BSA Advancement Manual 2011
MB and Board of Reviews
Since we are preparing young people to make a positive difference in society, we judge that a member is “active” when his level of activity in Scouting has had a sufficiently positive influence toward this end.
22.214.171.124 Active Participation
The purpose of Star, Life, and Eagle Scout requirements calling for Scouts to be active for a period of months involves impact. Since we prepare young people to go forth, and essentially, make a positive difference in our American society, we judge that a member is “active” when his level of activity in Scouting, whether high or minimal, has had a sufficiently positive influence toward this end.
Use the following three sequential tests to determine whether the requirement has been met. The first and second are required, along with either the third or its alternative.
The Scout is registered. The youth is registered in his unit for at least the time period indicated in the requirement, and he has indicated in some way, through word or action, that he considers himself a member. If a boy was supposed to have been registered, but for whatever reason was not, discuss with the local council registrar the possibility of back-registering him.
The Scout is in good standing. A Scout is considered in “good standing” with his unit as long as he has not been dismissed for disciplinary reasons. He must also be in good standing with the local council and the Boy Scouts of America. (In the rare case he is not, communications will have been delivered.)
The Scout meets the unit’s reasonable expectations; or, if not, a lesser level of activity is explained. If, for the time period required, a Scout or qualifying Venturer or Sea Scout meets those aspects of his unit’s pre-established expectations that refer to a level of activity, then he is considered active and the requirement is met. Time counted as “active” need not be consecutive. A boy may piece together any times he has been active and still qualify.
Units are free to establish additional expectations on uniforming, supplies for outings, payment of dues, parental involvement, etc., but these and any other standards extraneous to a level of activity shall not be considered in evaluating this requirement.
Alternative to the third test if expectations are not met:
If a young man has fallen below his unit’s activity-oriented expectations, then it must be due to other positive endeavors— in or out of Scouting—or to noteworthy circumstances that have prevented a higher level of participation (see below). In this case a Scout is considered “active” if a board of review can agree that Scouting values have already taken hold and been exhibited. This might be evidenced, for example, in how he lives his life and relates to others in his community, at school, in his religious life, or in Scouting. It is also acceptable to consider and “count” positive activities outside Scouting when they, too, contribute to his growth in character, citizenship, or personal fitness. Remember; it is not so much about what a Scout has done. It is about what he is able to do and how he has grown.
There may be, of course, registered youth who appear to have zero level of activity. Maybe they are out of the country on an exchange program, or away at school. Or maybe we just haven’t seen them and wonder if they’ve quit. To pass the first test above, a Scout must be registered. But he must also have made it clear through outright participation or by communicating in some way that he still considers himself a member, even though—for now—he may not meet full expectations. A conscientious leader might make a call and discover the boy’s intentions.
If however, a Scout has been asked to leave his unit due to behavioral issues or the like, or if the council or the Boy Scouts of America has directed—for whatever reason—that he may not participate, then according to the second test he is not considered “active.”
In considering the third test, it is appropriate for units to set reasonable expectations for attendance and participation. Then it is simple: Those who meet them are “active.” But those who do not must be given the opportunity to qualify under the third-test alternative above. To do so, they must first offer an acceptable explanation. Certainly, there are medical, educational, family, and other issues that for practical purposes prevent higher levels of participation. These must be considered. Would the Scout have been more active if he could have been? If so, for purposes of advancement, he is deemed “active.”
We must also recognize the many worthwhile opportunities beyond Scouting. Taking advantage of these opportunities and participating in them may be used to explain why unit participation falls short. Examples might include involvement in religious activities, school, sports, or clubs that also develop character, citizenship, or personal fitness. The additional learning and growth experiences these provide can reinforce the lessons of Scouting and also give young men the opportunity to put them into practice in a different setting.
It is reasonable to accept that competition for a Scout’s time will become intense, especially as he grows older and wants to take advantage of positive “outside” opportunities. This can make full-time dedication to his unit difficult to balance. A fair leader therefore, will seek ways to empower a young man to plan his growth opportunities both within and outside Scouting, and consider them part of the overall positive life experience for which the Boy Scouts of America is a driving force.
