How to hold one-on-one Scouting conversations while following Youth Protection guidelines

expertlogo1You’ll often find Mike Walton at his nearby Wendy’s restaurant — but not because the Tennessee Scouting volunteer is a fan of the Baconator.

It’s because Walton sees Wendy’s as a safe, public place to meet with Scouts about their Eagle Scout service project.

Walton, wearing his field uniform, meets with the Scout for about 30 minutes to discuss the young man’s project plan. For a teenager hoping to become an Eagle Scout, this meeting is an important step in the process toward Scouting’s highest rank.

Like the Scoutmaster conference, this discussion works best as a one-on-one conversation. That raises questions of Youth Protection, with its prohibition of one-on-one contact between adults and youth members.

Walton satisfies this mandate by requiring that a parent, the Scoutmaster and/or a committee member also be present at the restaurant.

“They sit in tables or booths with eyesight to me and the Eagle candidate,” Walton says.

But when Walton explained this process to fellow Scouters in an online forum, some took exception.

“They said, ‘you’re in violation because there wasn’t another registered Scouter with you’ during the discussion,” Walton says.

Not true; Walton’s actions were appropriate. And to be sure, I checked with the BSA’s Youth Protection team for the latest edition of Ask the Expert.

The questions and the expert’s answers

The answers come from Michael Johnson, BSA Youth Protection director, and Paula Rhea, Youth Protection coordinator.

Question: Must another registered adult or Scout observe the one-on-one conversation with the Scout and leader, even in a restaurant or coffee shop?

Answer: The BSA’s Barriers to Abuse state: “In situations requiring a personal conference, such as a Scoutmaster conference, the meeting is to be conducted with the knowledge and in view of other adults and/or youth.” The policy does not state another registered adult or Scout must be present. Conducting such a meeting with other adults/Scouts — registered or not — fulfills the policy requirement.

Question: Would performing a conference in a crowded restaurant dining area meet the standard for “no one-on-one” conversations?

Answer: As stated in the quoted policy above, a restaurant/coffee shop setting with other parents, Scouters or Scouts present is permissible.

Question: Is there a prohibition keeping a Scout from having such a conversation over video conferencing, such as Skype?

Answer: The same rules outlined above apply. The presence of adults (parents), Scouters and/or Scouts within visual range would make a Skype conference permissible.


  1. “In situations requiring a personal conference, such as a Scoutmaster conference, the meeting is to be conducted with the knowledge and in view of other adults and/or youth.”

    Just for clarification: If the registered adult meets with a scout in a crowded coffee shop, in full view of others, the scout does NOT need a parent or other scout (although that would be best). I ask because there are times when older Scouts can drive themselves to merit badge meetings.

      • I use the library all the time, mostly for merit badge counseling sessions. I have cleared this with our District Executive. The great thing about the library are the resources there. The WSJ is great for Personal Management. Local topo maps are available for Camping and Orienteering. City org charts are available for Citizenship in the Community. Etc. and etc.

        Now, if I could convince the librarian to carry MB pamphlets …

  2. In a busy public restaurant, there should not be any problem, except possibly it the booth partitions were too high or night club dim lighting.
    Alcohol would not be a good idea – especially in uniform.

    A further question would be “who pays the bill?”
    Presuming that they are not just free-loading the space.
    Is the SM eating a full meal and tossing a few french fries to the guest?
    Is SM treating? The grateful guest picking up the tab as part of the Eagle Project budget?
    Dutch teat with two bills would seem the only possible answer.

  3. In my case, Old Scout, the Scout leaves with whomever he came with and I stay there to enjoy dinner by myself (most evenings) or with some person who comes over and starts asking questions about what I do in Scouting and what we were doing (“you ever see “Pinky and the Brain”? Well we were doing the same thing that Pinky and the Brain do every night — make plans to take over the Universe!” *smiling from ear to ear*).

    I am doing a presentation on the Eagle Project discussion/review next month at the local District’s Roundtable. I work at the Air Base here in south central Tennessee.

    I have to state for the record that my choice of Wendy’s ™ over other branded restaurants does _not_ result in me getting free or reduced meals. The Wendy’s ™ food chain was designed as a “Safe Place” years back and Dave (Thomas, the founder) and his company invested a great deal of money in insuring that their dining area remains as a safe location for anyone desiring it. They have video cameras and other items which as a customer (and Scouter interviewing Scouts) gives me additional assurance that there is observation going on in addition to the adults witnessing a portion of the “Eagle process”.

