On righting wrongs in Scouting: When do you, the adult leader, speak up?

Tuesday-TalkbackDuring a summer camp flag ceremony, the American flag doesn’t quite make it to the top of the pole.

You, the adult leader …

A: Wait until later to privately talk with the Scouts serving as color guard.

B: Wait until later to talk with the senior patrol leader and ask him to speak with the color guard.

C: Yell out during the ceremony for the boys to “raise it all the way to the top!”

At a recent summer camp, one Scouter who will remain anonymous saw another adult choose Option C.

That led him to write me this email:


Thanks for your blog. One of the few I read regularly. Great source of timely information.

An idea for a future Tuesday Talkback discussion: How to properly correct situations.

I have to admit that I am frequently surprised at Scouting events by some of my fellow leaders’ behavior. Yelling at Scouts to take off their hats, for example.

Perhaps a Tuesday discussion on handling such situations and leaders — a gentle reminder that neither of these situations benefit from adults being jerks.


[Name Withheld]

Righting wrongs in Scouting

So what’s the right way to right a wrong you see in your pack, troop, team, crew, post or ship?

Share your ideas not only for righting wrongs you notice but also for dealing with adult leaders who try to right wrongs in inappropriate ways.


  1. B is clearly the correct response. It lets the SPL do his job. If the SPL isn’t doing his job, the a leader should talk directly with the boys handling the flag. The only time any outburst is necessary is if safety is a concern (a stom rapidly approaching could cause a leader to interven and get the boys out of harm’s way.

    • B is only correct if your are the Scoutmaster. If not the Scoutmaster, none apply. The Scoutmaster should be providing the SPL with direction, not all the people who wear a uniform. Also…it isn’t a huge deal so there is option D: let them hit chow…fix it privately. Take an opportunity in a worship service during a patriotic message or SM minute to discuss how to fully raise a flag. Remember they are learning…so explain, maybe demonstrate, I say guide, so they can be enabled.

      • Why only the SM? I see no reason why other uniformed leaders cannot speak to the SPL. Why should that be limited to the SM and why should all the burden be placed there? Educating the scouts is a team effort that should be shared by all the leaders.

        • Should ten Assistant Scoutmasters be able to burden one SPL with all of their requests? What if the Scoutmaster already dealt with the issue or gave different instructions already?

  2. I honestly think there needs to be a balance between A and B. A should have been done prior to event to set expectations. B should be utilized in the event of problems arising. But, if necessary don’t be afraid to use A.

    • Personally, if the Troop runs using the Patrol Method, A shouldn’t be necessary and B should always be preferred. Unless, of course, the SPL needs the education.

  3. It’s entirely situational as to when and how to speak up. If it’s a matter of safety or youth protection, you should intervene immediately, and then counsel the Senior Patrol Leader. In most other cases, “B” would be the correct answer, but it is NOT cut and dry.

  4. B. Using mistakes as a learning opportunity and treating scouts with the same respect that the leader wishes to be treated will go a long way. Yelling and being a jerk will get you no where quick and in the end the boys will just think your a jerk so nobody wins.

  5. Praise in public, correct in private. Boys make mistakes, so do adults; there is no reason to humiliate them. In this case the SPL could easily handle the correction without adult intervention.

    I had the opportunity to work with an adult leader who routinely corrected Cub Scouts in public, loudly and without regard for the repercussions of his actions. He seemed surprised when very few Webelos chose to join his troop.

  6. My question is “If we believe B to be the correct response, did someone have a private conversation with leader that chose option C ? I suspect he may very strong feelings regarding flag etiquette, perhaps a veteran? Might be a possible instructor for a University of Scouting class on Flag etiquette.

    • Hello David, There’s a saying in BSA training that if you send a monkey to training, you get back a trained monkey. Similarly, if you put a Scout uniform on a jerk, you get a jerk in a Scout uniform. There are those of us, including some of us who are veterans, who believe that while the flag is very important and flag etiquette is very important, there are other things we fought for that can be more important. Some of those are embodied in the Scout Law like Courteous, Helpful, Friendly, Kind. The flag is a symbol. We shouldn’t get so wrapped in the symbol that we forget what is being symbolized.

      • I think David’s point is still right on the money. We lead by example, and the “jerk” needs to be corrected. There are better ways of handling these situations and the Scouts need a better example.