A board of review can accept an explanation if it can be reasonably sure there have been sufficient influences in the Scout’s life that he is meeting our aims and can be awarded the rank regardless of his current or most recent level of activity in Scouting. The board members must satisfy themselves that he presents himself, and behaves, according to the expectations of the rank for which he is a candidate. Simply put: Is he the sort of person who, based on present behavior, will contribute to the Boy Scouts of America’s mission? Note that it may be more difficult, though not impossible, for a younger member to pass through the third-test alternative than for one more experienced in our lessons.
126.96.36.199 Demonstrate Scout Spirit
The ideals of the Boy Scouts of America are spelled out in the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout motto, and Scout slogan. Members incorporating these ideals into their daily lives at home, at school, in their religious life, and in their neighborhoods, for example, are said to have Scout spirit. In evaluating whether a member has fulfilled this requirement, it may be best to begin by asking him to explain what Scout spirit and living the Scout Oath and Scout Law mean to him. Young people know when they are being kind or helpful, or a good friend to others. They know when they are cheerful, or trustworthy, or reverent. All of us, young and old, know how we act when no one else is around.
A leader typically asks for examples of how a Scout has lived the Oath and Law. It might also be useful to invite examples of when he did not. This is not something to push, but it can help with the realization that sometimes we fail to live by our ideals, and that we all can do better. This also sends a message that a Scout can admit he has done wrong, yet still advance. Or in a serious situation—such as alcohol or illegal drug use—understand why advancement might not be appropriate just now. This is a sensitive issue, and must be treated carefully. Most Scout leaders do their best to live by the Oath and Law, but any one of them may look back on years past and wish that, at times, they had acted differently. We learn from these experiences and improve and grow. We can look for the same in our youth.
Evaluating Scout spirit will always be a judgment call, but through getting to know a young man and by asking probing questions, we can get a feel for it. We can say however, that we do not measure Scout spirit by counting meetings and outings attended. It is indicated, instead, by the way he lives his life.
188.8.131.52 Service Projects
Basic to the lessons in Scouting, especially regarding citizenship, service projects are a key element in the Journey to Excellence recognition program for councils, districts, and units. They should be a regular and critical part of the program in every pack, troop, team, crew, and ship.
Service projects required for Second Class, Star, and Life ranks may be conducted individually or through participation in patrol or troop efforts. They also may be approved for those assisting on Eagle Scout projects. Second Class requires a minimum of one hour on an approved project. An approval is important because it calls on a boy to think about what might be accepted, and to be prepared to discuss it. It is up to the unit to determine how this is done. In many troops, it is the Scoutmaster’s prerogative.
Star and Life ranks require at least six hours of service on a Scoutmaster preapproved project. Time spent on Eagle Scout service projects should be allowed in meeting these requirements. Note that Eagle projects do not have a minimum time requirement, but call for planning and development, and leadership of others, and must be preapproved by the council or district. (See “The Eagle Scout Service Project,” 184.108.40.206.)
220.127.116.11 Positions of Responsibility
“Serve actively for a period of … months in one or more … positions of responsibility” is an accomplishment every candidate for Star, Life, or Eagle must achieve. The following will help to determine whether a Scout has fulfilled the requirement.
18.104.22.168.1 Positions Must Be Chosen From Among Those Listed.
The position must be listed in the position of responsibility requirement shown in the most current edition of Boy Scout Requirements, No. 34765. Since more than one member may hold some positions— “instructor,” for example—it is expected that even very large units are able to provide suffi cient opportunities within the list. The only exception involves Lone Scouts, who may use positions in school, their place of worship, in a club, or elsewhere in the community. For Star and Life ranks only, a unit leader may assign a leadership project as a substitute for the position of responsibility. If this is done, he or she should consult the unit committee and unit advancement coordinator to arrive at suitable standards. The experience should provide lessons similar to those of the listed positions, but it must not be confused with, or compared to, the scope of an Eagle Scout service project.
22.214.171.124.2 Meeting the Time Test May Involve Any Number of Positions.
The requirement calls for a period of months. Any number of positions may be held as long as total service time equals at least the number of months required. Holding simultaneous positions does not shorten the required number of months. Positions need not flow from one to the other; there may be gaps between them. This applies to all qualified members including Lone Scouts. When a Scout assumes a position of responsibility, something related to the desired results must happen.
