Does Allowing the Boy Scouts to Meet at a Public School Promote Discrimination?

Kit Schackner, a  Glen Ridge mom of a 02′ graduate, is upset with the recent reaffirmation by the Boy Scouts of America and their policy banning openly gay members. She has sent the following letter to the Glen Ridge Board of Education, urging them to stop allowing the organization to meet on school property:

The National Boy Scouts of America has recently reaffirmed its longtime policy of banning openly gay members. While this may be legal for a private organization, it is not legal for a publicly funded institution to support this policy of discrimination by allowing Boy Scouts to hold meetings on public property.

It is time for the school district to reconsider the policy of allowing Boy Scout troop meetings on its property. We have children in district who are gay. We have children in district whose parents are gay. Our policies on bullying forbid singling out people because of sexual preference. Our policies forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual preference.

The Glen Ridge Public Schools should take a public position denouncing this ban, and should require our local Boy Scout chapter to take the same public position as a condition of using school property for its meetings.

Does allowing an organization that that doesn’t allow openly gay members in it mean that you support that belief? Does it send the wrong message to children and families?

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Seems simple to me. If an organization discriminates based on sexual orientation, they should forfeit the privilege of holding their meetings on public, taxpayer supported property. This is basically a no-brainer.

  2. There are three questions here, not one:

    Does allowing an organization [to meet on one’s property] that doesn’t allow openly gay members in it mean that you support that belief?

    For me the answer is clear: no, it does not. If however you do not share that belief, it means that you are willing to compromise, or have compromised, your ethical standards. All of our school districts are hurting for funds, and I suspect Glen Ridge is no exception. They are likely unwilling or feel unable to forego the rents paid them by the BSA for meeting space. (The degree to which they are willing to compromise their personal beliefs for dollars is of course relative: such folk may well consider selling their grandmothers for beer money. And of course, some members of the board may be homophobes – nothing surprising about that.)

    Alternatively, it may be that the Board fears the threat of litigation in the wake of their denying the BSA equal access: in such an instance they may well feel constrained to allow the BSA to lease school facilities. If that is the case, they should be allowed to do so, but should actively deny the BSA any possibility of going beyond the barest requirements of the law in utilizing the association with the Glen Ridge’s schools to promote the former’s ends: no publicity, no flyers posted, no wearing of BSA uniforms on school property, and so on.

    Does it send the wrong message to children and families?

    The answer is yes, of course it does. (Unless, of course, the message one wishes to send is something akin to “God hates fags.”) Why does such a self-evident question even need asking?

    Does allowing the Boy Scouts to meet at a public school promote Discrimination?

    Again, the answer is yes, of course it does.

    I was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout (mid-1960s) – made it as far as Life Scout – and I deeply lament what has become of the organization since that time. At the time of my involvement, the Scouts were if anything a more open, welcoming, tolerant and progressively minded organization than the surrounding society. As one Montclair Scout leader who disapproves of current policy informed me a few years back, the BSA has become virtually the “youth wing” of the Mormon Church, which explains much.

    I would emphatically urge parents and caregivers who wish to extend the benefits of Scouting to their children without the patina of hatred and divisiveness that the BSA has actively cultivated to consider the National Camp Fire movement, a wonderful organization promoting children’s interests without the BSA’s cultic agenda. Those interested can learn more about the Camp Fire movement at http://www.campfireusa.org/

  3. The BSA is a private organization, many times burned by adult volunteer leaders who abused boys. You may disagree with their stance on gays, but its the same stance they’ve had forever. It doesn’t mean they hate gays. Liberals construe anything but agreement with their prejudices as hatred. Get over it. It’s a great organization. Teaches leadership and responsibility. Just doesn’t teach what you like about homosexuality. I don’t know too many cub scouts who have decided what their sexual orientation is. Any Boy Scout (up to 7th grade) who has taken a position is not likely to know his orientation yet either. Just take a deep breath. This is not something to draw swords over.

  4. No, Mr. abishag, you’re wrong: they were a great organization, before the fundies, the wingnuts and the homophobics took it over. In any case, there is a small matter of the law. Check it out.

    Glen Ridge Board of Education Handbook:
    It is the policy of the Glen Ridge Board of Education not to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, affectional or sexual orientation, domestic partnership orientation, gender, religion, disability, or socioeconomic status in education programs, activities or employment practices, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:7.

    N.J.A.C. 6A:7-1.1:
    The purpose of this chapter is to ensure that all students regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender, religion, disability, or socioeconomic status are provided equal access to educational programs and services by district boards of education.