        Given the flag ceremony example, I would’ve gone with D – whisper in their ear or a hand signal. Many a times, I have pulled a hat off a boy during a flag ceremony…usually my own sons’. Regardless of the activity, sometimes It only takes the one quiet action to remind all of them that there may be some detail that they may have missed. So long as its not life or limb, you can discuss the details with the group later.

        I do not believe in the “correct them in private” mantra, but that does not mean that corrections are ever done in an embarrassing fashion. Scouting, to me, is ‘Learning for Life’ and we leaders are the teachers. Don’t think, because the boys are no longer 2-3 years old, that they still won’t emulate everything that their leaders (youth or adult) do.

    • As a former scout leader, and Proud veteran. I have very strong feelings about flag etiquette. But that still doesn’t Preclude the correct action. to take when mistakes are made. Scouting is supposed to be a learning opportunity to instruct young men to be better men and have great respect for their country, community, church and to feel better about themselves. this was a Great opportunity as a leader to use as a teaching tool on the basics of scouting. I think the correct action is actually missing. as a option. a discussion with the troop as to Why we raise it all the way to the top. why the importance of flag etiquette. what the dipping of the flag represents, ( there actually is a reason to dip the flag). I think that all the leaders should have used the events as a teaching tool for their troops, and the young man that made the mistake. should never be made to feel bad about it.

  7. We have to remember that Scouting is about “boy-lead” group not adult lead. We adults are more advisors and in that role we provide the advice to the SPL about the Color Guard. The only time that we should speak loudly is when safety is involved. So my answer is “b”.

  8. While ‘B’ is usually the correct answer there are times when ‘C’ works best or even ‘A’. In the stated example I would suggest ‘B.’ Some veterans, especially combat veterans, feel strongly about the displaying of the flag and may actually have an emotional reaction that may not be considered most helpful to the ‘patrol method.’

    Times for the adult leader to ‘yell out’ may include dangerous situations or situations that may escalate if not dealt with in a rapid manner. Any time ‘yelling out’ occurs there should be a followup (A) where an explanation of the action is explained so that the scouts do not feel they was called out for no reason. Do not forget 2 deep leadership here.

  9. I prefer option d: Wait to see if the Senior Patrol Leader pulls the Scout aside to talk to him first. I don’t see where an adult would have to get involved at all.

    Besides, this is summer camp. All the Scouts in camp saw it. All the Scouts in camp will want to put their two cents in after the ceremony. There could be teaching moments all over the place here (courtesy, appropriate communication, following the patrol method).

    • Bob’s is the best option. See how it plays out. It should work itself out. Depending upon the structure of the troop, the PL and not necessarily the SPL, could have handled it. Please see requirement #6 for Tenderfoot. Coincidentally, requirement #6 is there for Webelos.

  10. As a long time Scouter and a retired Master Sergeant: “B” is the answer in this situation

    Health & Safety event can always be done in a professional manner

    On the spot corrections should never cause embarrassment to any Scout

    But as leaders- we need to police ourselves- and remember that every activity can be a teaching/training moment for both adult and youth leaders

  11. I would side with option “B”. Bring the incorrect practice to the attention of the Senior Patrol Leader and let him handle it. On little things like hat removal, sometimes just removing your own hat and clearing your throat is enough of a hint for the Scouts to follow suit; if that doesn’t work, approach the SPL afterward.

    It was interesting. A couple years ago at summer camp, the halyard became stuck in the pulley at the top during evening colors. After several attempts to undo the situation, the Scouts created a sort of human ladder, sent a Scout to the top of the pole and undid the stuck halyard, all without adult intervention. While I might have used a long stick to free the rope, I thought their solution was inventive.

  12. The adult leadership characteristic in question is called “TACT” and, in my opinion, if you lack this skill, you might be in the wrong line of work. I wish I had a nickel for the number of times I heard some faceless Scouter in a crowd yell “Signs UP!” or “HEY, listen up!” or ‘STOP!” or whistle, etc. The latest fad seems to be parents who hover over their child at an event and question the SPL whenever he issues a directive to their boy. Crushing the spirit of a boy takes virtually no skill – only a willingness to be right before being courteous and kind.