126.96.36.199.3 Meeting Unit Expectations.
If a unit has established expectations for positions of responsibility, and if, within reason (see the note under “Rank Requirements Overview,” 188.8.131.52), based on his personal skill set, the Scout meets them, he fulfills the requirement. When a Scout assumes a position, something related to the desired results must happen. It is a disservice to the Scout and to the unit to reward work that has not been done. Holding a position and doing nothing, producing no results, is unacceptable. Some degree of responsibility must be practiced, taken, or accepted.
184.108.40.206.4 Meeting the Requirement in the Absence of Unit Expectations.
It is best when a Scout’s leaders provide him position descriptions, and then direction, coaching, and support. Where this occurs, and is done well, the young man will likely succeed. When this support, for whatever reason, is unavailable or otherwise not provided—or when there are no clearly established expectations—then an adult leader or the Scout, or both, should work out the responsibilities to fulfill. In doing so, neither the position’s purpose nor degree of difficulty may be altered significantly or diminished. BSA literature provides the basis for this effort: the Scoutmaster Handbook, No. 33009, (“The Boy-Led Troop”); the Patrol Leader Handbook, No. 32502 (“Your Patrol and Your Troop”); the Varsity Scout Guidebook, No. 34827 (in explanations of team organization); the Venturing Leader Manual, No. 34655 (“Leadership in the Crew”); and the Sea Scout Manual, No. 33239 (“Officers’ Responsibilities”).
Under the above scenario, if it is left to the Scout to determine what should be done, and he makes a reasonable effort to perform accordingly for the time specified, then he fulfills this requirement. Even if his results are not necessarily what the Scoutmaster, members of a board of review, or others involved may want to see, he may not be held to unestablished expectations.
220.127.116.11.5 When Responsibilities Are Not Met. If a unit has clearly established expectations for position(s) held, then—within reason—a Scout must meet them through the prescribed time. If he is not meeting expectations, then this must be communicated early. Unit leadership may work toward a constructive result by asking him what he thinks he should be accomplishing. What is his concept of the position? What does he think his troop leaders—youth and adult—expect? What has he done well? What needs improvement? Often this questioning approach can lead a young man to the decision to measure up. He will tell the leaders how much of the service time should be recorded. If it becomes clear nothing will improve his performance, then it is acceptable to remove the Scout from his position. Every effort should have been made while he was in the position to ensure he understood expectations and was regularly supported toward reasonably acceptable performance. It is unfair and inappropriate— after six months, for example—to surprise a boy who thinks he has been doing fine, with news that his performance is now considered unsatisfactory. In this case, he must be given credit for the time.
Only in rare cases—if ever—should troop leaders inform a Scout that time, once served, will not count.
If a Scout believes he has performed his duties satisfactorily, but his leaders disagree, then the possibility that expectations are unreasonable should be considered. If after discussions between the Scout and his leaders— and perhaps including his parents or guardians—he believes he is being held to unreasonable expectations, then upon completing the remaining requirements, he must be granted a board of review. If he is an Eagle candidate, then he may request a board of review under disputed circumstances (see “Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances,” 18.104.22.168).
22.214.171.124.6 “Responsibility” and “Leadership.” Many suggest this requirement should call for a position of “leadership” rather than simply of “responsibility.” Taking and accepting responsibility, however, is a key foundation for leadership. One cannot lead effectively without it. The requirement as written recognizes the different personalities, talents, and skill sets in all of us. Some seem destined to be “the leader of the group.” Others provide quality support and strong examples behind the scenes. Without the latter, the leaders in charge have little chance for success. Thus, the work of the supporters becomes part of the overall leadership effort.
126.96.36.199 Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference
The unit leader (Scoutmaster) conference, regardless of the rank or program, is conducted according to the guidelines in the Scoutmaster Handbook, No. 33009. Note that a Scout must participate or take part in one; it is not a “test.” Requirements do not say he must “pass” a conference. While it makes sense to hold one after other requirements for a rank are met, it is not required that it be the last step before the board of review. This is an important consideration for Scouts on a tight schedule to meet the requirements before age 18. Last-minute work can sometimes make it impossible to fit the conference in before then, so scheduling it earlier can avoid unnecessary extension requests.
