Can I assume the parents are upset because the scouts are being told now that they didn’t meet the unit’s PoR performance expectations?
Our unit has adult leaders assigned to mentor each of our youth PoRs, and the adult leader is expected to mentor the youth leader, including suggesting options if the youth leader is having trouble coming up with ideas of how to tackle a challenge or accomplish some responsibility. Generally, our mentors are expected to interact with the youth on a frequent basis, providing feedback on how things are going (e.g. mini scoutmaster conferences focused specifically on their PoR) and soliciting questions or logistical support requests. Scouts should know long before it’s time for a “final evaluation” that they aren’t meeting the expectations and what specifically they need to do in order to correct their course. A “perfect” performance is not the standard of care, nor is it the purpose of positions of responsibility. They are learning experiences intended to build on one another as a scout gains experience in the program. It sounds to me like whomever is supposed to be mentoring your youth leaders failed to mentor them effectively.
The Guide to Advancement is pretty clear on the standard for units which publish specific expectations for youth PoR performance:
184.108.40.206.3 Meeting Unit Expectations. If a unit has established expectations for positions of responsibility, and if, within reason (see the note under “Rank Requirements Overview,” 220.127.116.11), based on the Scout’s personal skill set, these expectations have been met, the Scout has fulfilled the requirement. When a Scout assumes a position, something related to the desired results must happen. It is a disservice to the Scout and to the unit to reward work that has not been done. Holding a position and doing nothing, producing no results, is unacceptable. Some degree of responsibility must be practiced, taken, or accepted.
The performance standard is in those last two sentences. There is additional guidance in the following section regarding what the standard of care is when published expectations are not established in advance:
18.104.22.168.4 Meeting the Requirement in the Absence of Unit Expectations. It is best when a Scout’s leaders provide position descriptions, and then direction, coaching, and support. Where this occurs and is done well, the young person will likely succeed. When this support, for whatever reason, is unavailable or otherwise not provided—or when there are no clearly established expectations—then an adult leader or the Scout, or both, should work out the responsibilities to fulfill. In doing so, neither the position’s purpose nor degree of difficulty may be altered significantly or diminished. Consult the current BSA literature published for leaders in Scouts BSA, Venturing, or Sea Scouts for guidelines on the responsibilities that might be fulfilled in the various positions of responsibility.
Under the above scenario, if it is left to the Scout to determine what should be done, and the Scout makes a reasonable effort to perform accordingly for the time specified, then the requirement is fulfilled. Even if the effort or results are not necessarily what the unit leader, members of a board of review, or others involved may want to see, the Scout must not be held to unestablished expectations. [Emphasis added]
The first sentence clearly establishes the intent that, even in the presence of pre-established expectation for PoR performance, there is an expectation of “direction, coaching and support” for the youth leaders by the unit’s adult leaders. It’s not clear from your description whether or not this was happening, but as I noted above, to the extent that it did occur, it doesn’t sound like it was adequate.
The last paragraph reiterates that the standard is for the scouts to make a reasonable effort to perform their duties, and that “Even if the effort or results are not necessarily what the [adults] involved may want to see, the Scout must not be held to unestablished expectations.” From the outside perspective, it appears that what you’re describing runs afoul of this provision. What, specifically, are the requirements that are not being met? Are they documented for the scouts in advance and reasonable? Are they reasonable under the current circumstances?
There are assertions that what was done does not meet the requirement. Does your unit publish the performance expectations to each youth leader for the PoR that they take on in advance, or are they being assessed post facto on their performance without any “corrective” mentorship along the way? What you’re describing doesn’t appear to me to jive with your earlier description of not seeing “attempts to fulfill POR duties.” It looks like each of these cases describes a scout or scouts who have attempted to fulfill at least part of what would be their duties under normal circumstances (which definitely do not match a pandemic). Is it everything I’d like to see the youth in my unit achieve? No, and I would see it primarily as a failure by the adult leaders responsible for mentoring the youth in my unit to provide adequate guidance and support, barring pretty persuasive evidence to the contrary.
For example, If the PL I mentor wasn’t participating in PLC meetings, I would reach out to him and remind him that he needs to attend, and why it’s important that all of the PLs attend. If he can’t attend for some reason, he needs to contact his APL to attend on the patrol’s behalf so they have a voice on the PLC. If it’s a regular conflict, then what are his plans for working around that conflict so that he can ensure that the patrol leader responsibilities are fulfilled for his patrol?
The Guide to Advancement is clear that the intent on positions of responsibility is that they are subject to the same “reasonableness” test as other advancement requirements with regard to expectations of performance. Arguably, expecting a scout who has medical issues (e.g. risk of COVID) to do something which raises risks associated with those issues is not reasonable. This is particularly true given that it is most likely the parents who are imposing the limitation on the scout. It could be an entirely extrinsic constraint (e.g. a youth in my unit who lives with his infirm grandmother) or an intrinsic constraint (e.g. a youth who is immune-compromised).
Consider the following hypothetical: if an instructor ran a single scheduled instruction class on (for example) navigation once during a six month term because that was the number of times that the PLC specified they wanted it taught, would that fail to meet the requirements? In your case, was the PLC asking for more frequent instruction and the instructor declined to provide that, or is this a case of “it feels like this wasn’t enough to qualify” after the fact?
You mentioned PLs not holding patrol meetings. Are each of the patrol leaders being supported by at least two registered adult leaders over 21 who are available to attend the patrol meetings? That’s what they need in order to hold patrol meetings under the BSA’s Barriers to Abuse. Were the PLs being mentored regarding how to hold these meetings, and provided the logistical support (e.g. Zoom training/resources) they needed to hold the meetings? Many units aren’t meeting at all, some because they can’t work out the technology and others because they can’t figure out how to deliver content. If many adults can’t work it out, is it reasonable to expect the youth to work it out on their own?
All of that said, I’m a strong advocate for having clear, established performance standards and mentoring youth (both by adult leaders and more experienced youth) in how to meet those responsibilities. Knowing what the scope of expectations are, and what the performance standard will be for evaluation is important for everyone involved. At the same time, unqualified success is not a reasonable performance standard. How long would anyone survive in a professional position if the standard was perfect performance or you’re fired? Would anyone be willing to chance making mistakes or investing more effort in one thing over another at the risk of not meeting a particular quantitative goal?
Mentorship doesn’t only have to be adult-to-youth, either. At a recent PLC, our previous OE Guide offered some suggestions to our new OE Guide, who is both much younger and brand new to the position as of December. As the mentor for that PoR, I reached out to the current OE Guide to talk about what he thought of the suggestions, and what support he would need if he wanted to implement them. I did the same things with the previous OE Guide when he was in the position. Even when I personally don’t think what the PLC wants the OE Guide to do is a great idea, I offer comments but in the end I defer to them – unless it’s safety-related or factual error – and offer to assist the OE Guide in achieving the scope of work however he needs it.