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Should bad behavior be a factor at a Board of Review?

We had a Scout come to us a little over a year ago, at 2nd Class Rank. The first few meetings, he had some behavioral issues, which the SPL/ASPL tried to handle and eventually came to adult leadership for help. Two ASM’s talked to him about his behavior, over the course of 3 weekly meetings. We saw an improvement, but then another bout of bad behavior happened, where an adult had to step in. This happened 4 more times, with the latest over the weekend on our campout, involving a Webelo from another unit. The night before he had completed his SMC for 1st Class, and the plan was to schedule his BOR for the next meeting. Right now our COR, myself (CC) and committee members are questioning if he should be allowed to pass his BOR, but rather discuss with him his continued poor choices, and ask him to work towards making better choices, keeping the Scout Oath and Law in mind, and come back in a month to go over everything. Our committee is pointing to this sentence in particular from section Discussion of how the Scout has lived the Scout Oath and Scout Law at home, at school, in the unit, and in the community should be included. I have tried researching this issue but have not found anything about continued bad behavior coming into play with a BOR. We have had Scouts in the past who have had behavioral problems, but there was always a buffer between the behavior issues and next BOR, so Scouts had an opportunity to work on it. Any insight from those who are on Advancement, or have had any experience, I would appreciate. BTW, I have sent an email to our district Advancement person, but haven’t heard back.

@RobertaBrewer - ScoutmasterCG usually has good advice:

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In my opinion, if the requirement for living the Scout and Law is signed off, which is must be for the BOR to be held, the Scout cannot have behavior held against him/her. The time to address behavior is when it occurs, not later at a BOR.

Remember, a BOR cannot retest a Scout. If a requirement is signed off, it has been completed. The BOR is a chance for the committee to get feedback from the Scout on the performance of the unit and to discuss the Scout’s goals, not to rehash something that is already approved.


I think that there is a big difference between discussing past behavior (what is noted in Guide to Advancement and using past behavior as a reason to deny advancement, after the advancement requirements have been signed-off by the SM or SM-designated individual(s). The former seems like a reasonable conversation at a BoR, particularly pointing out how such behavior can reflect poorly on the scout themselves, and on scouts/scouting in general. At the same time, I think that the Guide to Advancement is pretty clear as to under what circumstances a scout can be denied advancement by a board, and they seem fairly limited to me.

I will also note that the section in the 2021 Guide to Advancement (beginning with the originally quoted portion) reads:

Discussion of how the Scout has lived the Scout Oath and Scout Law at home, at school, in the
unit, and in the community should be included. We must remember, however, that though we have high expectations for our members, as for ourselves, we do not insist on perfection. It is most important that the Scout has a positive attitude, accepts Scouting’s ideals, and sets and
meets good standards in daily life.

Of particular relevance to this discussion, I think, is Section of the 2021 Guide to Advancement which reads, in part:

A leader typically asks for examples of how a Scout has lived the Oath and Law. It might also be useful to invite examples of when the Scout did not. This is not something to push, but it can help with the realization that sometimes we fail to live by our ideals, and that we all can do better. This also sends a message that a Scout can admit mistakes, yet still advance. Or in a serious situation—such as alcohol or illegal drug use—understand why advancement might not be appropriate just now. This is a sensitive issue and must be treated carefully. Most Scout leaders do their best to live by the Oath and Law, but any one of them may look back on years past and wish that, at times, they had acted differently. We learn from these experiences and improve and grow. We can look for the same in our youth.

I would also be mindful of Sections, and

If the issue is that adult leaders are signing-off on advancement requirements when they have not been met (or at least that there is disagreement as to whether or not a requirement has been met), that seems like an issue that needs to be resolved outside of the BoR process. If the board is particularly conflicted, speaking with the SM to determine why the requirement was approved may help provide clarity on how the unit wants to proceed. I would personally be very wary of denying advancement without ascertaining on what basis the SM determined that the requirement was completed.


