Philmont this week. so handbook and Advancement guide (ACPP or whatever it's called) etc details requirements for advancement. We could do an overview in bylaws (or Guidebook) that says ranks go in this order, you get scout badge with scoutmaster, after that it's scoutmster confernce and board of review, and blah blah. summary paragraph or two maybe?

 

 

for the COR bylaws say that they are annually elected and presented to the IH for approval. reality is that one person volunteered a few years back and there they are. In the face of questions or things he needs to make a decision about, he said he'd quit before having to make such a decision.

 

bylaws say CC, co-CC, treasurer and secretary are elected each year. reality is someone volunteers and keep the job as long as they want and CC and COR agree(I don't think they've ever NOT agreed).

 

bylaws say we vote on what to charge each year but it's not been discussed in 5 years or more.

 

bylaws say registered committee can vote in committee decisions, but in reality the troop allows anyone in the rooom to vote, including scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster.

 

so that's where the disconnect lies. if the troop committee is going to do their own thing, why have bylaws? or why not make bylaws match what they actually do.

 

" committee doesn't "make it happen" as you suggest. The boys do. The committee only provides expertise and support." by make it happen I mean the adults make the reservations and payments when businesses won't accept reservations from minors, makes sure the troop has the resources necessary for the boys to use (say you need access to GPS that the families don't own, so we see if the troop can buy or rent some) but only those things the boys need help with. transportation of course, moving the troop trailer or supplies as needed.

 

and I like this part

"troop committee only approves the annual plan as a package, it does not micromanage on an outing-by-outing basis except where there is a clear safety issue." cause that is what I would like to see happen. not each individual outing picked apart and the parents of the new scouts vetoing things for the older boys to do because their baby can't go on a 25 mile hike (yet). Pushing the boys to plan a way for the younger or out of shape scouts to do 5-10 miles, older boys do more miles and end up at the same place for a portion of the campout--well I expect that kind of advice to be handed out by the scoutmaster at the PLC planning meeting so it doesn't have to get to the committee to be thought of, or for committee to end up canceling the event because its not "all inclusive."

 

 

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oh for permission slips.

right now they something like

troop leaders have permission to take my child to the doctor/ER/hospital if injured and I am unavailable.

 

What a permission slip/authorization for medical treatment should say is probably somewhere between BSA's out of control document and the above.

 

Not sure the best way to determine what is legally necessary on a permission slip in the state of Arizona. I found revised statute that says Dr hs to have to have parental permission for surgery (which includes a lot of things we don't think of as surgery from a non-medical standpoint)

 

Probably we'll just get the BSA medical form permission slip/hold harmless/let's throw in anythin else we can think of, but the troop committee is concerned because it doesn't specifically state that parents will hold harmless the Troop.

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Random thoughts on the issue:

I've been in 5 different units in 50 years and they never had bylaws, constitution or whatever. Way back when I was a den leader the boys made a "code of conduct" Remember that whole boy led thing?

 

Two different DE's have told me units are not supposed to have bylaws. Could be heresay.

 

There are only 25 pages in BSA's bylaws.

 

Imagine giving a new scout a 58 page rule book. He won't come back!

 

Attendence requirments for rank are null and void, no matter what you call them.

 

Don't make things complicated scouting is not a democracy Committee Chair, Scoutmaster, Senior Patrol leader run things.

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one more thing. You don't have to look far to find bylaws in violation of bsa bylaws. Found this on my first search:

Following is the official Troop XXX Boy Scout Class A Uniform:

 

1.Troop XXX black hat

2.Troop XXX black neckerchief

3.Khaki shirt, short sleeves

4.Scout Shorts, Scout uniform pants or dark blue jeans

5.Neckerchief slide

6.Scout socks (with shorts only)

7.Scout web belt and Boy Scout belt buckle

8.Merit badge sash (not required for troop meetings)

 

this troop cannot have its own "official" uniform since there is only one and blue jeans are not part of it.

 

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I really do think that the people who come up with things like 58 pages have the best of intentions.

I don't think that they are power hungry so and sos who are trying to make life difficult.

One big problem that seems to pop up when people try to re-write what the BSA has already written is that people feel the urge to add a little something.

Some years back I was asked to sit in on a meeting of our Council Advancement Committee. The guys at the meeting were all long time Scouters. They came up with the idea that the Council needed to guide the unwise and unwashed about the minimum amount of hours that should go into an Eagle Scout project.

When I politely tried to point out that this was covered already. They were deeply offended.

Much as I hate to sound like an old Book Thumper, I have to disagree with "Nothing prevents units from recommending uniform standards for their members."

We all know what the uniform is. Love it or hate it. It is what it is.

So there isn't a need to recommend uniform standards.

 

At the end of the day this game of Scouting shouldn't be that hard.

Each and every unit that I've been in has become more than a unit and more o something along the lines of a family.

We don't always at times see eye to eye and there are times when people mess up and things don't go right or maybe as planned.

Still there is a bond, that something that makes doing what is right and what is best for the kids that we serve paramount the thing that we do.

We do it not because of a 58 page constitution or sets of bylaws. Some of us might have a deep love of the organization, but all of us do it because we think what we are doing is important and because we like and sometimes love the kids we are doing it for.

