These FAQs are provided to explain the “why” behind the updates to the prohibited activities list. Please do not put participants or yourself at risk by permitting any of these activities in the name of Scouting.
Q: What changes have been made, and why?
A. Since the Guide to Safe Scouting was introduced in 1991, it has had a listing of activities that are prohibited as part of Scouting. The list has grown over the years to include 19 topics, and your feedback and questions have shown the need to not only revisit the content but also to deliver it in a clearer and more simple manner.
This version moves prohibited activities that are similar in nature into one area—such as shooting and throwing sports, the use of fire-starting accelerants and tent heaters, and extreme or action sports for which there is no specific program. The new structure is based on comments from participants and leaders, and experience with extreme sports and activities as they have evolved. This version also notes exceptions to a few of the prohibitions, provided the activities take place at BSA national high-adventure bases or at facilities that meet alternate guidelines or standards.
We have also looked at the root causes of incidents, injuries, and claims affecting our Scouting family and the general liability insurance program. We found that undermining the integrity of BSA program delivery—not delivering the program as designed or contained in our literature—was a factor in several serious and even fatal incidents. Therefore, language has been added to remind leaders that noncompliance or inconsistent adherence with published restrictions is prohibited.
Q: Why are you taking all the fun activities out of Scouting?
A. The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. The BSA has four aims: character development, citizenship training, leadership, and mental and physical fitness. A vast number of approved and incredibly fun Scouting programs and activities are available to fulfill Scouting’s aims while not putting our Scouts or Scouters at unnecessary risk.
Q. Why can’t we climb trees?
A. Falls are a leading cause of injury to members of our Scouting family and one of the top five claims against the general liability insurance program. Technical tree-climbing has been prohibited for more than a decade, due primarily to not being able to safely belay participants. Tree climbing has no belay; thus, it is prohibited. This is mainly a clarification rather than a new prohibition.
Q. Why can the Summit Bechtel National Family Scout Reserve use crossbows, and we can’t?
A. The national high-adventure bases are often used to test future outdoor programming. In addition, we know these tests have had qualified and trained leadership, and diligent reviews that include hazard analysis.
Q. Does the prohibition on club sports mean that my son or daughter can’t play basketball?
A. No. It means that the Scouting program does not exist to supply programming or insurance coverage to organizations that seek a charter only for a competitive sport. Our experience and the industry data have shown that this is a hazardous activity and risk, and it should not be a part of Scouting.
Q. Why can we no longer play dodgeball?
A. Dodgeball has never been an authorized activity in Scouting. Games and sports that involve participants throwing objects at each other, including dodgeball, have caused concussions and traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, and ankle injuries. There is also an aspect of bullying in the game, which has led to its removal from other youth-serving organizations. We are monitoring the results of gaga ball; at this time, we consider gaga ball appropriate if the activity is set up, monitored, and supervised following manufacturers’ guidelines. See this BSA Incident Review for more information before starting a gaga ball activity: www.scouting.org/health-and-safety/incident-report/incident-reviews/gaga-ball/.
Q. Why can’t we use blowguns?
A. There are inhalation risks and of the risk of spreading communicable diseases.
Q. Why can’t we throw boomerangs?
A. No boomerang program exists that meets the aims of Scouting.
Q. You say “no Parkour.” Are Ninja Warrior events OK?
A. No. This program does not meet the aims of Scouting.
Q. Highlining is out. So, at what point does slacklining become “too high?”
A. The line should never be more than 3 feet high. For additional information, visit www.scouting.org/health-and-safety/gss/gss08/
Q. Commercially owned and operated trampoline parks are OK, but how about a trampoline with a dodgeball area? Is it all right to take part in trampoline activities if we use only the trampoline area of the property?
A. While trampoline activities are possible at commercial facilities that meet or exceed current ASTM standard F2970-15, dodgeball has never been an authorized BSA activity, and it cannot be done anywhere in conjunction with Scouting, including at a trampoline facility.
Q. Why do you restrict tools and equipment that Scouts can use during service projects?
A. Scouting does not require exposing youth to any hazardous occupation, as identified by federal labor regulations. If youth would like to learn skilled trades, we encourage them to check out the Exploring program of our affiliate, Learning for Life.
Q. If something isn’t on the list, that means we can do it. Right?
A. No. The list is not comprehensive, but it serves as a definitive list of prohibited activities, and it offers a broad sense of what is not allowed as a Scouting activity. Please review and become familiar with program materials published by the BSA.
Q. I have a “concealed carry” permit/license from my state to carry a firearm permit. Why can’t I carry it at a Scouting event?
A. While various state laws have authorized individuals to legally carry or conceal firearms, Scouters are NOT allowed to carry them while involved in Scouting activities outside of the shooting sports program. This applies to all persons involved in an activity, as the activity should be under the control of a Scouter. This prohibition is not new and has not changed: www.scouting.org/health-and-safety/alerts/firearms/.
Q: Does the prohibition on excavations include cat holes?
A. No, shallow cat holes for waste disposal following program material guidance are not prohibited.
Q: How does the prohibition on excavations affect service projects?
A. Work below grade that includes trenching or excavations is not appropriate for service projects. Below grade work such as shallow foundations, post holes, or trail work is appropriate if using hand tools for youth (i.e., non-powered tools), provided all underground utilities are clear of the area.
Q: Does the prohibition on excavations include maintenance and construction activities?
A. No. Maintenance, trenching and excavation work that is following local, state and federal safety standards applicable to those needs is not prohibited.