    N.J.A.C. 6A:7-1.2:
    These rules specify standards that apply to district boards of education providing general education services to students in grades preschool through 12, special education services to students ages three through 21, or adult education programs, and to charter schools.

    N.J.A.C. 6A:7-1.3:
    “Discriminatory practices” means a policy, action, or failure to act that limits or denies equal access to or benefits from the educational activities or programs of a school, or that generates or permits injustice or unfair or otherwise inequitable treatment of students or staff on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender, religion, disability or socioeconomic status.

    “Educational activities and programs” means all activities and programs conducted, sponsored or permitted by the school during the school day, after regular school hours, on weekends, or during the summer months.

    N.J.A.C. 6A:7-1.7:
    Equality in school and classroom practices: (a) Each district board of education shall provide equal and bias-free access for all students to all school facilities, courses, programs, activities and services, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender, religion, disability or socioeconomic status

    I’m not a New Jersey Attorney at Law, but I am literate. It seems pretty evident here that, at best, the GRBE is skating on the thinnest of thin ice.

  5. Oh, and while I’m at it: the BSA organization doesn’t only discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. They also forbid Scouts belonging to the Unitarian-Universalist Church from displaying their religious insignia, a prohibition not applied to any other faith (to the best of my current knowledge). Further, their rules expressly prohibit membership by atheist or agnostic believers.

    So, let’s just be clear on what the agenda is that the BSA is promoting.

  6. “Liberals construe anything but agreement with their prejudices as hatred.”

    It is something of a contradiction to discriminate against discrimination, but I am comforted in this by “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

    If you want to call this a prejudice, then so be it. To equate discrimination against religion or sexual orientation or skin color or what not with discrimination against the discrimination against these other characteristics is a wonderful example of false equivalence. One harms the innocent, while the other harms those that would harm the innocent.

    One might as well equate legal incarceration with kidnapping because both involve involuntary confinement.

    …Andrew

  7. Bill: Thank you for the information on Campfire.org. I will definitely look into it when my son is old enough.

    Abishag – what does the this topic have to do with the abuse of boys? Are you actually implying that openly gay people abuse boys??? Was Sandusky openly gay? Were any of the catholic priests / monks found to abuse boys openly gay? Was ANY known abuser openly gay??!!! And as for when cub scouts “decide” or “take a position” on their sexual orientation, HUH??!!! You DECIDED your orientation?! No one that I have ever known, straight or gay, has ever “decided” what they were, they just are, from Day 1. And as for this being nothing to “draw swords over”, discrimination is actually the kind of thing to draw swords over – the history of mankind proves this time and time again.

  8. What I remember most about being a Boy Scout, back in the year dot, was a pervading love of the outdoors. I learned how to start a fire, how to tie useful knots, how to make myself at home in the wilderness. The skills and habits of thought I acquired through my participation in the Scouts–resourcefulness, preparation, a sense of civic mindedness–shaped my life. I’ve seen how local Scouts have helped kids in Montclair grow up into good people who care about many things that are important to care about.

    Frankly, I think the national leadership of this group should be lined up against a wall and shot, the idiots. But tarring the entire organization down to the grass roots with the same brush is a shame. It would be better to judge to local chapter on their own merits. Remember, kids who participate in the program and benefit from it are our neighbors, as are the adult volunteers who make it all happen. What they’re doing is worthy, and should be applauded. They just happen to be caught in the political crossfire.

  9. I am not suggesting that the Boy Scouts be banned. I am suggesting that
    the signals sent by incorporating their presence on school property is inconsistent with our school and community policies.

    And while many kids have certainly benefited from the BSA experience, it has to have caused some pain for some. Those are the kids who might benefit from the community taking a stand, rather than ignoring it.

  10. Without doubt, Walleroo, that would by far be the better solution, if not for the fact that the national BSA organization can impose sanctions on local Troops who are ‘uncompliant’ with policy, up to and including withdrawal of the local group’s charter. One of the local Troops here in Montclair actually was considering disaffiliating with the national BSA and joining “Scouting Canada” (its Canadian analogue). I do not think they did so.

    With respect to your question, “What about the pain caused to the kids who are members of the local Troop?” my reply is to question, how are those children better served? By permitting the continuing situation to exist or by standing up to an unfair, unjust policy? What lesson would each of those options teach the children who are presently Troop members?

  11. The troop could draft a public letter of protest to the national organization, signed by all present. That would certainly “send a signal,” wouldn’t it? They’d have to discuss it, vote on it, and take the risk that their letter or protest would alienate them from the national Scouting org.

