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Scouts refusing to wear uniform to meetings

Just make sure that adult leadership is watching the forms of “influence” that may be exerted. Some scouts can get really tetchy when confronted with a competition they can’t possibly win because their cohorts aren’t playing along. I could see that turning sour with the wrong mixture of personalities.

@ElizabethTanner, you might also reach out to your unit commish to see if he or she has any advice on how things like this have been handled in other units. If nothing else, that gets it on the district’s radar in case things go badly quickly when trying to address the uniforming issue. That way, they will have some background to hang things on when you bring a more frothy problem to their attention.


Start with the talk. If you don’t know the underlying reasons for the behavior you won’t be able to resolve it; anything you try to do will just be a temporary band-aid. You also have to be prepared to accept that the best outcome for everyone is having a Scout leave the unit.

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I think the first place to start off with is the SPL. Not every problem requires adult involvement. Perhaps the SM/ASM needs to have a private discussion with the SPL and ASPL’s to deal with this. The BSA is supposed to be b boy led. Sometimes scouts will listen to the peers rather than adults. While not required, I do feel the uniform dress code creates a sense of cohesion and I would remind the SPL that such conduct reflects on his leadership if he’s doing nothing (which I don’t know if this is the case).


Is the issue uniforms, or being disrespectful? These are two different issues.
If the scouts are disrespectful about everything, then not wearing the uniform is only a symptom of the real issue. Do they even want to do scouts? Is it something their parents are making them do? If so, you should talk with the parents about finding a different activity for their child to participate in since scouting isn’t for them.
But if it is really just about the uniform… Scouts are not required to wear the uniform. Is the troop being manipulative and overbearing by mandating things that are not required by BSA?


Elizabeth, Our Troop Advancement Chair does not refuse to give them a BOR. She simply asks them to reschedule and come back when they are properly dressed. She also informs them that if they need any items we have a virtual closet and if they can’t find what they need we are happy to provide them with what they need. She explains to them she is preparing them for a job interview. We have discussed this with our council Advancement Chair and he agrees this follows the Guide To Advancement Guidelines. I would agree the Scoutmaster needs to talk to them about their behavior.


That is refusing to give them a BOR.


This is another issue where I get a annoyed with the BSA and inconsistency in policies. When you look at the “Guide to Awards and Insignia” here what it says about the uniform:

The Boy Scouts of America has always been a uniformed body. Its uniforms help to create
a sense of belonging. They symbolize character development, leadership, citizenship training,
and personal fitness. Wearing a uniform gives youth and adult members a sense of identification
and commitment.


Here’s another: Wearing the Uniform—or Neat in Appearance
It is preferred a Scout be in full field uniform for any
board of review. As much of the uniform as the Scout
owns should be worn, and it should be as correct as
possible, with the badges worn properly. It may be the
uniform as typically worn by the Scout’s troop, crew, or
ship. If wearing all or part of the uniform is impractical
for whatever reason, the candidate should be clean
and neat in appearance and dressed appropriately,
according to the Scout’s means, for the milestone marked
by the occasion. Regardless of unit, district, or council
expectations or rules, boards of review shall not reject
candidates solely for reasons related to uniforming or
attire, as long as they are dressed to the above
description. Candidates shall not be required to
purchase uniforming or clothing to participate in a
board of review.

While not a specific requirement of dress, the language of this “official policy” is clear. The wearing of the uniform is a major component of the BSA program. Why dedicate a significant amount of time on the proper wearing of a Scout’s uniform for it to be only an “optional” dress?

When a Scout is choosing not to wear the uniform, they are not supporting the program as intended. If a child can’t afford a uniform, then the Troop needs to step in and help that child have proper dress.

I accept the fact that it’s not mandatory, but I think they should be encourage in a respectful way to wear the uniform.

Here’s a link to the Guide:

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That’s exactly right. If you send them away and won’t do it, that’s refusing. You really can’t make a semantic argument around it.


Uniforming with our current class of scouts has improved greatly after the mere suggestion of the SPL announcing that there will be inspections. The SPL+ASPL perform the inspections. Use the standard inspection sheet. Be positive. And rely on teamwork. (Patrol with the highest average score wins.)

As to the scouts in particular, conference with them regularly. Make sure there is nothing in they way of them wearing their uniform. Their home-life could be a disaster, so you may need to give them some space to hang their uniforms, which they would change into before meetings start.

Regarding the broader issue of disrespect. You must make clear that a scout is courteous, if they are not courteous, they are not scouts. Scouts who are not courteous do not complete their boards of review. The board will suspend their review, put in writing the behavior that they would like to see over the ensuing weeks, and give a date when the board will reconvene to determine if in fact courteous behavior was demonstrated. It’s really that simple.


Has anyone asked why they do not want to wear their uniforms? Maybe their uniforms are old, or too small. Maybe they are the kids who do not like Scouting, and are acting out.
If you figure out the why, you can probably deal with the issue easier.


Do you have a used uniform bank? (you should) Pull the proper shirt and have the SPL convince the Scout to put it on. If s/he won’t, it’s time for a SM conference to see what’s wrong.