  13. Modified B. Been there, done that, more than once. I typically tap the senior youth leader on the elbow and ask quietly “is that right?” and let him (or her) run with it. And they make the correction on the spot. I tell the kids “when you make corrections in a ceremony, make them slowly and deliberately – like you MEANT to do it that way.” Walk deliberately to the flagpole – don’t run. Speak quietly and politely. Smile. And for those watching, who haven’t already noticed, don’t draw attention.

    And for the sake of Pete, don’t embarrass the kids publicly. Bad form.

  14. I believe we are missing the reason for the tone of the correction and the intent.

    Ideally we want the Scouts to do things the right way the first time and we want them to lead.

    Often the color guard is in the worse position to see if the flag is raised to the top. If it snags on the way up the color guard may reasonably believe it’s at the highest position. The SPL may not be in the right position either. A quick and friendly “ummm, it’s not all the way up remark” should get the color guard or SPL’s attention if your up in the front by the color guard. More than likely, the Scouter in question was positioned in the back of the Troop formation with the best view of the flag pole but the farthest away. He probably just yelled to make sure the flag was up correctly. I’m sure any Scouter would of done the same thing. No harm or intent to undermine The Patrol Method.

      • Hi Jeffry,

        I agree we want it to be boy led and we should both agree it would be a missed opportunity if the correction didn’t involve the youth leaders.

  15. I have to agree with many here. It is really a situational-based answer which requires a little bit more detail to answer. In the case of the flag ceremony, I would have to suggest option B as closest to the right thing. But here’s the thing, the flagpole is in a public place, so getting someone to fix it will have them visibly applying the corrective action for all to see and could potentially serve as an embarrassing action.

    You also can’t leave it improperly hung, that teaches that it’s ok to be disrespectful of the flag and could and should be offensive to everyone else theoretically.

    What I would do in this case is ask the SPL to walk with me, and the youth in question and go over and fix it myself, and explain to both why I did it. This is really the E and D parts of EDGE in action. This way they learn the proper way and why, and aren’t forced to do something embarrassing. I would leave the G to the SPL and the final E to the flag bearer in the future.

  16. This brings up a topic I have seen all too often when scout leaders interpret “boy led” into “boys left on their own”. In this instance – and given no other input – of course option “B” is the correct answer.

    I like to think our jobs as adult leaders is one of quiet-but-constant vigilance. More than likely in this case, the other boys in attendance would have said something if the color guard started to tie off the flag and it wasn’t at the top of the pole. Other members of the color guard, their own troop or the boys in attendance all may have been trying to let the color guard know there was a problem. Hopefully the SPL would have noticed and corrected it at the time.

    But now comes the time for further attention and vigilance on the part of the adults. Are the kids in your troop yelling like banshees trying to let the color guard know? Or are other SPL’s, staffers or older scouts quietly approaching the color guard team with advice or offers to help? Are your boys leaving the flag ceremony saying unkind things about the color guard? Heaven forbid, making fun of them? Or are they discussing ways they could have helped the color guard? Taking the lead to go back and fix the flag if it hasn’t already happened? After the situation is handled, are we making sure that our SPL’s are using this learning opportunity to spend a few minutes discussing it with the younger, less experienced scouts?

    The terrific thing I love about scouting is that the boys will probably have gotten it all done themselves! And we adults can stand back, not need to say or do anything else and be justifiably proud of the young people we’re guiding. But we can never just assume that it’s all happening and hunky-dory! We must keep our eyes and ears open to be sure things are on track, provide advice and guidance as warranted, and take action only when needed.

  17. As the leader of a Pack, it falls to me to correct behaviors. So A would be our answer. However, if we were in a troop, we would choose B.
    If the leaders of the Pack are educating the young cub scouts on proper Flag ceremonies, or really anything, then as they move on to the Troop they will already have a firm grasp of the proper way to do things. This year I went to Woodbadge, and in doing so I have recognized an opportunity in our Pack to help the boys be prepared for Boy Scouts. We are a community Pack, So our Webelos do the 2 year program. My group of Boys are in their second year. This year, each month we are going to vote a new boy each month to be the Webelo “Patrol” leader. In that month, they will pick the activity that we will work on from what is left, and work with me to make the plans. The Webelo Transition to Boy Scouts, I noticed with my older son, is a true culture shock. They go from the parents, really doing the majority of the work, to bam it all on them. I hope that this helps transition them better.

