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fgoodwin

Parents File Lawsuit Against Boy Scout Troop

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I'm perplexed at how this can be a claim under the ADA. Will they claim that the troop is a business, or maybe a place of public accomodation? Even if they succeed in having the ADA apply, they would then have to prove that the accomodation the troop offered was unreasonable. Depending on the facts, that could be really hard to do.

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Hunt asks "I'm perplexed at how this can be a claim under the ADA."

 

Its easy, Hire a lawyer, (in this case its free as the taxpayers are funding this law center) file any old kind of law suit you want. Then sit back and wait for a offer of a fat settlement. Happens all the time.

 

You can sue anyone for anything and in most cases it only cost a small filing fee. And even if you lose you don't have to pay the other parties legal fees.

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I read Hunt's question to be "How could this be a reasonable claim under the ADA that has any chance of being successful?" I would guess that they would claim the troop is a place of public accomodation. It would seem like a private club is by definition not public, but I'm sure there are gray areas.

 

Oak Tree

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I looked up the "Disability Rights Law Center," and it appears to simply be a private law firm, not a non-profit as its name suggests. While it's true that you can sue over anything, this particular case seems to me to be particularly weak.

Maybe the troop leaders could offer to hand over all the money they've been paid to lead the troop over the past year...

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This one would be easy for me. If I'm the SM or on committee, we let the family know if they sue, we all resign and fold the Troop. If they persist, fold the Troop and reorganize, and don't let that family in the new Troop. They tried to accomodate him; he blew his chance.

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In the September 2006 edition of Scouting there is a great article on autism. The last paragraph is a quote from a mom of an autistic Scout -

 

"Get involved to some extent. See how independent your son can get, but support the leaders. Don't just leave your son. Remember, these leaders are volunteers.

 

Very well put!

 

Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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I just reread the updated story, through the link post just recently. One thing stuck out to me this time. They are comparing going on a school trip with a Boy Scout overnight.

 

Public education is required to be free and be appropriate, and in the least restrictive environment. If the school trip was part of the curriculum, then the school HAS to make the trip work for any student. The question I would have is what did the school have to do to make it work?

 

Also on a more global scale, what training did the adults, teachers or aids who went on this trip have for dealing with kids? vs. what is required of a SM?

 

There is also the issue of Paid vs. Volunteer in the adults who are being asked to watch over this boy.

 

Lastly what kind of trip did the school take, and what kinds of trips does this troop take.

 

Obviously, I'm not looking for answers just putting out some more food for thought.

 

P.S. My Asperger's (High Function Autism) son is 17, and life.

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This hits close to home. We had a new scout with Asbergers Syndrome in this past recruiting effort. His parents were very concerned with his interaction with the other boys. He made it through cub scout and transitioned into boyscout. The key to his successful cub scouting years is his parents' full participation.

 

His parents had a talk with us and expressed their concerns. They felt that he will not fit in the troop. We (the scoutmasters) persuaded them to give the scout a chance to try it out, after all our SM's older son has Asbergers Syndrome and is a fully participating Life scout.

 

After two troop meetings, we all that this scout was a handful, meaning we have to dedicate one asm to watch after him. Sometimes, he would wander off by himself. At other times, he would try to climb on or hit another scout. At times, he would simply cry out. All scoutmasters agreed that we need to talk to the parents asking them to have at least one parent needs to accompany the scout on outings. At night, we felt that we cannot safely keep an eye on the scout. We all agreed that we cannot dedicate one adult leader to monitor this one scout to keep him safe. We did this for 2 campouts after which they withdrew from the troop. The reason was not clear.

 

Requiring a parent of a special needs child to accompany the child is not an outrageous request. A lot of times, it's for the scout's safety. Who would know how best to take care of their child than the parents? As previously mentioned, this is an organization of volunteers. If it is beyond the capability of the volunteers then it is incumbent upon the parents to provide the supports for the special needs child. If it were my child, I would have been there at all times without being asked. Besides, it is not fair to the other scouts when the adults have to dedicate themselves to one scout.

 

Before people attack me or us for being insensitive, in our troop, currently, we have two scouts who have Asbergers Syndrome. Six scouts have to take a variety number of drugs for severe ADHD, ADD, and depression. Every campout, it takes the "medicine" man at least 20 minutes to finish the medicine distribution. We as volunteers do the best that we can to accommodate; however, sometimes we do need help!

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As an analogy, what would you do if a deaf scout came to your unit, and none of the adult leaders knew sign language? It seems clear to me that you would not be required to hire a sign language interpreter, and that you could reasonably expect the parents to help with this problem. If you wanted to learn sign language yourself, that would be nice, but I don't think it could be expected or demanded.

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I believe it's been discussed here before that BSA guidelines are that medications are the responsibility of the scout and his parents. Unit leaders are not obligated to take on that responsibility, and I for one would be hesitant to do so. Maybe it's because my wife is a school nurse, but I won't even give them a Tylenol. I hope you're carrying a huge umbrella liability policy.

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Here is a follow up news story I just found. This is adding more to the story, but there still seems to be some pieces missing.

 

 

http://www.palisadespost.com/content/index.cfm?Story_ID=2190

 

Family of Autistic Scout Sues Troop 223, Council

 

 

September 07, 2006

 

Max Taves , Staff Writer

 

At the end of August 2005, 12-year-old Casey Reilly didn't go with Palisades Boy Scout Troop 223 to Emerald Bay for a weeklong, much-anticipated funfest in Catalina. In fact, he didn't go this August either. But it wasn't because of his lack of interest.

