Judgment call: Who should get access to your unit contact list?

In your unit, is a Scout’s contact info freely available or guarded like nuclear launch codes?

Two forces are competing here: Effective, efficient communication between families — and privacy. How do you straddle the thin line dividing the two?

That’s what assistant Scoutmaster Leon wondered in an e-mail to me last week. Take a look at his note, and then weigh in below: 

There seems to be a concern in my troop regarding the distribution of the contact information collected at the time of registration and whether or not this makes us somehow liable or violates BSA privacy rules. Is this deemed “private” or should all members of the troop have access to one another’s complete contact information? Some believe it is for leaders only. Now is that defined as the Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmasters or does it include committee members? Does this include cellphones for the boys too?

In today’s day and age I think it is our responsibility, at a minimum, to share cellphone numbers of all parents. We’re not using the contact info for marketing or selling to vendors, obviously. I think having e-mail, phone, home address, etc., will only help folks feel included in the troop family as well as informed about who is facing their child. Note: We did personally speak with each person on the list to verify the contact information.

Now if it is distributed, should it be electronic, on paper only, or maybe only accessible via the secured troop Web site?

My feel is that this will help in every manner of communications—both within the Scouting unit as well as unrelated things as members of a community where the boys and parents can help each other out if they know how to contact each other.

Last point: In our modern age where there are many divorced families, there’s also a question that relates to including only one parent or both. Not that people want to advertise who’s divorced and who’s married, but some folks believe the contact information will reveal too much and place a stigma on the family, while others believe the troop families have a right to know who’s in the troop and how to find them when needed. There are lots of directions to take on this discussion so I’d like your feedback and the thoughts of others.

Yours in Scouting,


What do you think?

Share your comments

After voting in the poll, please leave additional thoughts as a comment below.

27 thoughts on “Judgment call: Who should get access to your unit contact list?

  1. My old unit’s roster is available behind a password-protected website. Email lists are created for troop parents, committee members et al that appear as ‘undisclosed recipients’ in the header so that the names are not readily harvested by spammers. Scouts create their own patrol email lists.

    • In response to ‘undisclosed recipients’, this is extremely wise. Not so much as in that emailing everyone with all the parents emails attached as a CC being bad form, but if any of the recipients have malware or other types of spyware on their systems, often times the emails are harvested and used by those systems without anyone knowing. Sending undisclosed prevents the spread of many a malicious software.

    • Undisclosed recipients is good for privacy, but not good when you want to prove you sent the email to a person that says they never received it. As Troop Committee Chair, I explained to Scouts and parents that we wanted to make a master contact list and it was their decision what avenue of contact they preferred. We listed email addresses, home phone numbers, and cell numbers. I created a folder we parents. Scouts, SM, and Charter Rep along with Committee members and emailed all info to all of them. I explained since the parents took turns transporting the Scouts that cell phone numbers were great in case of emergency. I also emphasized that the contact info was not to be abused. All worked well 🙂

  2. Each Troop has a responsibility to foster the Patrol Method. As such, there should be a ‘phone tree’ for the Troop.

    The SPL and ASPL should have contact information of the PL and APL, and other positions of ‘authority’ should they be needed. The PL and APL should have contact information for those in their patrols. Now, whether that is a home number, a cell phone, email address, or facebook, is entirely up to the individual boy and their family. For some, it may be easier to reach them via the computer, or cell phone rather than their home phone.

    We have distributed these lists electronically, and via paper. It’s nice to have a patrol contact list to stick to the fridge for when the phone tree is activated. [“Hey, because of the snow-storm, we’re going sledding! Be sure to bring your gloves!”]

    Adults should have contacts for the appropriate Adult Leadership (SM/ASM, etc. and the Committee). Again, how that contact happens is up to the individual. I know that I’m rarely home, and there’s hours when I’m at work where I cannot answer my phone — can’t even have it on my person, so an email contact is great for me. I check email regularly.

    In the past in my troop, where divorced parents were concerned, some information was purposely withheld from the other former-spouse as a ‘control issue.’ Since this issue, our Troop has always asked for a contact for EACH parent — divorced or not, so that ALL PARENTS are aware of the schedule of events — even though we know it is the boy’s responsibility to notify parents of upcoming events, sometimes our little angels forget to inform their parents. Frankly, it works out for the best having everyone know everything. [Even if the boys don’t always know that the parents know.]

  3. (1) Troops are “Boy Run”. Let the boys decide and make contact lists for the boys. They don’t need access to Charter info. They should be encouraged to develop contact lists as part of leadership organizational skills and badge requirements. They often handle situations of “don’t include my info” more wisely than we legalistic adults.