The conference can provide a forum for discussing ambitions and life purpose and for establishing goals for future achievement, but work left to be completed may be discussed just as easily as that which is finished. If appropriate, an “object lesson” on delayed effort could prove valuable. Ultimately, conference timing is up to the unit. Some leaders hold more than one along the way, and any of them can count toward the requirement.
Though stated earlier in this publication, it bears repeating here: No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from advancement requirements. There are no camp-related exemptions except those described in “Advancement for Members With Special Needs,”
Though it has not been clearly stated in the past, units, districts, and local councils do not have the authority to implement a different system for merit badge approval and documentation. In any case, through the years, many councils have created new forms and approaches to the process, some including IT components. In an effort to gather and consider these potential best practices, councils are now asked to submit descriptions and copies of their blue card alternatives to the national Advancement Team.
A Guide for Merit Badge Counseling, No. 34532,
can be useful in recruiting. Merit badge counselors register at no fee, using the Boy Scouts of America’s standard adult registration form with position code 42. Designated members of the council or district advancement committee should provide the approval signature. The council advancement committee annually coordinates counselor reregistration. This may be done as part of the local council charter renewal process. A letter or message extending an invitation can be sent to each counselor who is to be approved for another year. Those identified as not following Boy Scouts of America policies and procedures, or not providing services as promised, should not be invited to return.
Volunteers who are properly registered as merit badge counselors can renew annually without completing an adult application; their names will appear on the district roster for renewal. Anyone who is currently unregistered, or who is registered in another position but also desires to serve as a merit badge counselor, must complete an adult application.
188.8.131.52 Training for Counselors
The council or district advancement committee must assure counselors understand the Boy Scouts of America’s aims, methods, and mission. It is also important they know how Scouts can learn and grow through the merit badge process. Volunteers and professionals related to the national Advancement Team have developed an orientation that can be used one-on-one or in group settings. It can be found at http://scouting.org/Training/Adult/Supplemental/ MeritBadgeCounselorInstructorsGuide.aspx and is often delivered as part of a wider experience covering several levels of Scout leader training. Where a counselor corps is organized into groups based on the popularity or subject matter of badges, with “head counselors” for each group (see below), there is also an opportunity for “on-the-job coaching.” This is helpful where individual counselors need a better understanding of the merit badge plan.
The Worksheet for Building a Merit Badge Counselor List, available online at http://www.scouting.org/forms.aspx, organizes the badges into 14 logical groups, such as business and industry, natural science, communications, and public service, and advises a head counselor for each one. The council or district advancement committee appoints them and they take responsibility within their groups. Head counselors are not expected to be experts in each badge, but they should be capable of recruiting those who meet the qualifications. Remember that counselor recruiting is an ongoing responsibility. As new ones are added and others drop off, it is vital these changes be communicated to the district or council advancement committee.
The number of counselors needed for the list depends on badge popularity. First consider badges required for Eagle Scout rank, which are obvious “musts.” Next think about those most popular in the local area. Reports on merit badges earned can be generated at your council service center. For low-demand subjects, counselors may appear on more than one district list. Urge troops, teams, crews, and ships to make as many of their counselors as possible available districtwide.
The council or district counselor list is reproduced for distribution to troops, teams, crews, and ships. It is most
efficient to set the list up as an electronic document that includes all counselors in the council. Establishing it as a spreadsheet or database can allow sorting for counselors willing to serve at the council, district, or unit level. It is important to maintain and update this list regularly so that users can depend upon it.
184.108.40.206 Web-Based Counselor Lists
Online counselor lists present a number of challenges. They should only be placed on official council websites that conform to the National Council guidelines at http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Marketing/ Resources/CouncilWeb.aspx. Give attention to protecting counselor privacy. Limit access to those who have merit badge–related responsibilities, such as advancement committee members and chairs, or unit leaders and selected assistants. Scouts should not have access. Their interaction with the Scoutmaster in obtaining approval to work on a badge, and obtaining a counselor’s name, is an important part of the merit badge plan.