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This has been alluded but I think you are focusing on a symptom and not a problem. I will try to keep this friendly, but have to say that uniforms are NOT the problem you should be concerned about here.

You have described your troop as 20 disrespectful kids. Now honesty is important, and this may be an honest assessment if your situation. If so, there are some things I would suggest starting with a language change. And describe them as 20 young adults learning respect. I avoid calling my scouts kids. They are scouts, young adults, or youth. They are NEVER kids. Language definitely matters.

My experience is that you often get what you expect from people. A cardinal rule in my troop is respect. Respect yourself and others. I treat my scouts scouts with the same respect I expect them to treat me and everyone else with. When they get off the right path, I gently correct them and say they are scouts.

Moving beyond this, I would be inclined to try and find more of the root problem. Which would involve speaking with each of them not allowing the opportunity for them to converse between. Listen as much to what they don’t say as what they do say.

In the meantime stop justifying your violation of the rules and leave the uniform alone.That is a problem likely to correct itself if you address the real issues.

By the way, lose “Class A” now and forever. There is no “Class A” uniform in scouting. We are not a military organization and the use is so far off as to be a mockery. We have an activity uniform (typically t-shirts) and field uniform.


With all due respect to the other replies, for both the scouts and the leaders, you need discipline within the unit. I would first review the troop policy. There should be counseling in the form of Scoutmasters conference with the youth, be specific about the unacceptable behavior and expectations. Behavior and discipline problems can tie to advancement scout spirit. There is nothing wrong with a Committee Chair/Scoutmaster/Parent conference to address these problems. Another resource for problems and conflict resolution may be your DE. If these kinds of problems continue they will affect the other in the troop and you will loose good scouts because of bad. In the end, you may have to simply ask them to find another unit more to their needs.

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If you read the OPs responses, there have already been scoutmaster conferences with the youth and the parents. They’re here asking how to further address it is, so they have those first steps covered.

Asking the scouts to go elsewhere, and referring to them as, “bad scouts”, seems like poor form to me. Remember, it’s not just these problem scouts we’re expecting to uphold the tenants of the scout law, how about some loyalty, help, and kindness from the leadership?

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Agreed. The OP stated:

“We don’t want to give up on these kids, but they are hard to reach. We have sat down and talked to parents as well as the kids.”

If the parents are supportive, I would find it hard to believe that they wouldn’t make them dress in uniform before bringing them to meetings. If they are not willing to support the Troop then I’m not sure how you are going to get the Scouts to comply. I would imagine most parents that believe in Scouting would help enforce the Troop standards. As I have mentioned, the BSA has a clear policy that it is a uniformed organization while not mandatory, the “spirit” of Scouting desires the wearing of the uniform.

These Scouts should support the Troop and wear the uniform of the day. While you technically can’t prevent them from participating you can certainly make it clear that that are not acting the Scout way.

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All of those things, in the scout law, work too. But it’s a two way street. I’m sorry if I offended anyone by using the term “bad” but in my neck off the woods we don’t call what has been described, as “good” behavior. I applaud the unit leaders for wanting to try to retain the youth and not give up on them. I’ve been in the same situations. It’s hard to “fix” 10 or 15 years of leaned behavior in just an hour or two a week while still providing a quality program for the rest of the unit. The parent(s) need to be part of the solution if there is a fix. Each scout is different, everyone has different motivation for doing what they do. In all groups there may be an assigned leader (SPL) as well as a natural leader. Unfortunately a natural leader who has “less than good” behavior will bring others along with them. If you can turn this one around the other likely will follow, otherwise you may need to seriously consider how to separate the element you are trying to deal with. I definitely agree with not rewarding poor behavior with advancement, you’re just compounding the problem. It’s an uphill battle if you want to try to retain them all. I would caution, if you can’t convert their attitude, you will likely lose good scouts over time . You will lose them because there is no discipline in the meetings, because others are disruptive and events are disorganized or unproductive, and probably worst of all you will loose them because all of leadership is focused on the few, not the good of the many.

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If the scout earned their advancement, you have no authority in the Guide to Advancement to withhold it from them. There is the scout spirit requirement, but once that and other requirements are signed off, you should be awarding it. Further, I would suggest that doing so will only make them less engaged in Scouting. Sometimes young scouts take a little while to figure out what they want and earning a rank can stoke a fire that didn’t seem to be there previously.

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Jacob, that leads to an interesting point. If the SM refuses to sign of on Scout Spirit that would be a “loophole” to get around the uniform issue.

It takes one committee member objecting to the sign-off, and the board is suspended, and the scout is to be given written cause and a means for correction (Guide to Advancement Although the candidate could appeal, the more efficient action is to actually behave like a scout for a couple of weeks.

But really, advancement is a very blunt tool to enforce discipline. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, we expect scouts to behave like scouts. If a youth refuses to do so, a suspension may be in order. The youth may return when he/she decides to be a scout. It’s really that simple.
If the boys in the OP increase their level of courtesy, the absence of uniform will hardly matter.

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