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Senior Patrol Leader

Does a Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster have the authority to select a Senior Patrol Leader for a Troop?

The Scout Handbook (page 43, 13th edition, 2016 printing) says that the Senior Patrol Leader is elected, and that all the Scouts in the troop are eligible to vote. However, the troop can set its own age, rank, and other qualifications standards for its positions of responsibility.

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So, here’s the deal. If a scout is not competent in his position – something we may discover within a month of him/her being in that position, but sometimes we can see that train coming ahead of time --, an SM can remove him. Often, in situations like that, an SM may decide a particular scout is the only valid candidate.

But, lacking that extreme situation, it’s far better that scouts elect who they will and learn to work with (or sometimes around) their choice.

I’m sure you mean that no SPL is perfect, and it’s a learning experience for all of them. Generally, if they are present and trying, it’d be hard to remove them. I’d also recommend that any removal of the SPL be a scout led initiative. If the scouts are still behind their SPL, it could cause issues removing them.

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This was not an extreme situation at all. SM and ASM (pushing the issue hard) decided at our first camping trip that one Scout showed leadership skills and the others didn’t. There was some silliness, yes, but no one was put in harm’s way due to behavior or broke the Scout Law or Oath. The Scouts felt cheated that they didn’t get to hold an election. One of the parents questioned the move but the SM brushed her off. This whole situation created resentment (towards each other and adult leadership).

That needs to be taken up with the committee if the SM and ASM aren’t open to discussing that Scouting is a safe place to learn by failure – even for them.

It’s not possible to have a scout-led unit if the SM dictates who can and cannot be leaders.

I don’t believe “not competent” is a dirty word. “Present and trying” are signs of it, and I’ve seen scouts draw SPL’s who are not present and don’t try. There are also SPL’s who use their position to berate and bully, and there are scouts who are overwhelmed and just aren’t ready for the job, yet. The troop is served, in such times, by the SM intervening.

@IreneHuseman, did you witness the incident? “Some silliness” from one perspective could be seen from the SM/ASM perspective as “berating and bullying”, or more specifically discourteous, unhelpful, unobedient, and unfriendly.

The other thing to ask, is the “chosen” scout incompetent, but he’s pulled the wool of the SM and ASMs’ eyes? That might be a reason to voice concerns to the committee. Otherwise …

If my sons were in a mess like this (and they were in similar), I would have them

  1. go to the SPL/SM, apologize for their discourteous behavior,
  2. promise to actually be scouts over the next three months, and
  3. ask if by doing so will they have earned the right to elect their SPL by the book.

So, should the SM/ASM appoint PoR’s by fiat? No. If they do, is it a problem. Yes? But, are they as direct-contact on-site adult leaders the problem? Clearly, I don’t think so.

Yes, I was there and when I say the behaviors were silly I mean it. There was no bullying or berating of any kind. I know this type of thing goes on but this camping trip had none of that. The Scout arbitrarily chosen had a “can do” attitude but that doesn’t mean the other Scouts were completely disengaged or “not competent”.

For the record, the Scouts in our Troop are all good kids and we don’t have a “mess” on our hands. We’ve since had an election where we had several candidates who all gave great speeches and the election was fair.

Taking your word that the SM/ASM will tell the same story, then the boys may not be the problem. I’ve seen classes of boys and leaders where the boys were the problem, and others where the reverse was more likely. And of course, we’re all blind to our biases.

In both situations, I’ve concluded that if I really believe that this is a youth-led movement, then I need not be the next adult to throw the book at leaders who are clocking the time to take care of our boys. I need to encourage our boys to courteously and kindly address the issue.

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