Ea.

 

 

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A unit committee that has to take formal votes, count numbers for a quorum, and establish policies about bank accounts isn't operating in an efficient, Scoutlike manner, IMHO. There's simply no need to get all legalistic and procedural about this Scouting stuff.

 

The CO should be setting fundraising and financial policies, not the committee, unless those decisions are expressly delegated by the COR.

 

Most everything else talked about here should be in the hands of the PLC.

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A unit committee that has to take formal votes, count numbers for a quorum, and establish policies about bank accounts isn't operating in an efficient, Scoutlike manner, IMHO. There's simply no need to get all legalistic and procedural about this Scouting stuff.

 

Nah, I disagree, and I continue to disagree with CalicoPenn on this.

 

It's just fine when yeh have a group of like-minded individuals who clearly share a common mission and are all perfect in their communication to operate by consensus. We all would love troop committees and other adults to be at the "Performing" stage, eh? Fact is, though, committees have turnover and as we all learned from NYLT or WB21C, they don't stay at the "Performing" stage. Sometimes they Storm, sometimes they renorm, and sometimes someone tries to steal money or hijack da process.

 

The reason we so often have troop committees melt down is because they operated for a bit on consensus at the "Performing" stage and became completely informal. Then they have nothing in place to help with da "Forming" of new members and nothing in place to handle the "Storming" stage when it comes around again. That's da purpose of written documents, eh? That's why yeh have procedures. To help yeh communicate and manage when you're at those earlier stages of group development. Or to have somethin' in place to protect against the rare but serious case, like a treasurer who's taken a pay cut at work being tempted by the troop account.

 

5yearscouter's case is a good example, eh? 5year complains a bit about da old guard being able, in a consensus environment, to shout down or bully other folks. If they are strict about Robert's Rules, though, then that's a mechanism for workin' through that. Each person only gets to speak twice to a topic, and everyone votes. A small group of older folks can't just push through their own way. It's one possible way to help manage the "storming" process without makin' it personal. Of course there are others.

 

These are the kinds of things that you get when the adults put together a set of by-laws - they do things contrary to what the BSA has set forth. All these by-laws end up doing is contradicting the BSA program... Read the Troop Committee Guidebook and point out where the COR is a figurehead, point out where the Committee elects the COR, point out where the committee votes on the program the PLC creates.

 

Now if yeh pick up da Official BSA Troop Committee Guidebook and actually read it, you'll find whole sections of it that duplicate what is written in other BSA materials. There's a chapter on Advancement, for example, (which is out of date). There's another bit on outing safety from G2SS (which is also out of date). So the BSA itself clearly sees merit in copying over excerpts from other BSA materials so as to make a smaller, more concise book to help troop committee members understand the program. There's nuthin' inherently wrong with da approach, even though it does mean that yeh sometimes get behind in updates.

 

And as I've said before, da notion that committees don't vote is dead wrong. In da BSA materials committees are definitely expected to select new leaders (both for da committee and for the boys). Select means "choose." They are expected to approve the annual program plan, and the annual budget to support da plan, and the unit money-earning activities, and the monthly plan. Approve means "decide." The BSA doesn't tell 'em how to choose or decide; they could draw lots, they could pray and consult with da Holy Spirit, they could use pistols at 10 paces, da old fellows could shout the new ones down, ... but by and large in the U.S. when groups make a choice they vote and record it in the minutes. And if yeh read da Committee Handbook, yeh see there is an expectation of minutes and approval of minutes from the last meeting, and da only reason to do that is to confirm that decisions/votes are recorded accurately.

 

Beavah

 

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So back to the original question

who has a nice, short and sweet bylaws for a boy scout troop they might share?

 

I'm looking for an outline, not specifics.

 

I'm wanting an introductory page:

 

The Scout Oath and Law governs the operations of the Troop in all respects and applies equally to the Scouts, Program Leaders, Committee Members, Parents, and Siblings when they are in attendance.

 

The program will be developed and run by the Patrol Leader's Council under the guidance of the Senior Patrol Leader, Scoutmaster and his assistants. The Committee's responsibility is to support the program that the Scouts plan, and commitee does not have veto power over the program decided on by the PLC except in the cases of Health and Safety.

 

Operations of the Troop will be run in accordance with the following BSA guides: Guide to Safe Scouting, Scoutmasters Handbook, Troop Committee Guidebook, Senior Patrol Leaders Handbook, Insignia Guide, Boy Scout Handbook, Den Chiefs Handbook, Advancement Requirements Guide, any and all current Merit Badge Pamphlets, Patrol Leaders Handbook, and any other official BSA publications. Any questions can be answered by referring to the appropriate BSA publication.

 

And then detail the things that are specific to our troop in regards to policy and procedure directed toward scouts (knife, cell, soda), policy and procedure for committee/leaders (financial/signers on account/budget/dues and how to change the amount charged and probably something about leaders and how & when to choose them).

 

much of the rest should be summarized in a parent guide that is separate from the above and as short as possible.

this includes when meetings are, what & when is PLC, When is committee meeting, a basic overview of uniforms and where to get them, current dues (subject to change), possible fundraisers, contact info for leaders, what the troop provides for a campout and such for new scouts. link to website and email for more info.

 

 

 

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