Scouts with Disabilities–How to Stay out of the Headlines


Boy Scouting has been in the news this week, but not for something good. The father of a Scouting with Down syndrome has sued the BSA for blocking his son from becoming an Eagle Scout. I don’t know the details of the situation, but you can read the BSA’s official response at

The unfortunate thing about this whole situation is that Scouting has almost since its founding welcomed young people with disabilities. The Kentucky School for the Blind had a Scout troop way back in 1911–they’re shown above on a hike–and just last year three blind triplets in Virginia became Eagle Scouts.

Those three Scouts and many others with both physical and mental disabilities became Eagle Scouts because the BSA has detailed procedures in place for adjusting requirements and/or allowing membership beyond the age of 18. These procedures are outlined in the Guide to Advancement, which I referred to in a Scouting magazine article earlier this year.

Again, I don’t know what happened in the Utah situation that’s been in the news, but I have a hunch as to why things like this happen. Simply put, unfamiliarity breeds confusion. When you don’t do something regularly, whether that’s filling out an income-tax form or helping a Scout with disabilities work toward the Eagle rank, you’re bound to get confused and maybe make mistakes. (Conversely, when you do something regularly–like when you’re a CPA completing dozens of tax returns–the work becomes second nature.)

So the next time you have a Scout who needs special accommodations along the trail to Eagle, take the time to read the resources the BSA has provided, including those mentioned above and those on the BSA website. And if you’re still confused, send an email to for help. Lots of people have been down the same road and would be happy to lend a hand.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at


Eagle Courts of Honor: Patches Before Pomp


In an online forum for Eagle Scouts, someone posted a common question: If a Scout wants to delay his Eagle Scout court of honor for several months (in this case, because his brother is on military deployment), is it okay to for him to go ahead and start wearing his Eagle Scout pocket emblem?

My answer: It’s not just okay. It’s advisable.

The first reason is that the BSA advancement program is built on immediate recognition. As soon as is practical, a Scout should receive the awards he’s earned. In the case of the Eagle Scout rank, he ought to receive his patch as soon as the troop gets official notification of his advancement and his medal at his court of honor.

The second reason might be even more important: It makes the photos make sense. Here’s what I mean: At every Eagle court of honor, someone ought to shoot a nice, formal portrait of the honoree in uniform, something he, his family, and his eventual descendants may well treasure for generations to come. And it makes little sense for that portrait to show a Life patch and an Eagle medal.

But, wait, there’s one more reason! Many Scouts reach Eagle pretty close to their 18th birthdays. (In 2017, the average age was 17 years, 2 months, and 15 days.) If they don’t receive their patches immediately, many will never get to wear them, having to “settle” for the Eagle Scout knot adults were instead.

So give that new Eagle Scout his patch–and maybe a needle and thread. After all, anybody who’s capable of reaching Scouting’s highest rank ought to be able to sew on at least one patch!

For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both and

Critical Changes to Youth Protection Training


This weekend, people across America will be moving their clocks ahead an hour (or not and thus showing up late for church on Sunday!). At the same time, and perhaps more importantly, the BSA is moving the calendar ahead on Youth Protection Training.

As the BSA announced this week, every registered adult leader must take the new version of Youth Protection Training by October 1 of this year–even if they just did their training a month or two ago. The reason is that the training, which is now available on the BSA website, has been overhauled to broaden the coverage and incorporate videos from abuse-prevention experts and abuse victims.

But there’s another important change that may catch troop leaders off-guard. Beginning June 1, any adult who spends 72 hours or more on a unit outing must be registered, which means he or she must have completed Youth Protection Training and must have passed a criminal background check. And the 72 hours need not be continuous. For example, a dad who spends most of summer camp with your troop but goes home for a couple of days of meetings would still need to be registered, trained and background-checked. (When originally announced this policy only applied to Boy Scout troops, but it now applies across the board.)

Here are the key points from an email the BSA sent out this week:

  • As of January 1, 2018, no new leader can be registered without first completing youth protection training.
  • As of January 1, 2018, no council, regional, or national leader will be allowed to renew their registration if they are not current on their Youth Protection Training.
  • As of September 1, 2017, no unit may re-charter without all leaders being current on their Youth Protection Training. Registrars no longer have the ability to approve charters without full compliance.
  • Effective June 1, 2018, adults accompanying a Scouting unit who are present at the activity for 72 total hours or more must be registered as a leader, including completion of a criminal background check and Youth Protection Training. The 72 hours need not be consecutive.

There’s nothing we as Scouters do that’s more important than keeping our members safe. While these changes may complicate your job in the short term, in the long term they will undoubtedly pay off by creating a safer environment for every Scout.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at

Battling Weekly Amnesia


I recently read a detective novel where the main suspect–who, of course, was not guilty–couldn’t remember anything about the time of the murder. And that meant he couldn’t defend himself until the detective shook him out of his amnesiatic state.

Amnesia is one of those strange medical conditions that seemingly only crops up in novels and strange-but-true magazine stories. But when I was Scoutmaster, I witnessed it every single week.You see, the members of our patrol leaders’ council (from the senior patrol leader on down) would promise to do things before each Thursday’s meeting and would somehow forget their promises untilt they showed up at the Scout house. Even adult leaders occasionally showed symptoms.

Fortunately, I came up with an effective method for battling this baffling ailment. Each Tuesday, my senior patrol leader had a simple assignment: to call me to discuss the agenda for that week’s troop meeting. In 15 minutes or so, we would review what the PLC had planned, and we would each hang up knowing what we needed to get done in the next two days. That usually meant he would make several more phone calls to make sure other Scouts were ready to go come Thursday night.

There are lots of ways to connect the dots between a PLC meeting and subsequent troop meetings. It’s definitely a good idea, for example, to briefly convene the PLC after each meeting to discuss the plan for the next week. But having a midweek conversation like my SPL and I did is also important. Otherwise, your youth (and adult) leaders may succumb to weekly amnesia and arrive at the next troop meeting totally unprepared for what they’re supposed to do.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at