I think this ends up being key. The SM signed off on it, so they have met the requirement. I do think it could be brought up, though, at the BOR. Not as a scolding, but more of a checking in on it. It also may warrant more frequent SM conferences to talk about progress to being a functional part of the unit.


This is one of the hardest parts of being a leader in Scouting, in my opinion. I’ve been involved with a couple of these situations over the years, while I was the SM. In both cases, the scouts had significant, ongoing behavior issues. In both cases, I had lots of discussion with the committee on how to proceed, and ultimately the CC and I met with the parents of the scouts as part of the process.
In one case, the scout was Star headed for Life. The committee and I agreed that he had not satisfied the requirement to live out the scout oath and law. We met with him and his parents and agreed to reconvene in 3 months. The scout ultimately dropped out of the troop, but his parents were fully supportive of our approach.
In the other, the scout was Life headed for Eagle. Again, I coordinated with the committee, and the CC and I met with the parents. After discussion with the parents and the scout, we ultimately agreed the scout was living the oath and law to the best of HIS ability, and the scout ultimately earned Eagle.
I think every case is very unique. The SM and committee really need to be aligned, and I think involvement with the parents is critical too. Good luck.


As @Brian.Wylie noted scouting is and always should be a collaborative effort.


@Brian.Wylie Thanks for sharing real world examples. This is an area that is covered the least in training. It is also an area where Scouting can really turn someone’s life to the right direction. It isn’t easy. Thanks for sharing.


I appreciate everyone’s thoughts on this. Stephen_Hornak, thanks for those links, I will check them out.

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I love the emphasis that it was to the best of his ability. It can be a little tricky to navigate those waters. Sometimes you know if there is an invisible disability, and sometimes you don’t.

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Thanks for introducing me to ScoutmasterCG. So much to learn…

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I am both a district and unit advancement chairman. If the all requirements for rank have been signed off by the appropriate people, the last bad behavior that occurred cannot be a factor for denying a Board of Review. You did not mention if your unit’s Key 3 had met with the scout and family concerning the scout’s continuing bad behavior at scout functions. This should have been addressed when the bad behavior started again. It is not too late for a Key 3 and family meeting to take place. We don’t know what the family situation is until we take to the family.

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It is also worth noting that unless you have By-Laws that explicitly explain what the troops expectations are for “living the scout oath and law” then you have no leg to stand on to deny the rank. It is impossible to live up to undefined expectations.

No, I didn’t. And I realize that “bad behavior” is a vague term. I guess I was looking for a general answer. By the way, we have recently met with his guardian. As for his family situation, the Key 3 are aware of it.

Seems like you are taking the right steps. Scouting can be a positive influence. I sincerely hope things work out for both the scout and your unit.

Thank you. I really think it will, he genuinely wants to be in Scouts, and we genuinely want to see him succeed.


Sounds like the initial conditions for success to me!

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This seems like a slippery slope to me. It’s not a black and white issue. The big question I have is does this child have diagnosed behavior issues? Is he ADHD, as an example?
Th second question is what is his home life like? To relate a story, one of my best friends had a horrible home life. We never really knew how bad it was until many years later.
He was always the “wild child”. The leaders were always on high alert for him.
He managed to become an Eagle Scout. And still, at the age of 63, he is thankful that he had Scouts when we were kids. He credits it to saving him.


You have some very good comments, advise and considerations. I would add that when I used to see kids at school suspended due to their actions or some circumstances I would always wondered what that really did to the student. Do they fall behind? Did this showcase them in a bad light? Was it successful? In your case considering suspension for a month looks like it’s on the table. What happens when you have that tough discussion? Which you do have to have. And how do you manage that conversation for a win-win. Does the scout back away from scouting? That’s a no win. And I like MichaelJohn’s take on family life and have you involved the parents. In these situations I look toward relating back to the Scout Oath and Law. Have you lived by them and give me some examples. Good conversation at a BOR.


We’ve never completely suspended a scout for behavior issues. We have required a parent to come with the scout to meetings/campouts/activities for some period of time, if the behavior issues are more than the leaders can/should handle. Of course, that has always been after discussion with the committee and the parents.