By Boy Scouts of America
Mar 21, 2014

A Commissioner’s Role in Youth Protection

Commissioners are active at every level in Scouting, from the national commissioner as part of the national Key 3 all the way down to the “boots-on-the-ground” unit commissioner advising the unit’s Key 3.

Commissioners provide continuity in Scouting’s organizational structure; we are therefore in a unique position to champion Youth Protection training throughout Scouting.


John Lea, Southern Region Commissioner

Why is Youth Protection training so vitally important? Public opinion polls rank the problem of child abuse second only to drug abuse as a national concern. The Boy Scouts of America places the highest priority on creating the most secure environment possible for its youth members. To maintain such an environment, the BSA has developed numerous procedures and leadership selection policies. The BSA also provides both parents and leaders with numerous training opportunities about child abuse. The BSA must make these resources available to any person at any time—and it does!

The result: The BSA is an exemplary organization among youth-serving agencies in recognizing the potential threat that child abuse poses to young people.

BSA’s Youth Protection program follows a five-point strategy:

  1. Educating Scouting volunteers, parents, and Scouts to aid in the detection and prevention of child abuse
  2. Establishing leader selection procedures to prevent offenders from entering the BSA leadership ranks
  3. Establishing policies that create barriers to child abuse within the program
  4. Encouraging Scouts to report improper behavior in order to identify offenders quickly
  5. Swift removal and reporting of alleged offenders

These policies are in place primarily for the protection of our youth members; however, they also serve to protect adult leaders from false accusations of abuse.

Our comprehensive set of policies and procedures, designed to ensure that Scouting continues to be safe for all participants, begins with Scouting’s Barriers to Abuse:

  • Two-deep leadership is required on all outings.
  • One-on-one contact between an adult and a Scout is prohibited.
  • Separate accommodations for adults and Scouts are required.
  • Privacy of youth is respected.
  • Inappropriate use of cameras and imaging and digital devices is prohibited.
  • No secret organizations.
  • No hazing.
  • No bullying.
  • Youth leadership is monitored by adult leaders.
  • Discipline must be constructive.
  • Appropriate attire is required for all activities.
  • Members are responsible for acting according to the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
  • Units are responsible for enforcing Youth Protection policies.

From a youth protection standpoint, commissioners must be 100 percent committed to 100 percent compliance. We all know the unit commissioner wears many hats. Basic commissioner training teaches us that we function as representatives, teachers, counselors, “doctors,” and friends to the unit. But no matter what commissioner position we hold, our overall role as a commissioner is to help the unit succeed. When you get right down to it, Scouting is successful when the unit prospers, is active and engaged, has quality programming, and as a result demonstrates membership growth. A fundamental requirement of the successful unit is a trained leader. We take great pride in the quality of our adult leadership; serving as a leader in the BSA is a privilege, not a right. The unit will not be successful without trained leaders. Adult leader training begins with Youth Protection training. It is our responsibility as commissioners to see that all of the unit’s adult leaders are trained in Youth Protection.

The district commissioner has the opportunity to engage everyone on the district committee and hold them accountable for up-to-date Youth Protection training certification. Likewise, the council, area, regional, and national commissioners have the opportunity to hold those at their levels accountable to be certified in Youth Protection.

The BSA is considered a leader in combating child abuse. The National Child Protection Training Center states that the BSA has the most advanced policies and training. Our policies on youth protection are considered “state-of-the-art,” but these policies and barriers to abuse only go as far as we disseminate them into our ranks. As a commissioner, you must do your part to see that Scouting maintains a secure environment for its youth and that all registered Scouters are Youth Protection trained.

Our duty is to do everything possible to prevent abuse. Each and every one of you holding the position of commissioner must commit to holding all registered leaders in your unit and on your committees and boards accountable for Youth Protection training. Remember: As far as Youth Protection training is concerned, commissioners must be 100 percent committed to 100 percent compliance.

Author: John Lea | Southern Region Commissioner, BSA


See John Lea, “A Commissioner’s Role in Youth Protection,” (Spring 2013) The Commissioner.

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