  18. As a Cubmaster, the correct answer for our Pack is A. The younger scouts are very receptive to handle the flag properly and we’ve never had an instance where anyone felt like they were being called out when something goes wrong. I’ve seen Webelos Den leaders quickly and quietly correct scouts from folding the flag improperly in the middle of a flag ceremony and it never appears disrespectful. These are teaching moments for everyone watching and I’d rather the color guard be corrected on the spot than for younger scouts to think it’s OK to fold a flag with red/white stripes showing.

  19. B – duh. Boy-run troop!

    And for Cub Scouts, I would ask my Webelos 2’s to show the younger Cubs how it’s done.

  20. Yelling at a child unless its an emergent safey issue like (watch out!) is never right. These are children (regardless of if they are 7 or 17) and we need to use this as a learning opportunity to point out something and let them correct their mistake. Otherwise they wont learn.

  21. It depends on the situation. Ideally, option B is always best – even at the Webelos level. I’ve given my Webelos den a lot more responsibility for themselves and don’t let parents sign off without some kind of review (trying to help them prepare for Scoutmaster Conferences and Reviews). I want them to be prepared for when they crossover!

    However, recently my Cubs helped in a flag ceremony for Memorial Day at the veteran’s cemetery. My son (Webelos) was paired with a Boy Scout that was new, only a few months in. He was nervous with the amount of people watching and I assured him to follow the Boy Scout’s lead, and everything would be just fine. Luck would have it, I was at the other end of a very long row of flag poles (away from the majority of the crowd, but almost right next to my son). I could tell that they were starting to have some problems, they made the first fold wrong, so were having difficulty seeing why, on the second fold, they folded the stars in. I blended in next to the arborvitaes and quietly talked them through it. Nobody could tell that there were any issues, other than it took them slightly longer than the rest of the boys to fold up their flag. A day later, the father of the Boy Scout said his son told him what happened and thanked me for helping his son along to avoid situation C from happening. He said he never saw me and that his son had appreciated the quiet correction and the gentle reminder helped them complete their second flag without fault.

  22. Unless it’s a safety-related issue, always choose B. The SPL should be handling any Scout-related issues. We had an issue of a Scout at summer camp this year that kept trying to head to activities in flip-flops. Any time we saw it first, we flagged the SPL or PL and pointed it out to them, letting them handle it with the Scout.

  23. Throwing my hat in the ring on this one. It is OK for scouts to fail and make mistakes. It should have been the Patrol Leader who volunteered his patrol to raise the flags. The SPL should have made sure they knew how & what they were supposed to do. Scouting is not perfect it’s a learning process. B.P. wants us to “Do your best”. A smart adult would have quietly gone to the SPL and only asked one question. “How do you think the morning flag ceremony went?” Then, walked away. Youth led and run with adult coaching and mentoring.

  24. How about option E. If it is gnawing at you so much. Discretely put it in its proper place after the boys have left. Dont make too much of a deal out of it.

    • Good answer for “option E”. Is Our Flag being down a few feet on the pole really a case of disrespect for the flag? Especially if it is well above half-mast.

      My answer might be not A, B or C, and to just wait to the next flag ceremony and see if the Scouts do better.

      P.S., A lot of people do not know that “half-mast” involves first raising the flag all the way to full-mast and then down to half-mast, and the reverse in lowering the flag.
      Also, that “half-mast” looks best on most poles with the flag at a 5/8 point or, at least, the base of the flag riding on top of the half-way point. And, of course, the tail of the flag never drooping too near the ground or where people on the ground grab a hold of the flag.

  25. It’s not always adults. Boys can be harsh critics of younger, less experienced scouts. I’ve had to rein in one or two who couldn’t keep their comments to themselves. But it is so much worse when adults do it. We are here to build them up, not tear them down. Maybe they need more practice in flag raising (or whatever), but they need to know what they did right more than what they did wrong. Save the criticism for practice time and give them praise for what they did right during a performance.

  26. Scouting is a youth lead organization. We adult leaders are mentors/advisers of the unit. “B” is the CORRECT course of action….Patrol Method. Please keep in mind….two leader deep when speaking with the SPL. Hmmmmmm, was the EDGE method used prior to a flag ceremony? Educate – Demonstrate – Guide – Enable

  27. Options “D” and “E” work for me too, folks. If we promote Scouting as a youth-led and run program with us adults serving as managers and referees, then we have to give them time (and a couple minutes after the unsuccessful flag raising ceremony isn’t enough time!) to correct their errors and learn from it.