220.127.116.11 Unit Counselor Lists
Units may establish their own lists of counselors, who may or may not opt to work with youth in other units. This may be necessary in wide geographic areas. It can also be helpful to have ready counselors for the most popular badges. Recognize, however, that Scouts learn from the perspectives of counselors outside their own troop. Note that all merit badge counselors, including those serving only one unit, must be registered and be approved by the council (or district, if authorized) advancement committee.
18.104.22.168 Partial Completions
Scouts need not pass all requirements with one counselor. The Application for Merit Badge has a place to record what has been finished—a “partial.” In the center section on the reverse of the blue card, the counselor initials for each requirement passed. In the case of a partial completion, he or she does not retain the counselor’s portion of the card. A subsequent counselor may choose not to accept partial work, but this should be rare. A Scout, if he believes he is being treated unfairly, may work with his Scoutmaster to find another counselor. An example for the use of a signed partial would be to take it to camp as proof of prerequisites. Partials have no expiration except the 18th birthday.
Suggestions for new merit badges may be sent to the Innovation Team at the National Council, email@example.com. Ideas are researched for relevance to the BSA mission and the needs of today’s youth and families. Subject matter must spark interest in Scout-age boys; thus part of the process involves presenting submissions to a youth panel.
Boards of Review:
An Overview for All Ranks
This section first covers board of review procedures for all Boy Scout ranks. It is followed by “Particulars for Tenderfoot Through Life Ranks (or Palms),” 22.214.171.124; and “Particulars for the Eagle Scout Rank,” 126.96.36.199.
188.8.131.52 Purpose and Timeliness of Boards of Review
After a Scout has completed the requirements for any rank or Eagle Palm, he appears before a board of review. Its purpose is to determine the quality of his experience, decide whether he is qualified to advance and, if so, encourage him to continue the quest for Eagle or the next Palm. Because the board of review date becomes the effective advancement date, boards should be scheduled at least monthly so Scouts are not delayed in beginning time-oriented requirements for the next rank.
184.108.40.206 Boards of Review Must Be Granted When Requirements Are Met
A Scout cannot be denied this opportunity. When he believes he has completed all the requirements, including a Scoutmaster conference, it is up to the unit leader and committee to assure a board of review is held. Scoutmasters, for example, do not have authority to expect a boy to request one, or to “defer” him, or to ask him to perform beyond the requirements in order to be granted one.
Except in disputed circumstances as noted in “Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances,” 220.127.116.11, the Scout or his parents or guardians shall not be responsible for
requesting that a board take place. A board of review must consist of no fewer than three members and no more than six. For further specifications, see “Particulars for Tenderfoot Through Life Ranks (or Palms),” 18.104.22.168, and “Particulars for the Eagle Scout Rank,” 22.214.171.124. Unit leaders and assistants may not serve on a board of review for a Scout in their own unit. Parents or guardians may not serve on a board for their son. The candidate or his parent(s) or guardian(s) shall have no part in selecting any board of review members.
Wearing the Uniform—or Neat in Appearance
It is preferred a Scout be in full field uniform for any board of review. He should wear as much of it as he owns, and it should be as correct as possible, with the badges worn properly. It may be the uniform as the members of his troop, team, crew, or ship wear it. If wearing all or part of the uniform is impractical for whatever reason, the candidate should be clean and neat in his appearance and dressed appropriately, according to his means, for the milestone marked by the occasion. Regardless of unit expectations or rules, boards of review may not reject candidates dressed to this description; neither may they require the purchase of uniforming, or clothing such as coats and ties.
A positive attitude is most important, and that a young man accepts Scouting’s ideals and sets and meets good standards in his life.
The particulars below pertain only to the Eagle Scout rank.
Council advancement committees must determine— and make known—method(s) for conducting Eagle Scout boards of review: whether unit committees or the council or district advancement committees administer them, and also how board chairpersons are selected.
If conducted at the unit level, at least one district or council representative must serve as a member. If the unit requests it, more than one may do so.
There shall be no fewer than three and no more than six members, all at least 21 years old. They need not be on an advancement committee or registered with the Boy Scouts of America, but they must have an understanding of the rank and the purpose and importance of the review.
