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Scoutmaster Conference – Adding Requirements

A reader sent in this question:

I am wondering where to find information or guidelines on Scoutmaster Conferences. My sons current Scoutmaster will not let him advance The Scoutmaster says that during a review he can ask anything from Scout to Star or anything from any merit badge he has earned, has to erect a tent and sleep in it, can have no wrinkles in any tarps, not lose scouts paperwork or patches, plus several other things My son is discouraged and is talking about quitting My son is a Star scout wanting to rank to Life.

Thanks for the question. I find this unfortunate, but it probably happens more often than I think.  A Scoutmaster cannot add or take away from the requirements for a rank. There is nothing in the requirements for Life which mention paperwork or erecting a tent or wrinkles in tarps.

But what I find even more disheartening is that it sounds like the relationship between the Scoutmaster and Scout is not one of a mentor and a youth. I agree that it is good to push a youth to be the best person he or she can be, but I also think that adult leaders have to be helping the youth. We should want them to succeed and offer every opportunity. We should not be erecting roadblocks.

If this is a problem with a personality conflict between just your son and the Scoutmaster, it might be time to find a different troop. If this is his attitude with all of the Scouts, maybe it could be discussed by the committee. You could also talk to your district advancement chair or your local council. But if the relationship between your son and the Scoutmaster become strained, then the program will not be what it should for him.

Readers, what do you think? Add your comments below.

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8 Responses to Scoutmaster Conference – Adding Requirements

  1. Melissa Owens June 26, 2018 at 1:34 PM #

    Time to find a different troop for sure! The leaders of the troop should want your son and all the scouts in the troop to succeed! Tell him to think about what his future self would think about walking away from scouts at this point. I can tell you this from our countless hours and homes visited during popcorn sales, all the men that we have spoken with who have walked away before achieving Eagle have regretted it. They all tell my son, no matter what, get your Eagle. If he walks away now, he will carry that regret for a lifetime! It is much easier to find a new troop than live with what could have been’s. Take the time to visit some other troops, you ask the questions about rank advancement and moving forward. You are not taking the easy way out, but finding a more supportive environment for your son to grow and learn. There is a lot of pressure on them from Star scout onward, but inventing reasons to hold a scout back is pressure they do not need added on them. My son is 13 and just achieved Star. His troop here warned him it would get tough, because he’s expected to step up and be a leader, be an encouraging voice and really know his stuff, but no wrinkles in a tarp..that’s unreasonable and ridiculous!

    Talk to you scout. Find out if his goal truly is Eagle. Discuss the benefits of changing troops (pluses and minuses). My son is on his 2nd troop and because we are in construction he will likely have 1 more before Eagle. It’s not unheard of to move and could turn out to be a wonderful experience.

    Best of luck!

    • Lance July 23, 2018 at 11:04 PM #

      This is a topic that Is far too widespread and common. The greater issue and problem, however, is the fact that the BSA continuously allows these ‘rogue scoutmasters’ to add requirements without any impunity to their role within the BSA.

      How and why does the BSA bother to even have rules in place in the Guide to Advancement when rogue scoutmasters are free to violate the rules whenever they want to, and without any consequences?

      When these SMs are reported to council, council does absolutely nothing to reign them in.

      Worst of all though is that these SM’s are as vindictive as they are self-righteous and pompous and, if they are reported to council, they will ultimately retaliate in some way that usually results in the scout leaving the troop and, with it, the friendships that he’s made there.

      My greatest takeaway from scouting, as a youth, was not earning Eagle or being inducted into the OA or being awarded Honor Camper one summer; it was the friendships and bonds that I made wiith my fellow scouts and the kinship that we all had as brothers of the same troop.

      The BSA needs to address this because the all too common ‘solution’ of “quick, find another troop” is no solution at all…scouting is nothing without friendships.

  2. Dave Boring June 26, 2018 at 1:44 PM #

    The Guide to Advancement section 4.2.3.5 specifies how a Scoutmaster Conference should be held. Specifically, it states:

    The conference is not a retest of the requirements upon
    which a Scout has been signed off. It is a forum for
    discussing topics such as ambitions, life purpose, and
    goals for future achievement, for counseling, and also for
    obtaining feedback on the unit’s program.

    (This section is available here: https://www.scouting.org/resources/guide-to-advancement/mechanics-of-advancement/boy-and-varsity/ )

    A parent may want to discuss this section with the Scoutmaster. Perhaps he is unaware that this is how a conference is supposed to take place. More than likely, he is aware of this but will be unwilling to change how he holds conferences. It is also likely that boards of review are also being held incorrectly (covered in section 8 of the Guide to Advancement), adding to the scouts’ frustration.

    A parent could reach out the the committee chair and/or unit commissioner, but this will frequently be unsuccessful, and could make matters worse for the scout. If the scoutmaster is unwilling to change, the scout must decide if he is willing to put up with the extra gauntlet of requirements and stay in the troop, or to look for a new troop. And if one scout feels this way, it’s likely some of his friends also feel the same way, so he might be able to change troops with one or two friends.