    If it bothered me that badly, I would take the time and unceremoniously raise the flag up to where it should be, tie it off and don’t make any further comment on it.

    Remember that we’re providing a character and personal development program, not a junior boot camp…and that we adults provide the appropriate positive role model for those youth. Yelling at them, unless it is really an emergent situation, doesn’t assist with that development.

  28. Adults or youth, it doesn’t matter. For the sake of flag etiquette, the only thing that bothers me is if it touches the ground. This happened on day 1 of camp. Everyone saw it. There was no point in yelling or whispering anything at that time.

    At lunch assembly, I mentioned to not worry about folding/flying/anchoring and such. As long as you are making a decent effort to show your respect by keeping the flag from touching the ground, all the other skills will come along in due time.

    Retreat and all of the other flag events that week went without a hitch (not counting the one used to anchor the rope 😉 ). As each day passed the boys looked sharper.

    So, I guess my actions fell somewhere between all three. I could have talked to the boy privately or made it a thing with the SPL, but I thought that might make the issue bigger than what it really was. I knew if I addressed the group about the broad concept of what’s important, it would check the SM minute off our adult responsibilities, and the PL’s could take it from there (which they did).

    There’s lots of ways to handle things, save the yelling for when the boys fishing are about to throw rocks at passing canoes! 😮

  29. Great discussion. How do we help our leaders who “speak out of turn”? Like the person who asked this question, we were at summer camp this summer, the staff was doing flags and the US flag became stuck on the way up. Then from the back an adult leader barked ‘raise it up!’ In the middle of the ceremony…


  30. CSDC: First day, opening ceremony is done by the camp staff, all Boy Scouts. The SPL of the Scout staff practiced the ceremony with them in the hours before the Cubs and parents arrived. Went well. Three flagpoles, US, State, BSA Council, 20′ cut poles, pulleys and ropes, poles “stepped”, raised and guyed with rope and hammered in pegs (got your Totin’ Chip?). That day, in Scout Skills (or Pirate School? ) we talked/discussed/practiced US flag design, history ,and etiquette. The Cubs became “vexilologists” (look it up). Yes, they used the title!
    Each succeeding day, a new Cub Den color guard took either the raising or lowering of the flags. The Dens could borrow flags for folding practice, and had access to the Pirate School Mate (me) for advice. Who the CG were was up to the Den Walkers to choose. With three flag poles, it was not hard to allow all the boys a chance to participate. If a Tiger Cub Den needed help, we provided Scouts and the adults could assist.
    Yes, the boys might not haul the flag all the way to the top. A friendly hand usually reached over and helped. No one mentioned any disrespect. If the rope slipped through a young hand and the flag unceremoniously dropped, someone was there to catch it. If a flag slipped due to a less than tight hitch, well, that flag was retied by a staffer later.
    One closing day, an overeager Boy Scout staffer moved alittle too quickly and tripped on a guy line, pulling the flagpole over. Amid “ohs” and “ahs”, the pole was caught, the flag retrieved from the ground, everything was reset and reguyed, the flag was shook out, and folded and the closing ceremony continued. Scouts did the most of it, as I remember, those closest seemed to know what needed to be done and did it.
    Among the 300 plus folks in attendance, I knew we had several gung ho both active and veteran military, but no one ever yelled out any corrections, They allowed the boys to do it, and learn from it. We were just lucky , I suppose.

  31. WHAT !?!? It wasn’t “C” ?

    Seriously, I,ve seen this behavior from “trained” leaders also. It’s not just embarassing to the Scouts but to the other leaders. Public praise is great. Public ridicule is EXTREMELY detrimental. Even if the ceremony wasn’t perfect, the boys were probably very nervous and were doing their best. minor “Ooopses’ happen, and will happen for a long time in the future.

  32. I think that B is the best option, but I think that at the start of any event the scoutmaster and the SPL and ASPL should sit down and go over the expectations for the troop and for behavior that they expect. This is a good way to let the SPL know what’s going on. A scoutmaster can’t just expect the scout to always know what to do so to avoid issues teach them beforehand. If they mess it up then you talk to the calmly and explain what happened and why it was wrong. Scouting gave me a lot of opportunities and has taught me a lot. I am now an adult leader but I have stayed away from the troop because of the other adult leaders.

