Ask the Expert: Is it a violation of BSA policy to have “closed” meetings?

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We received the following question from Janet Riley:

Our Patrol Leaders Council is a closed meeting. When my son wanted to present some camping ideas to the PLC, he had to get special permission from the SPL to do so.

I was specifically asked not to come in [to the meeting] when my son did because the SM said it would be perceived as “interference.”
I am the committee chair and told our Scoutmaster that it is a violation of BSA policy to have closed PLC meetings. Who's right?

Janet is referring to Youth Protection Guidelines, which every adult volunteer must know. Here's the specific excerpt she cited:

"No secret organizations. The Boy Scouts of America does not recognize any secret organizations as part of its program. All aspects of the Scouting program are open to observation by parents and leaders."

To interpret the rules, we asked Joe Glasscock. Here's his response:

This is an issue where both sides have a point. The PLC meeting is a closed meeting, not a secret one. I can see the Scoutmaster's point that having a lot of extra people would be a distraction.

On the other hand, any parent, and certainly the Committee Chair, should be allowed to attend with the understanding that they would be seated in an outer circle and would not have voice in the decisions of the PLC.

We hope that clears it up for you, Janet. Thanks for your question!


  1. Closed and secret are 2 separate things…
    The Scoutmaster shouldn’t have the say into who can or can’t attend…that is up to the PLC. If the PLC allows scouts and parents to sit in on meetings, to take notes, suggest ideas or offer advice, is that against what we are trying to teach?
    We, as adults, always want parent/adult input at the unit committee meetings, isn’t a PLC along the same lines?
    Suggested solution…The Scoutmaster advises the PLC that it may be a good idea to allow anyone to attend, but if they are there to just observe, then that is what they do…observe. If they have a comment or idea, then they will have the floor for a predetermined amount of time. The time when they can speak, and how long they can speak, should be determined by the SPL/PLC.

  2. “On the other hand, any parent, and certainly the Committee Chair, should be allowed to attend with the understanding that they would be seated in an outer circle and would not have voice in the decisions of the PLC.”
    That’s how it should be handled.
    But that’s NOT a “closed meeting”.
    This is how most Lodge Executive Committee meetings (and other OA meetings) are run. That how Council E-Board meetings should be run. Others (non members of the board) may drop by the meeting and what the proceedings, but can’t join in.

  3. I have seen this happen in a troop that I was associated with. Perhaps the fact that the Chair is woman has something to with it. Some Scoutmaster have an issue with women sticking their nose into the club, or listening to other views. I know of one Scoutmaster that did not want committee members to even speak to Scouts without his permission. Obliviously a Scoutmaster that thinks the troop is his own fiefdom.

  4. The Scoutmaster isn’t in charge of the PLC, as SM Shawn noted. Any Scoutmaster who says that is in error, and the committee should work with them to get the training they need to be current. If the SM is resistant to training, it’s time for a new SM.

  5. If run right, the SM is trying to let the PLC (the boys) run things. They have been elected the leaders of the troop. This women and her son are not the leaders. Her place for input is with the Troop Committee, her son could speak in his Patrol and have his Patrol Leader take it to the PLC. I’m sure the Troop Committee or his Scoutmaster would also be glad to hear from him. A major part of Scouting is that it’s BOY LEAD. As a scout our Senior Patrol would meet in an area that was within view but out of earshot.

  6. I agree if a troop is to be boy run than a plc should be run by the spl the scoutmaster should himself only observe as should others and ideas should be funneled through the scoutmaster to the spl and then on to the plc.

    from a scoutmaster…….

  7. should sm be setting up conference call plc meetings and also giving the spl a ajenda to go by. and does he have to be at every meeting

  8. My troop has about 40 people on the committee, and only 5 – 10 are present on a regular basis. The committee wants a new trailer, which is not needed, and only want to allow 5 people to vote, isn’t this extremely corrupt and wrong. All members should be told of committee meetings but they are not.

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