"We're not just Horsing around!"
Thoughts to consider from a post from "Ask Andy". The last paragraph about using the scouting program for the "worst" (my words) scouts speaks volumes.
I have a concern about doing a Scoutmaster conference with a Life Scout in our troop. This Scout has completed all of the required merit badges, his service project, and has served in a leadership position for six months. But do I have the right, as Scoutmaster, to recommend that he not be advanced to the rank of Eagle? My reason is that I don’t consider him to be living according to the Scout Oath and Law.
I’m a teacher as well as this troop’s new Scoutmaster. I’ve had this young man as a student for three years in a variety ofclasses. In every one of these, he’s both cheated on tests and plagiarized writing assignments. In his most recent class with me, his blatant cheating resulted in his failing the class. In discussions with other teachers here, continual cheating has occurred elsewhere as well. Further, he’s been suspended from the school twice for selling drugs on campus. Had the school district administration not stepped in on the most recent instance, he would have been expelled from the school.
But there’s more. He confided in me that he was being abused by his father, and I duly reported this allegation to the school administration and local law enforcement. However, upon a thorough investigation by the school, law enforcement, and his religious leaders, it was determined that this young man had lied about this abuse because, as he put it eventually, he was “mad at his father.” But the consequence of this young man’s false allegations is that his father was fired by his employer (he is still unemployed, causing further strain on the family).
With all of this, I do not consider this young man to represent what an Eagle Scout is supposed to be; in fact, he’s apparently living his life the opposite of all Scouting values—values that I as his Scoutmaster and Eagle Scout myself hold dear.
The young man is 17, and about six months from his 18th birthday. I have been in discussion with both the Committee Chair and our Chartered Organization Representative. We are in concurrence that this young man simply isn’t Eagle-worthy. Do I, or we, therefore, have the authority to stop his advancement here and now? (Name & Council Withheld)
Yes, as Scoutmaster, you do have the right to deny this young man a conference, as well as your signature on his Eagle Scout RankApplication, thus denying him a board of review. Should you choose this option, then, per the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT section 126.96.36.199 (Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances), the Scout or his parents may request a district- or council-level board of review for the rank, in which no one from the troop will be involved. Please read the entire section cited before proceeding via this route.
If, however, a board of review is conducted per your recommendation, and fails to recommend this candidate for advancement to Eagle rank, then he or his parents may appeal this decision and request a reconsideration of it. Please read the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT Section 188.8.131.52 in its entirety before considering this path.
There is, however, at least one further alternative that may precede either of these options and might make them unnecessary, depending on the outcome. Let’s begin by understanding that while a Scoutmaster conference is necessary each time a Scout advances in rank (SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK, page 120), such conferences can be held at any time and used as a counseling tool. My recommendation to you is that such a “non-rank culmination” conference be held immediately.
To back up just slightly, you’ve told me that this Scout has completed all needed merit badges, has satisfactorily concluded his service project, and has satisfactorily served in a qualified leadership position for the prescribed amount of time, which would presume that he has also satisfactorily met the Eagle req. 1 (“active in troop/patrol for minimum six months”). However, you haven’t mentioned either req. 2, in which he will list the names and contact information for up to six people—including his parents, a religious reference, an educator (i.e., teacher at his school), an employer (including anyone who has paid him for labor or services including lawn-mowing, snow-shoveling, or babysitting)—who can attest to his having lived (or not) by the principles of the Scout Oath and Law in his daily life (i.e., outside of Scouting), nor have you mentioned req. 6, which is his written statement of ambitions and life purpose plus a listing of positions held in non-Scouting groups and/or organizations in which he demonstrated leadership, plus any recognitions or awards from same.
I recommend you begin by asking him to produce the necessary information for these two requirements as soon as possible but in no case more than a week, and then sit down with him (observe YP standards by doing this either “in public” at a troop meeting or—better yet!—with the troop’s Committee Chair present in the room). In this conversation, review his references with him. If you know the name of the other teacher in whose class he cheated, ask this young man how he’d feel about your requesting information from that teacher (without mentioning the incident). Ask him how he thinks his parents are going to respond, understanding that the requirement uses the plural (parents-with-an-s) so the Committee Chair will be speaking with both parents. Tell him that his school principal and possibly the town’s police chief will either be interviewed as references or may be invited to sit on his board of review. Then, ask him this question: “You and I haven’t held our official Scoutmaster conference for Eagle rank yet. Do you believe you’re ready for it, and ready to stand on your record of behavior up to now as exemplary of the Scout Oath and Law?”
If he says “yes,” you can tell him that this conference will now count as has final conference and that you are not recommending him; he can now follow the BSA appeal process (be prepared to hand him a copy of it).
If he says “no” or hesitates, then consider giving him this option: You and he will have his final conference during the week before his 18th birthday. Between now and then, he must earn back your trust and your belief that he is indeed qualified to become an Eagle Scout. However, this will be by doing more than merely “being good” for the next several months. Right now, the pendulum has swung way too far from the true and stated course, and merely returning it to a “neutral” position will not be enough; he must “DO good” and be exemplary at it. He will go out of his way to “help other people at all times;” he will actively work hard to demonstrate that he is “trustworthy,” “helpful,” “friendly,” “courteous,” “kind,” “clean,” and “reverent” because right now his “Scout spirit bank account” is empty and must be refilled. Then ask him if he believes he’s up to this challenge and prepared to turn himself around. If his answer is “yes,” then shake hands on it and be prepared to conference (briefly) with him several more times—these will be small “milepost” checks—before the final conference. If he says anything that’s not affirmative, then the conference is over and he can pursue the appeal process.
The reason I’m recommending this approach is fundamental: “Good” kids will become happy, productive, responsible citizens whether they’re Scouts or not, but that’s not who we’re in business for! We’re here for exactly this sort of young man… One who’s lost his way, or hasn’t found it yet. This is the young man who truly needs our help. As a Scoutmaster, educator, and religious leader, you’re in the unique position of having the opportunity to truly make a lasting difference in the life of a troubled young man. Yes, it’s huge challenge. Yes, the chance for success is perhaps slim. But we’re talking about the potential to literally save a life here. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.