  33. Obviously (one would hope), “B” was the correct choice. The Patrol Method is the best way to address this situation and provide an excellent teaching point. The same theory works for me. I’m not an active scout leader. My position is that of a teacher/coach (I teach middle school phys. ed.and coach football, basketball and track & field). For our home football games, we raise the flag during field set-up. The flagpole & flag was an Eagle project by one of our former student-athletes when he was an 8th grader. Anyway, I always seek out several Scouts on the football team to raise the flag (players for the first game) and to strike the colors during field breakdown at the end of the activities (players for the second game). Sometimes the halyard doesn’t go to the top &/or gets twisted, and sometimes the flag gets folded in a rather suspect manner. Easy solution when things don’t go right: Talk to the boys involved and teach them the right way! Simple – they’ve learned how to do it. No yelling involved. By the way, you wouldn’t believe how many volunteer by season’s end to raise & lower the flag – just because the Scouts get to do it first.

  34. Flag etiquette is always a tricky situation, especially with Veterans present at Scouting events.

    My twist to this discussion is: Saluting the US FLAG – Aside from the standard Field Uniform, why would anyone saluting the US Flag when NOT WEARING the standard Field Uniform, especially at Summer Camp??

    Too many Camps have stopped or no longer require attendees to done the Field Uniform for morning Colors but regardless of the clothes worn, everyone salutes the US Flag as if there is no difference than stating the “Pledge of Alliegence” say at School, or the playing of the National Anthem elsewhere.

    I would prefer to see something in writing, no “internet Urban lore” on the proper etiquette

    The Answer to the questions is: not to embarrass anyone in public in this situation despite the urge to correct that moment; counsel elsewhere, let the crowd disperse and gently adjust the Flag to its proper position.

    Contact me privately, should you wish…

    • I hear you, BUT I believe that “anything” the scouts wear at a BSA Summer Camp is effectively serving as a proper uniform “for the event”, so Scouts dressed like the guys in McHale’s Navy rendering a salute still seems appropriate to me.

      If there’s an actual BSA policy on that scenario, I’d like to see what that is.

      Good point.

  35. @gardnerbuffalo : When I was on camp staff in the mid-80’s we always wore the Field Uniform(Class A) to all flag ceremonies. My son who has been on a camp staff the past two years only wear the Field Uniform for evening ceremony. they wear the Activity Uniform (Class B) for flag raising.

    Just as a reminder the Activity Uniform is an Official Uniform and a Scout Salute is appropriate. Here is a link from a previous Scouting magazine article on this subject:


  36. May I take a different tack (and fight the hypothetical). ———-
    First of All, the base of a flag pole provides a very poor perspective to see what is going on. The hands-on part of raising a flag, especially on a tall metal pole, is done by feel and counting, rather than trying to look straight up.
    And, in a very literal sense, flags are not raised “to the top of the pole”. Large flags on tall poles fly better {at least more attractively} when about a half to a full flag height below the pulley point and the rope is not held tightly against the pole. Otherwise, there is the danger of appearing as if the top of the flag is nailed to the pole and the rest is dangling off on the line away from the pole as the wind blows.

    This all reminds me of an experience from time in the service. One of the post flag poles was out of service. On inquiry, the story was that someone, never named but up in the E numbers, had got too enthusiastic and pulled the flag into the pulley mechanism. The rope or chain had to be cut to get the flag down. There was several months delay to figure what fund to pay for the repair, which had proved beyond the ability of bases maintenance and the reach of the based fire crew ladders.

  37. So what about if the Scoutmaster is not following procedure. What steps should you take then? Example: Scoutmaster conferences are testing scouts knowledge of ALL previous rank achievements before passing him to the BOR.

    • “The system” provides for that feedback to happen at Boards of Review. The topic should then be addressed by the Committee when the Scoutmaster shows up to deliver the Scoutmaster Report (noting the SM is NOT a member of the Committee).

      We operate a CHARTER from National BSA. We are obligated to deliver the Program AS DESIGNED. That not only applies to MB councilors, but to adult volunteers. The SM reports to the Committee to ensure the Program being delivered is in accordance with the National Charter.