126.96.36.199 Section 9.
The Eagle Scout Rank
188.8.131.52 The Eagle Scout Rank Application Process
The following steps for preparing and submitting the Eagle Scout Rank application and accompanying materials will help prevent delays in securing National Council approval and certification.
184.108.40.206 Complete All the Requirements
Confirm all requirements have been completed: merit badges, service project, active participation, Scout spirit, position of responsibility, etc. Note that the unit leader (Scoutmaster) conference must occur before the 18th birthday, though it need not be the last item accomplished. The board of review, however, may be conducted after the 18th birthday. For details, see “Boards of Review,” 220.127.116.11.
18.104.22.168 Prepare the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook
The most current workbook must be used. It can be found at http://www.scouting.org/forms.aspx. The workbook shows the project proposal was approved ahead of time, and then properly accepted by all parties when finished. Ideally, it will be a proud reminder of a significant accomplishment. See “Use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook,” 22.214.171.124.
126.96.36.199 Complete the Application
The Scout must complete the official Eagle Scout Rank application, No. 512-728. No other form or application method is permitted. A fillable PDF can be found at http://www.scouting.org/forms.aspx. The application can also be printed and completed by hand. Careful review and thorough proofing will prevent delays. Remember, everything is verified by the local council;
The unit leader and committee chair signatures represent approval for the candidate to move on to a board of review. In providing them, the signers carefully check the application. If there are “red-flag” issues (see above), such as time spans between ranks that don’t meet the requirements, then the dates should be confirmed. If they are correct but do not fit the requirement, then the Scout, parents, or unit leader should contact the district advancement chair for guidance. Usually, as with unavoidable discrepancies, a letter of explanation will be helpful in addressing the issue.
If either approval is withheld, the Scout, if he desires it, must still be granted a board of review. For details, see “Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances,” 188.8.131.52.
184.108.40.206 Submit to Council Service Center
A copy should be made of the application, service project workbook, and the other attachments. Once copies are in safekeeping, the originals are delivered promptly to the council service center. The candidate should not have to wait. Timeliness is especially critical if he is approaching, or has already turned, 18. Sending materials late can imply the work continued afterward. If possible, everything should be hand-delivered. Otherwise it should be sent by registered or certified mail.
Councils may suggest service project workbooks (only) be sent or taken to a different person or location, such as a district advancement committee member. This has the potential for cost-savings in sending it out for the board of review. An Eagle Scout candidate, however, should confirm that any related instructions are correct and up-to-date. If there is any concern the workbook will go to the wrong place, it should accompany the Eagle application to the service center.
220.127.116.11 Council Verifies Application and Board of Review Scheduled
Everything is checked against council records. If information in ScoutNET or council files is incomplete, the Scout or the unit will be asked to provide certificates, blue cards, or other suitable proof that merit badges and ranks were earned and that dates are accurate. If everything is correct, the council provides a certification signature, files a copy of the application, and sends the original with the service project workbook and other items (such as reference letters received) to the board of review chair or other designated volunteer. The board is scheduled only after the council-certified application is received.
Completed reference responses of any kind are the property of the council and are confidential, and only review-board members and those officials with a specific need may see them. The responses are not to be viewed by, or returned to, the Scout. Doing so could discourage the submission of negative information. For the same reason, those providing references shall not be given the option of waiving confidentiality. Once a review has been held, or an appeal process conducted, responses shall be returned to the council, where they will be destroyed after the Eagle Scout credentials are released or the appeal is concluded.
In Boy Scouting, advancement references are required only for Eagle Scout rank. The council determines methods of contact.
18.104.22.168 Application Returned to Council Service Center
If a board of review approves a candidate, the signed application, reference letters, and other confidential information are returned to the local council. Unless otherwise directed, the service project workbook and statement of ambitions and life purpose (requirement 6, Eagle Scout Rank application) can be returned to the Scout. If approval is denied, all materials are returned to the council.
The statement of ambitions and life purpose, as noted on the Eagle Scout Rank application, is an official rank requirement. It will be added to the requirements shown in official literature.
22.214.171.124 Council Sends Application to National Advancement Team