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Boy Scouts of America to reconsider national membership policy

Update (Jan. 31): The BSA has provided this page for leaving feedback about the membership policy. Alternatively, you can email feedback@scouting.org.

Update (Feb. 5): Thanks to everyone for their valuable feedback. After more than 2,100 comments in the past week, I’ve determined that it’s time to close the comment thread on this post.


The Boy Scouts of America is discussing whether to remove the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation, the organization announced today.

If approved, the move would end any national policy regarding sexual orientation of members and hand the responsibility of accepting members and selecting leaders to chartered organizations. Chartered organizations could then handle this task in accordance with their mission, principles, and/or religious beliefs.

The news was announced in an email sent by Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock to all National Council employees this afternoon and confirmed through a media statement posted to Scouting.org.

“Let me be clear that the change under discussion would allow chartered organizations to determine how to address this issue,” Brock writes. “The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”

Discussion on the proposed policy change will continue during the National Executive Board meeting in Texas next week.

If the board takes action related to the membership policy, Brock says, it will be promptly communicated to all professionals and volunteers.

And I’ll post the news here on Bryan on Scouting, as well.

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Amateur radio operators: Wear your smarts on your sleeve

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With apologies to the Buggles, I’m happy to report that the radio star is alive and well.

Well, the ham radio star, at least. And now the BSA offers a special patch for licensed aficionados of amateur radio. The Amateur Radio Operator Rating Strip, above, shows others that you’re available for communication services for events, like Jamboree on the Air, and emergencies.

The requirements for the strip couldn’t be simpler: You must be a registered youth or adult member with a valid amateur radio license, of any class, issued by the Federal Communications Commission, known to you and me as the FCC.

That’s it. If you’re eligible, grab the $1.59 strip (Supply No. 617431) from the Boy Scout Supply Group at 800-­323-­0736 or scoutstuff.org. The strip’s release date is Feb. 15, and you can’t preorder it. So mark your calendars to fire off an order the day after Valentine’s Day.

Continue reading

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Greatest hits: My 12 most-read blog posts of 2012

For Scouts and Scouters, 2012 had plenty of ups — and a couple of downs.

We welcomed changes: new merit badges, new Eagle Scout requirements, a new Chief Scout Executive, and a new high-adventure base in West Virginia, to name a few.

We celebrated 100 years of the Eagle Scout award and learned 46 ways that Eagle Scouts are different from non-Eagles.

We mourned together when news broke that two of the young victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were Tiger Cubs.

And we healed together when superstorm Sandy struck close to home for some Scout units on the East Coast.

I tried to chronicle these important BSA happenings throughout the year here on Bryan on Scouting through 229 new posts. I’m thankful for readers like you who contributed to the 850,000 views in 2012. Statistically, it was the best year of the three full years I’ve been blogging about all things Scouting.

So thanks for helping me share what I found newsworthy, interesting, or fun.

But which of these posts caught your attention most this year? Let’s find out by revealing the 12 most-read blog posts of 2012, after the jump…  Continue reading

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Youth Protection: It really does begin with YOU

youth-protectionYou might not enjoy reading this.

But it could be the most important thing you’ll read today.

As stated in The Boy Scout Handbook, “Child abuse is a serious problem in our society, and unfortunately, it can occur anywhere, even in Scouting.  Youth safety is Scouting’s No. 1 concern.”

Child abusers are out there. They come in all shapes and sizes.

That’s not meant as a tabloid-style scare tactic. It’s just the truth.

The good news is that you’re not alone in your efforts to help identify, report, and, thus, prevent offenders from harming your kids.

The BSA has the tools and information you need. That’s why even though you only take the training once every two years, Youth Protection is a 24-7, 365-day-a-year operation. That’s as true for Scouters and Scout parents as it is for all of us who work for the Boy Scouts of America.

As a youth organization, the BSA isn’t alone in its efforts to help prevent abuse. Did you know that the Boy Scouts of America hosted the first-of-its-kind National Youth Protection Symposium in early November? I did, and I wanted to know more about what took place at this event.

So this week, I sat down with Michael Johnson, the BSA’s Youth Protection director, to talk about the symposium, discuss current and emerging threats to children, and learn what parents and Scouters can do to make the movement safe. Continue reading

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An easy way to honor one of your everyday heroes

medal-of-honorThe heroes I know don’t wear capes, and they can’t fly. Their utility belts hold pocket knives, not grappling hooks.

But the heroes I know often have secret identities. That is, they’re the volunteers who dedicate every free second to Scouting—even when no one is watching. I’ll bet there’s one of these unsung heroes in your unit.

Give that person the credit he or she deserves by nominating him/her for the Citizen Service Before Self Honors, presented by the members of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Nominations are open for ordinary Americans who become extraordinary through “a single instance of bravery or through a lifetime of service to others.” Sounds right up the BSA’s alley.