    (2) Charter info should be handled as private and “need to know”. Certainly contact info is needed by leaders on outings who have charge over the boys and may be needed by administrative positions within the committee however birth dates, SSN’s and registration ID’s, etc.of adults are rarely, if ever needed by most.

    (3) The committee and parents will find it helpful to develop voluntary Information exchange contact lists which maintains each adults right and to share or not share various modes of communication. Difficult home relationships can be safe guarded in this way.

  4. In most units I’ve worked or mentored, everyone associated with that unit has a LIMITED AMOUNT of what we used to call “directory assistance” information. This is the bare minimum necessary in order to contact someone on an EMERGENT basis — not to chat “howdy do”.

    This LIMITED INFORMATION is shared at the time of charter/rechartering, and provides a thumbnail amount of information about EVERYONE associated with the unit. This means that, in the case of a Boy Scout Troop, the following information is provided:

    – Chartered organization head and representative’s name, email and voice number.
    – Chartered organization address, voice and fax numbers, along with email address-Troop Committee Chair’s name, voice, fax and email
    – ALL REGISTERED MEMBERS of the Troop’s Committee’s name, voice, and email (in one unit we also listed their street addresses…I don’t like that but you may).
    – Scoutmaster’s name, voice and fax numbers, email address(es), work number and fax number, and work address
    -Each Scout’s FIRST AND LAST NAME, email, voice and school they attend and the first and last name of a parent, guardian or other contact with voice and email address

    That’s ALL of the information ANYONE in the unit would need. If they needed more than that, they can contact the individual and request it directly from them.

    How do one “lock down” this information? You can’t. This is “directory assistance” information, stuff that you can get publically and not anything private. Note that we don’t ask if someone’s married or not, where they live or what shoe size they wear — for a reason. If they wanted you to know all of that, they would TELL YOU somehow…

    Finally, we don’t bother with Troop positions, because they change a lot during a typical year and again, it’s not really necessary. What you’re looking for is “how to reach Mike Walton in the case of an emergency” and that’s what the “contact roster” is for.

  5. The list should be available via password secure web site of all members of the troop. The parent/guardian can decide if they want to include their address on the site but all should have at least telephone numbers and email addresses.

  6. We try to do all email via BCC list, this avoids problems when someone does a reply all of something possibly sensitive. We will email just about anything to the group, but it has to be filtered through one of the top leaders. “Are you sure you meant to say…”. There have been cases (usually divorce) where one parent does not want the other one to have a particular address or phone number that has been provided to us. That being said we also try to limit emails to one a week to the whole group.

  7. In the past we a spreadsheet with info that only the CC, SM & ASMs had access to but quite frankly, it was sometimes outdated and often resulted in a ton of “reply all” emails since no one knew who or who not to include in an email. We recently started using TroopTrack and asked everyone to maintain their own contact information. You have to have an account to log in and you don’t see everyone’s personal information unless you have been given permission (but rather just their name, patrol, phone numbers and email). Seems to be working well so far.

    • We also use the troop track software. It is an excellent program and allows you to set the user preferences depending on what position the leader or scout is in.

  8. The Pack we were a member of had a registered adults only roster. Dens were required to share their own contact lists.

    The Troop we are now part of uses a secured website. For each Scout, there’s at least one parent, with an email address and phone number. Additional parents can be added as needed/desired. In addition, each family with a login controls how much additional information they want to share (i.e. cell phone, more email addresses, etc.)

    A Scout webmaster maintains which Patrols the boys are in, and the site automatically builds email aliases for each patrol, which includes the Scout and any associated parents.

  9. Bryan, GREAT POST! One other thing — we always distribute cell phone lists for all adults going on a campout. For summer/winter camps, that list is laminated since it has to last a little longer under potentially rugged conditions. Keep up the great work. Rufus, WB94 Owl

    • This is such a great thing for the adults going on a campout, I started doing this about a year ago, I also list at least two adults not on the campout that know the plan.

      For summer/winter camps we list two section, leades in camp and leaders not in camp. I make sure every adult has the list in business card size and I give a full page to the camp staff for their records.

  10. OK, I work with venturers. But they know each others personal information in the time it takes for me to email them all to get a shirt size — cell, home, email, twitter, Facebook, websites, etc. It takes weeks to convince them to keep some privacy (and apparently, as a result, they think I’m old fashioned and ont know anything about the Internet). But we send out one time each year, names, contact info, and an email list that mainly gets used and shared by parents.