      Disagreements need not be arguments. BE NICE but SPEAK CLEARLY. Let him know he’s not “doing it right” and advise him of the changes he MUST make to remain in accordance with National procedures.

      It may also be a sign that he NEEDS TRAINING…. so the Committee should identify training opportunities and (in my unit) the Troop pays for the training fees.

      If he corrects his mistakes…. you have the right guy for the job. If he argues or refuses to change…. then the committee should make the recommendation to the Charter Organization that its time to find a replacement SM.

      • Just out of curiosity, where can I get more information about the SM reporting to the committee. Our troop is in transition as we have a new SM, however the prior SM who has it his way or the highway still attends the committee meetings. He still has a huge impact on decisions in the troop and feels that the SM has the right not to accept a completed, signed MB by a BSA certified MB counselor. As a parent and now a member of the committee, I find it frustrating because they feel, they can trump what council or national states in the guidelines. We’ve requested to have someone from council come with guidance and the former SM said he could do it because he has this new position with council. Thank you.

  38. C is never correct. But I agree with other comments regarding a mix of A, B, and D. A- Properly preplan and practice so the color guard can do it properly. B and D- Fix it privately afterwards when all the scouts are off enjoying their morning activities, but talk to the senior scout leader and let him talk privately to the scouts who were in the color guard so when they do it again, they are aware that they have to double check the flag.

  39. The correct way to handle this is option “A”, however as far as addressing boys that have the incorrect head gear on that should be addresses immediately. I just got back from a scout camp were on several occasions I quietly and respectfully reminded boys to remove their hats and hoods during flags or in the dining hall. We as leaders are responsible to guide not just our Troops but to remind others where they forget. As for the flag being flown wrong the best approach is to let the boys finish and then take them aside and show them how to correct the error, it’s about the respect and teaching the boys about that respect for not only our country, but to so respect for others too.

    • Right on. It’s ALWAYS our job to guide, instruct, and coach. HOW we do it seems to be the real question here.

  40. I often struggle with one point being raised often in the comments: say nothing and lose the teaching moment (worse, potentially leave people thinking what they say was acceptable) or say something the the SPL and perhaps undermine Boy-led…
    Here’s one for you: uniform half-untucked and a weak, bent-wrist salute. Correct? No? Tell SPL? Talk to the Scout?

    • The interesting thing about teaching moments is that they occur often and are not as fleeting as we often think. For example, sure there’s a teaching moment on the spot, but it merely addresses the flag raising. By waiting until a better time, we not only teach better flag etiquette, but also teach some critical leadership and respect concepts as well. I find the Scoutmaster Minute is one of the best places for a leader to teach. Our young men are pretty smart. Most will mull it over a bit and apply it. It may take a few times, but are we in a hurry?
      The uniform and rigor of attention is always going to bother some more than others. Boys are just people, and they will rise to the expectation. If you want sharper uniforms, one – make very sure you model it, and two – use inspections. Again, a SM can be used to explain the importance of uniforms and looking sharp in them. Let the process work. The great thing about Scouting is that it’s a process.
      I get the veteran thing – I am a war veteran as well. But sometimes we veterans have to be reminded that there is a higher principle – Neil Lupton had a great point early in the comments.

  41. You missed D. It’s summer camp. It’s summer camps flag. The staff would handle it. Probably by correcting it after the ceremony and then warning SPL’s or leaders at the daily meeting that they need to make sure the boys do it right,

  42. A or B is fine. B is preferable in most cases, but a sincere and non-threatening A conversation is well within the scope of Troop leadership training. In any event, the conversation should be something like, “I’m proud of you and you did fine. Can I offer some tips to take it to the next level, guys?”

  43. I agree with a lot of the comments to a point; yes the troop side is boy lead but scoutmasters are apart for a reason. Adult Leaders are meant to be a constant literal, visual, physical, and emotional guide, mentor, Example. So C is completely wrong but A and B are correct. The leader knows his scouts and thier abilities and knows best how to teach and guide them. Not run them off from the scouting program that provides youth with the life lessons and experiences to become tomorrow’s leaders that will fix what is fundamentally wrong with today’s society and this country!

  44. I’m surprised at the assumption (and mass agreement) that a leader correcting a boy is being a “jerk”. No one wants to give the guy credit for using “the situation” as a TEACHING opportunity?