Deadline to submit a nomination is Friday, Dec. 28, 2012.

Then, on March 23, 2013, three U.S. citizens will be awarded Citizen Service Before Self Honors near the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery. They will receive this award from a group of men who have received our nation’s highest and most prestigious award for valor: the Medal of Honor.  Continue reading

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The Scout Law for the Facebook and Twitter set

Seventy-six years before Mark Zuckerberg was even born, the original Scout Law appeared in Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys.

No need for a new set of 12, though. Turns out those words — which the BSA adapted and adopted in 1911 — still apply as 2013 nears.

That’s why the Boy Scouts of America just released a new pledge called “The Scout Law and Cybersafety/Cyberbullying” to be signed by a Scout, his/her parent, and a leader.

Consider it a new interpretation of those 12 points for the generation growing up with (deep breath) Facebook, Google, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Foursquare, SMS, MMS, and OMGs.

Check it out:  Continue reading

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Radio-active JOTA participation reaches new heights

JOTA, I hear you loud and clear.

More than 18,000 American Scouts participated in the 2012 edition of the Jamboree on the Air last month. That’s a whopping 482 percent leap over last year’s participant total.

So let me extend a big Bravo Zulu (that’s “well done” in radio speak) to the 136 Scout councils, 41 states, and 18,537 Scouts who expanded their minds through long-distance radio communication. And even more kudos to Jim Wilson (K5ND) and the eight-member National Radio Scouting Committee.

Scouts from the U.S. contacted other participants in all 50 states and in 66 different countries. Max Siles, a New Jersey unit commissioner, was impressed.  Continue reading

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In the loop: A guide to square knots, and how to wear them

You’ve been awarded a square knot. Congratulations! Now what?

If you’ve been honored with one of the 34 square knots currently available (see the full list below), waste no time in sewing that badge of honor to your uniform. Though they don’t tell the whole story of a Scouter’s impact, these tiny rectangles provide great evidence of a volunteer’s efforts.

But before you dust off the sewing machine, read these tips:

Location, location, location: Knots should go over the left pocket, as seen from the wearer’s perspective. Line them up in rows of three in any order you choose. Typically, the knot you deem most important is worn on the bottom row on your right, but that’s your call. If your knot total isn’t divisible by three — aka you have a row of one or two knots — you can either center them in the row or keep them aligned to your right. The latter method means you won’t have to re-sew those knots if you get a new one.

Count to nine: If you’ve been a Scouter for some time, those knots could really stack up. How high they go above your pocket is up to you, but the BSA recommends wearing no more than nine — or three rows of three.

Don’t flip out: Yes, square knots have a right-side-up. The chart above explains the process of determining which end goes where. This can be tricky on single-color knots, but if you squint really hard you can tell which loop on the knot is above the other.

Which knot is which?: Let’s hope you can identify the knots on your own uniform, but it’s likely you’ll see a knot or two out in the field that you don’t recognize. Here’s a handy chart (click to enlarge):  Continue reading

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Why do we love Scouting? Let us count the ways …

Young or old, single mom or new dad, Scouting has millions of fans across the country.

I know why I love the Boy Scouts of America—it was my gateway to this awesome job, for one—but I wanted to hear others’ stories. So I pinged our friends on Facebook with this simple question: Why do you love the Boy Scouts of America?

You really should take a moment to read all of the answers at this link. It’s enough to remind us why we do what we do for this organization.

But if you’re short on time, I’ve culled my 15 favorite responses below.  Continue reading

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Your life just got easier, thanks to these new online unit and district tools

Updating your personal info in the BSA’s database shouldn’t take an act of congress.

Fortunately, a just-launched suite of unit and district tools has the power to change your address, phone number, e-mail, or more—with just a click.

In the past, Scouters or parents who needed to make changes had to call their council. Now they can do all of it through the Unit and District Tools page on MyScouting (changes to your name and date of birth still go through your council, for Youth Protection reasons).

I suggest you log in soon and make sure the BSA has your most up-to-date contact info. Does someone in your unit lack reliable computer access? Have them call one of their unit’s Key 3 (unit leader, the chartered organization representative, or the unit committee chairman) to change it for them.

And simplified contact info is just the beginning. Phase 1 also offers an announcements page, a calendar, and a roster manager. You can learn about all the new tools and how to use them in the tutorial below. Or just log in and explore. I found it very intuitive.

I also want to draw your attention to the design of the new Unit and District Tools site. It’s clean and simple, with large icons and no frills. That’s a conscious, forward-thinking move by Debra Kendrew, Brianne Dondlinger, and other members of the project team.

“It’s designed simply for a reason,” Debra says. “It’s optimized for use on all mobile devices.”

Future phases will only make these tools better. Debra and Brianne gave me a sneak peek of these changes coming soon:  Continue reading