    As long as they aren’t sending things that people tend to forward–jokes, general info, etc.–and limit it to unit news, life is fine and we don’t get into tons of spamming. So we’ll stick to our open attitude for the time being.

  11. Given the “connected” environment we all live in today, our Troop follows a few basic common sense practices….

    The Committee Chair, Scoutmaster, Asst Scoutmaster, etc. who have a routine need for ALL information, have access to ALL information.

    All currently “public” information (i.e. public twitter, facebook, published phone numbers, etc.) are available to all.

    And individual Scouts have access to phone numbers, etc. from their own Patrol, and the SPL, ASPL, and Adult Leadership.

    Our unit provides electronic access to our Troop Management System, and each login specifies what type of access everyone has.

    It’s simple, but very effective.

  12. Our Troop’s information is available to any registered adult or parent who has emailed our SM and requested log in permission. That way he knows who has requested access and can control it.

  13. I was on the committee for my son’s pack and troop and I don’t recall contact information ever being an issue. The town was small, like Mayberry with everyone knowing everyone else and phone numbers and addresses were all in town phone book.

    It is comical that people would worry about a phone contact list in today’s world when I can find out where you live in seconds using the internet.

  14. I’d agree with others, that e-mail addresses and other contact information disclosed by parents, Scouts and leaders should be widely shared, but that it be done in a secured web site. I note that sharing the contact list e-mails is a requirement for the Silver level for the 2013 Journey to Excellence, so the BSA seems to want wider disclosure.

  15. Our committee refuses to put our roster on the troop website, even though it would be behind a secure password login, yet they freely send the same exact information over the internet every year at rechartering time. Our troop roster, Scouts and leaders, is distributed via e-mail to all troop families (and e-mails have never been hacked?) I have tried to tell them its no different than having the information in a phone book, but they have their minds made up already.

  16. We use Troopmaster and Troopmaster Web, which makes our data available to Scouters, Scouts and Parents who create an account. Access is restricted by category. The web info is synced with the main database, so the info is relatively current.

    Not having current info is a burden. The best thing is to check to annual physical form for any changes.

    With a smart phone, information such as contact info, participation in events and advancement can be checked on a camping trip. Invariably, someone has a smartphone on a camping trip.

    Say, you are waiting on a Friday night for one scout…… Say you are at summer camp and want to know if a scout camped 20 nights for Camping merit badge.

    No I don’t work for Troopmaster, but I appreciate it as an effective tool to manage information.

  17. We put out a phone list of all the boys in the troop, and give it to the scouts at the quarterly Court of Honors. It has the address and phone number for each of the scouts. This is necessary to promote the Patrol Method so that the boys can call their patrol members. Email addresses are given out with permission. We use Troopmaster to keep our records and several leaders have access to the database to help fill their roles. Each family is given the opportunity to not have their contact information on the phone list that goes out.

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  19. Why guard the roster like Fort Knox? Sure, this information should not be available to the public, but all troop member should have access; as well as the charter org head. Families choose to join a troop, and I do mean families, and for every parent should know who the leaders and parents are, and how to reach them. Frankly, I can’t see any reason to “hide” contact information from other members of your troop.

  20. Without regard to the privacy or sensitivity issue, I have found this contact information shielded from the scout program outside of the room the unit meets for fear that someone might ask one of the adults not contributing to the program to participate or fear that the greater organization might steal their adult for other service.

  21. I’m having a good time giggling at the folks tossing around the word “secure.” It’s contact info, if anyone wants it they’re going to get it and there are faster, easier ways to get someone’s info than checking the troop printout or website. And your website isn’t secure, it just hasn’t been breached yet.

  22. In my troop this has never even come up for question. I think this is mainly because what is important in our troop is that we use a phone tree. the SPL is really the only scout who has semi-frequent phone contact with adult leaders, and the SPL contacts his patrol leaders and the patrol leaders contact the individual scouts. We don’t guard phone numbers but if a scout needs to get a hold of someone we encourage them to contact their patrol leader, the SPL, or the scoutmaster (in that order). And if parents need to talk to someone they are given the number for the scoutmaster and/or committee chair. I dont think circulating phone numbers is a matter of privacy in this context it is a matter of good communication.

  23. In one way or another, many people have already mentioned that sharing contact info is necessary for efficient communication within any troop. From there, all that’s necessary is to inform everyone that contact info will be shared by everyone in the troop, and to provide those who want more privacy the option to not share.

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