    And it wouldn’t require the kids to disband or remove themselves entirely from the Scouts, nor deprive them in the troop of being able to participate in a group that they’ve nurtured over the years–olders kids mentoring younger kids, doing things for the community, learning a love of wilderness etc.

    It’s so luxurious to stand on principle. Have you ever been a scout? Has Kit? Do you know the local kids involved? I’m guessing not. Do you eat meat, Bob? Well, you shouldn’t do that because you’re contributing to global warming, crop monocultures and and supporting the agribusiness that’s using antibiotics in feed thereby creating super-bugs that might kill us all. Do you use heat in the winter? That would be to support fossil fuel companies that are ravaging the Earth. Do you wear clothes made in China, where human rights are violated? Take your trousers off now, Bob, and check those labels! Do you ever take the bus? They emit more particulates per person than cars do! Gotta be purse.

  12. Walleroo, I was a girl scout. But I very much agree with Bill and appreciate his comments. The intent is not to deprive children of the scouting experience in order to make a moral point, but that children should be taught that these bans are unethical and not observed in our schools and community. I think that’s as important a life-lesson as learning to be at home in the wilderness.

  13. If the ban were on blacks, Roo, or Catholics, would you defend the boyscouts so vigorously? Do gay people command less ethical “purity” than
    other groups?

  14. Do gay people command less ethical “purity” than
    other groups?

    Do they command more? I don’t shun Catholics just because the Pope is an ass. That’s basically what you’re advocating doing to the local Scout troop. What they do–what the boys in our town actually do–is highly commendable, but you want to shun them because of what some schmuck in Texas says.

  15. “Do they command more?” Gay people are not asking for special consideration. The Boy Scouts are.

    Who’s talking about shunning? The letter asks the schools to take a public
    position on the BSA’s official ban, if not to ask that the boys meet elsewhere. The letter asks that as a condition of continued presence of the BSA on school property, their chapter acknowledges that they do not support the national charter’s position, regardless of the risks. At the very least, the older scouts should get some message that this discrimination is not OK. To ignore it, bury it or refuse to acknowledge it on the grounds that they do other good things is its own form of shunning.

    There are parallels to Penn State here: Joe Paterno was trying to protect Penn State and all the good that his program did for so many students. Should Penn State be allowed to continue its football program unpunished because, after all, the current students and people involved had nothing to do with the crimes? Or is the culture in need of a “correction”?

    I don’t think the correction I’m requesting of the community and the local troop is too much to ask. It is not an act of imposing a liberal agenda on kids. It is an act of standing against discrimination.

  16. The letter asks that as a condition of continued presence of the BSA on school property, their chapter acknowledges that they do not support the national charter’s position, regardless of the risks

    OK, that’s appropriate.

  17. And besides, Roo, how do you get your little Joey to stop using “It’s so gay!” as a pejorative when you’re encouraging his memborship in an organization which discriminates? A little institutional reinforcement from the schools wouldn’t hurt.

  18. I’m a father of a cubscout who participated in the program for the first time this past year in Glen Ridge. My son loved it, and I couldn’t speak highly enough about the men and women who ran it and the commitment they gave it. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think they share the same feelings as the heads of the boyscouts. But I still don’t think I’ll have my son sign up this year. Should he ask why, I would be honest with him, and from everything I’ve tried to teach him thus far in his life, he should understand.

    This isn’t some policy written decades ago that no one pays attention to because it’s ridiculous, they just reaffirmed it! Are you kidding me.

    The message that the boyscouts are sending is something is wrong with you if you’re gay ‘You can be gay and in the boyscouts, but don’t let us find out! Keep that dirty little secret to yourself’. A message like that should have no place when it comes to an organization that, in their own words:

    “is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations…provides a program for young people that builds character, [and] trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship. For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.”

    When an organization with that type of rep speaks…people listen

    The message that the boyscouts are sending, by reaffirming their stance, will undoubtedly seed itself into the minds of some of it’s young members as well as any person that trusts that scouting is essentially ‘good’ and thus believe in the messages that they set fourth. And that should be unacceptable.

    This isn’t Chick-fil-a, who’s owner expressed his views on gay marriage, he’s still an idiot who probably agrees with the boyscouts, but he was only talking about gay marriage. The boyscouts are talking about how simply being gay.

    Isn’t it clear to these people that they’re treating gay people in the same manner that most our country once treated black people or women for that matter- They weren’t equal to the rest of us, they were below us and so they deserved different treatment. Shouldn’t it be so clear to them. Or are they just a product of their upbringing. One that takes time to change. Gay is the new black.

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