    The wearing of the field uniform by me (and so far, by every Scout participating) is NOT a requirement to meet; I simply inform the Scout and/or parent that “I’ll be the guy wearing the BSA field uniform” so that they know who they are looking for…and the Scout takes it upon himself that he too should be in the uniform of the Scout during the discussion.

    I did a Review at a Sonic (the Eagle candidate works there and we — another Scouter and myself — waited until his shift was over at 10pm) and at a Waffle House (Dad sat at one end of the counter area and watch his son explain to me how he was going to go about his Eagle leadership project).

    But yeah (*weak grin*) I’m a fan of the Baconator, chili, and coffee.

    • Thanks for adding the info about the “Safe Place,” Mike. And thanks for sharing your great story that we can all learn from.

    • Mike, I particularly like the idea of being on video at Wendy’s. do you have any idea how long they keep their video files? If it is only 30 days, this may not be long enough to provide the type of protection needed. Burt

  4. The Q&A is a bit vague and the answer seems to be qualified.
    Question: Would performing a conference in a crowded restaurant dining area meet the standard for “no one-on-one” conversations?

    Answer: As stated in the quoted policy above, a restaurant/coffee shop setting with other parents, Scouters or Scouts present is permissible.

    You list Parents, Scouters, or Scouts. You miss the essence of the question. How about other adults that do not meet the criteria you list (parents, scouters, scouts) such as clerk, waiters, other restaurant patrons? We have held many of these types of “dinner” meetings with boys to discuss life, school, goals and how scouting can help. I would like to have a name and phone number of a witness If falsely accused of any wrong doing, While “any” other adult may meet the criteria, it doesn’t provide the protection needed. I can see where staying to have a meal after the meeting and keeping the receipt does provide some protection, I would still find it important to have someone that that could be contacted at some time in the future to verify, such as a restaurant manager with whom you have arranged the meeting and explained the need to act as a witness. Just my $0.02. Burt

  5. I think people are also missing an important point in the answer. The answer included the following ” the meeting is to be conducted with the knowledge and in view of other adults and/or youth.” Just “any” adults in the restaurant do not have “knowledge” of the meeting taking place. So there should be someone who knows what is going on and therefore, someone you have spoken with. This may be a manager if he know about the meeting AND is also able to watch the meeting. However, someone working is going to be going about their business and not watching a meeting at a table for 30 minutes. This is why I believe there should be someone there with the expressed intent of being that second person.

  6. For many years I have held these project approval meetings (about 1000 of them) in my office at home. I require that the Scout come with a parent (occasionally some other adult) who stays in the office with us. This not only meets the YP requirements, but I have found it is very helpful for the parent to hear what the Scout does and does not know, and what suggestions I have for him. I find this gets much better buy-in to the process from the parent and the parent can often help the Scout retain any suggestions. Occasionally I need to remind the parent that it is the Scout’s Eagle project and the parent is there to listen, but this seldom is a problem. I have occasionally done approval meetings at other locations, but I still think it is helpful to have the parent there, not just for YP reasons.

  7. Does a fact finding meeting with a Troop Committee Chmn and a 15-yr old in a Church room with a small door window violate two deep leadership rule?

  8. This question arose in a breakout session of a council coordinated meeting here in Houston:

    You have a Scout over 18 but under 21 who is not only a member of a troop, but also a Venturer.

    – Would YPT rules about 1-on-1 contact and 2-deep leadership apply to an older scouter meeting with him?

    – Would it depend if the meeting were on Boy Scout issues or Venturing issues? That is, would 1-on-1 rules apply if the meeting were about Venturing, but not on Boy Scout issues?

    – Or is the question moot since the individual would be legally an adult?

    Rather than have a lot of discussion regarding splitting hairs, could Bryan get a ruling from a subject matter expert on this question?

  9. When I do Scoutmaster conferences I use a room just to the side of the fellowship hall where the main activities are taking place. Always with the door open, which provides a direct line of sight for others. I have occasionally met with a scout who needed something that couldn’t wait until the next meeting, in which case I usually meet them at our very crowded city park with their parent onsite. For any “sensitive” meeting that would require some privacy, such as disciplinary or something investigative, I will talk to the scout behind closed doors with an appropriate ASM or committee member present. Following youth protection guidelines is not difficult unless you make it so.

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