  3. Wayne June 26, 2018 at 3:14 PM #

    In many troops, the final requirement to show scout Spirit is done just prior to the Scoutmaster conference. Scout spirit includes the Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan. Being prepred would fall under that category. If the expectations are clear as to what he is to be prepared for, then he has not met the requirement. Since the scoutmaster conference is not a pass or fail event, that is where your misunderstanding lies. Meet the requirement of showing scout spirit, and the progress should happen.

  4. H. David Pendleton June 30, 2018 at 7:54 AM #

    A SMC is not a pass/fail event. Find another unit ASAP. We left a troop because the SM said my son “failed” his Life SMC, but it was the CC that told me. When I showed them the GTA that he could not fail a SMC, the troop’s (meeting with the SM, CC, and a couple of the ASMs) next response was that they were not going to give him POR credit for his current tenure as Patrol Leader even though they never counseled him on why he was “failing” as a PL and all of them were completely unaware of his learning disability (apraxia). When I pointed out to them that he had did not need the PL POR time because he already had POR credit for Life rank, their response was, “He failed Scout spirit.” I asked him what part of the Scout Oath & Law was he not living up to and their response was “helpful.” I asked them to give me specific examples and all I got was hems & haws and the one specific example was not his fault, but of something done by the APL. This was in August a few years back and that summer my son had spent a week at day camp on staff, went to an extra week of camp with a special needs troop where he was a “buddy” to a 40+ year old “scout” working 16 hour days, and some other stuff I cannot remember now. My son has since been to NYLT, NAYLE, and staffed NAYLE. He has 125 merit badges and has already been selected to be an SPL for a World Jamboree contingent next summer from Area 5 of the Central Region. He continues to serve his new troop as a JASM, staffed Day Camp again this summer, and serves his OA Lodge as the Assistant Neimat chair. I guess his new troop thought that he was helpful enough to earn Eagle at 15 1/2. It might have happened earlier, but his new Troop elected him SPL after less than a year with them and I told him to focus on his SPL duties instead of doing his Eagle project. When a troop is not doing it right, there are three options. (1) Do nothing and accept it. (2) Try to get it changed. (3) And if all else fails, move to another troop. In this case, I suggest moving on.

  5. Ernie July 2, 2018 at 8:21 AM #

    Everyone here is right my son was told by his female scoutmaster that he would never make Eagle as long as she was SM . Her son was a bully and my son put it to him when he messed with the younger Scout and his patrol. Because she was the first female SM she could do no wrong and she then became the paid scout advancement person at our council, so she blocks him again. He never made his Eagle. It a shame when adults ruin it for the boys.

  6. Mike Ingram July 17, 2018 at 8:21 PM #

    So one thing that everyone is missing is the requirement for SM conference now reads: “While working toward XYZ Rank, and after completing “previous rank” requirement #(board of review), participate in a Scoutmaster conference”

    The way this reads that anytime during that rank the scout can request the SM conference because that is what it is, a conference and not a test. Once the scout completes all the requirements he then asks for the board of review. The SM conference does not have to be directly before the board of review.

  7. ADC October 5, 2018 at 9:06 AM #

    As an Assistant District Commissioner I feel I need to add some thoughts with this situation to try to provide some guidance.

    First the structure of how scouts work..The Scouts program is sold to the Chartered Organization. They agree to run the program by the rules and policies of the organization. The Chartered Organization Rep is the individual, or in worse cases the Chartered Organization leadership (ex president) who must sign off on all adult leader applications for the unit. They are also the only ones who can REMOVE an adult leader (committee chair,ASM or SM) if they feel they are not providing the program that the organization has “paid for”. The Committee appoints the SM and ASM to guide the unit. While they cannot officially remove an adult leader, they can provide guidance or move them to a different role that may fit their skills better.

    Next thing about SM conferences. No where does it say you have to wait until right before the bor to have them. This conference is a good opportunity for the scout to communicate with the SM and vise versa. An SM cannot “Pass/fail” this talk. There is no place for that in the program. If this is going on, the parent should work with the CC (committee chair) to rectify the problem peacefully and amicably with all parties involved. If a scout is not being given the opportunity for a bor, there is a way around the committee. This can be found in the rules to advancement book. In short you would appeal to the council and an independent committee would participate on the bor.

    A few handy tid bits. Don’t call the council or DE (District Executive) about possible removal of leadership. They cannot do anything about it. That s where the Chartered Organization comes into play. The DE and council have other responsibilities to work with and will pass you off on the suggestion.

    A lot of comments shared are the best way to go about this. If you cannot get anywhere with the leadership, start looking for a different unit. It is better to have heartache for only a few weeks, than for months going against a river with boulders.

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