Ask the Expert: The BSA’s ‘active’ requirement, revisited

Updated | May 7, 2013

Can a unit set attendance requirements?

Can Scouters mandate, for example, that Scouts show up for at least half of all meetings and outings?

When I first received this question in 2009, the answer was no. But that was back when Bryan on Scouting was called “Cracker Barrel.”

Times change. (As do advancement requirements and names of blogs.)

Today, the answer is yes — with certain limitations. Read on to learn more.

Here’s the Ask the Expert question I received last week from Keith Solberg of the Pacific Harbors Council:

I’ve seen my question addressed in Scouting magazine before, but I’m hoping that maybe it can be restated.

The 2011 Guide to Advancement states on Page 2, that advancement requirements cannot be added to or subtracted from by any council, committee, etc.

However, my son is in a troop where the committee thinks it’s appropriate to set attendance requirements.  They are using the excuse that they have the right to do so under their definition of what constitutes an “active” Scout.

In 2009, in Scouting magazine, Bill Evans, team leader of youth development for the BSA stated that troops cannot set attendance requirements. I tried to inform my committee of what was stated in 2009 and I was told that the reference was old and that requirements have changed. Help!

Thanks for the e-mail, Keith. I’ll give you the answer from three different sources. Same answer, just three different explanations.

The BSA’s Guide to Advancement

(Added May 7, 2013): The 2011 Guide to Advancement, which is the most-current as of this update in May 2013, states that units may add attendance requirements. One unit that contacted me requires Scouts attend 75 percent of all meetings and 50 percent of all troop outings.

That’s fine, but troops must use this three-part test for determining whether a Scout is “active.” The first two are required, while the third is an either-or proposition.

  1. The Scout must be registered.
  2. The Scout must be in good standing, meaning he hasn’t been dismissed for disciplinary reasons or deemed unfit to be a Scout by the council.
  3. One of these (1) or (2):
    1. The Scout must meet the unit’s reasonable expectations for activity.
    2. If a young man has fallen below his unit’s activity-oriented expectations, then it must be because of other positive endeavors— in or out of Scouting—or to
      noteworthy circumstances that have prevented a higher level of participation. 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.

So a Scout who is active at his church or other positive uses of his time could qualify for an exception. The goal, as the Guide to Advancement explains, is for the board members to “satisfy themselves that [the Scout] 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?”

One more thing to keep in mind: Units may set expectations for uniforming, dues, or parental involvement — but these cannot be included in determining whether a Scout is “active.”

All of this is taken straight from the 2011 Guide to Advancement (PDF), which is quite clear on the subject and when exceptions should be considered. Take time to read this section, which starts on Page 21.

Scouting magazine’s Advancement FAQs

There’s even more insight in the magazine article we published in our March-April 2012 issue. The information there, which uses the newest requirements, should answer all of your “active” requirement questions. It states that units may set attendance requirements “so long as the standard is reasonable and recognizes the many worthwhile opportunities beyond Scouting.”

Chris Hunt, BSA Advancement Team

Just to triple-check, I checked in with Chris Hunt of the BSA’s advancement team. Here’s what he wrote:

The unit has always been able to establish attendance requirements, but in the past they could not consider them in the advancement program — even in adjudicating the “active” requirement.

This changed with the new Guide to Advancement. This is covered in detail in topic, which in summary says that if a Scout is registered, in good standing, and meets his unit attendance standard he is considered active. If attendance falls below the standard, there is a method to determine if he can be considered active in spite of this. This involves considering the reasons why attendance does not meet the standard, such as heath issues, or conflict with worthwhile affiliations outside of Scouting.

Real-time advancement updates

Be sure to follow the BSA Advancement Team on Twitter (@AdvBSA) for real-time updates and reminders.

Have a question?

Send me an e-mail. Be sure to include “Ask the Expert” in the subject line, and I’ll try to find an answer here at the BSA headquarters.

About Bryan Wendell 3286 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.