    While I agree that YELLING “Raise it all the way up!” is loud, obnoxious, and unprofessional, but would you(we) feel the same if the adult got the attention of the Scouts and informed them (perhaps with gestures) to raise the flag to the proper height?

    Do you object to him “yelling” out, or do you object to correcting them “on the fly”? I would hope it’s only the first choice.

    They are BOYS. Like training puppies, correcting them a hour or day later does not have the same impact as correcting them as “it” happens. Also, correcting them as it happens serves as a teaching moment for ALL the boys who will NOW realize that the flag needs to go all the way to the top of the pole. It’s still our JOB to TEACH, right?

    So the NEW question is… do you correct them as they go, or do you let them “keep on display” that they don’t know what they’re doing?

    This is a GOOD TOPIC, but I think it should be re-asked and put into a different context.

  45. But, it also depends on the reason the flag did not make it to the top. I have seen the flag ropes get twisted to the point where they don’t allow the flag to be hoisted to full height. Yes, it’s a known problem that should be sorted out and mentioned to the color guard before each ceremony. Yes, we should go off to breakfast and camp staff or leaders quietly untangle it so it is not that way all day, and no – nobody should yell out during the ceremony. If they just didn’t raise it all the way, call the color guard together after the ceremony and just say in a friendly constructive way: Hey guys… good job, but we wanna make sure the flag gets all the way up to the top when we do this. So, A or B probably works, shouldn’t be a big stressful moment…

    Just my 2 cents.

    • And yes, I realize that the article and questions posed by it are more inclusive than this particular flag ceremony example. Each situation is unique and contains a teachable lesson that can be accomplished in a respectful and positive manner. Yelling should be reserved for things like: Hey! Sit down in the canoe Bobby! 😉

  46. We were at a camporee, and we used the beginning of a campfire program to retire a special US flag, that had a lot of local significance. In a very moving ceremony, it was separated, and placed in the fire. It was a very dignified tribute to the man that flew it at his home before he passed. After that, the scouts proceeded with the normal campfire. When the whole program was over, an experienced scouter, who was a veteran, thanked the boys for the tribute, but pointed out that the rest of the campfire should not have been placed on top of the flag remnants. (right or wrong is debatable) The Scouts listened intently as he explained some of the flag customs, and respectable traditions. This was a true teachable moment, and was handled non-confrontational and respectful. That’s the way it should be done! (and that old dude has my respect forever)

  47. Don’t let them leave the flags hanging improperly. Assist them respectably and graciously as it happens. I would ask the SPL to assist if he wasn’t on top of it already. Applaud them for doing their best! Later I would reassure them that no matter the little foul up, it sure was a proud moment watching them raise our colors and earning another dimple on the golf ball in the process. Cheers!

  48. After the ceremony once everyone is gone, quietly and quickly go to the pole and fix it and go on about your business.

  49. Proper planning and practice. If you have ever worked on camp staff, this is an easy one. The program director meets with the SPL’s on an almost daily basis. This is where the SPL’s are coached on expectations. At formation, your SPL is at the front of the troop, the ASPL at the rear, or reversed. This is where the art of the silent signal comes into play. One of the guards not hoisting the flag watches the ASPL for a predetermined signal and whispers higher or were good to the person raising the flag. Hasn’t failed all the years I served on camp staff.

    When it comes to raising Scouts, we’re all looking for the same thing, to see boys succeed and grow into good men.

    Now, if there is a problem with the mechanism on the flagpole, it’s ok for the Scout to turn to the camp staff and tell them the darn thing is stuck. I’ve seen that at many a flag ceremony over the years. At that point the staff will make a decision.

    Give your Scouts every opportunity to succeed with good guidance. Go out there during “siesta” after lunch and practice, this way The SPL can guide them without an audience.

  50. Our focus should always be on the core Aims and Methods of Scouting. The technical side of Scouting is not where we should place our emphasis. The boys can later work out this situation using EDGE and their PLC process (with a little mentoring). Also, if trained to conduct them, a reflection session led by a boy leader would be best. In the meantime, after all depart, the Troop guide or Troop instructor could fix the flag. The boy leaders would ultimately have another EDGE method opportunity when practicing flag etiquette at a subsequent meeting.

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