 

Understanding why is the subject of a new and potentially precedent-setting lawsuit against Troop 223 and the Boy Scouts of America.

 

After four years of involvement as a Cub, a Webelos and a Boy Scout, Casey's participation in the Scouts ended with an e-mail.

 

In the four years since he joined the Scouts, Casey's autism has posed obstacles: He hiked slower and spoke louder than the average Scout, and interpreting orders didn't always come easily.

 

His specific form of autism, known as Asperger's Syndrome, is often associated with impaired communication skills, repetitive patterns of thought and behavior and often entails weak motor skills, according to the National Institute of Health. People with Asperger's frequently have difficulty interpreting emotions and understanding linguistic subtleties like idioms, irony and humor.

 

Doctors recommend that patients with Asperger's participate in activities that build on their interests in a structured and social environment. For Casey, that meant being a Boy Scout.

 

Casey's parents searched for ways to reconcile his illness to the social and physical demands of being a Scout. Jane Dubovy, his mother and a Palisades-based disability lawyer, hired a children's development specialist to attend Scout meetings and suggest ways of accommodating the Scout curriculum to his individual needs. Casey's father, Mike Reilly, volunteered as an assistant Scoutmaster and attended meetings and hikes.

 

And their efforts often produced results.

 

'When his dad was present, his behavior changed very noticeably,' said Troop 223 Scoutmaster Mike Lanning.

 

Upon turning 10 years old, Casey graduated from the Cub Scouts to the Boy Scouts, and the demands on him increased. Hikes became longer. Backpacks became heavier. And Boy Scout camp outs became larger.

 

The success of Reilly's transition to the Boy Scouts is now a subject of debate. Given these new challenges, the Scout leadership of the Troop requested that Casey's father attend all Scout events as a condition of his son's participation. But when Casey's father could not attend the week-long Emerald Bay campout because of previous obligations and leaders of Troop 223 refused to allow someone else to chaperone Casey, his future in the Scouts seemed uncertain.

 

Historically, attending Emerald Bay has been a prerequisite for advancing from the first to second year of the Boy Scouts.

 

Days after the Emerald Bay campout in August 2005, Casey's parents received an e-mail from Dr. Paul Kazimiroff, an assistant Scoutmaster in the troop and a pediatric neurologist. Kazimiroff wrote that 'due to his disorder Casey is not mature enough to interact with the Scouts as well as the adult leadership appropriately on an individual basis.'

 

Kazimiroff cited Casey's use of profanity and physical weakness as obstacles to his participation in the Scouts. And he concluded that Casey could return the following February as a Boy Scout but would have to begin again as a first-year Scout. (Kazimiroff would not return phone calls from the Palisadian-Post.)

 

Reentering the Scouts as a 'rookie' was not an option that Casey's parents accepted. They said that Casey would lose the friends that he had known in the Scouts since he was 6 years old. And they feared that Casey's return to the Scouts would not mean increased sensitivity or preparation for his needs.

 

After their son's temporary dismissal from the Scouts, Mike Reilly and Jane Dubovy searched for solutions from other Scout leaders throughout Southern California. Those Scout leaders suggested that Casey join a more 'disability-friendly' troop. But for Mike Reilly that would mean abandoning a troop in which he had invested 10 years of his time as an assistant Scoutmaster. Their older son, Tyler, was an Eagle Scout in that same troop.

 

Last July, Casey's parents sent the Western Los Angeles County Council of Boy Scouts of America a letter that detailed their grievances and threatened legal action. They argued that leaders of Troop 223 were unwilling to make accommodations for their son and unfairly excluded him from Scout activities because of his disability. When the Council did not reply to their letter, they filed a lawsuit on August 16, 2006.

 

Their lawsuit charges Local Troop 223 and the Western Los Angeles County Council with violation of the state and Federal law, namely the Americans With Disabilities Act, or the ADA.

 

Although the Scouts accepts all boys with special needs, troop leaders' training to deal with special-needs children varies widely. According to the Western Los Angeles County Council, troop leaders receive no specific training for boys with disabilities. And Casey's parents hope to change that.

 

'The Boy Scout motto is one of inclusion,' Mike Reilly said. 'But this Troop doesn't espouse those particular values.'

 

Casey's parents point to the Troop's unpreparedness and unwillingness to deal with students with special needs. And they claim that Lanning's leadership made little room for students with disabilities.

 

When Casey would use profanity, or students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder would not follow orders, Scout leaders responded by yelling and threatening them with punishment, Reilly said.

 

'They have no idea how to work with kids with special needs,' he told the Post. 'And when they were offered education and training for students with special needs, they declined.'

 

Lanning redesigned the Boy Scout program in Palisades to focus on earning merit badges relatively earlier than most Scout troops. And his efforts have paid off: in the past 50 years with Lanning as leader, the Troop has produced more Eagle Scouts than any other troop in the country.

 

But Casey's parents argue that Lanning has turned the Troop 223 into an 'Eagle Scout mill' that has little room for boys with special needs.

 

In a conversation with the Post last week, Lanning defended his leadership of the troop and his decision to dismiss Casey. He said that the physical demands of his troop were high and that Casey was not strong enough to participate. Lanning said that he acted on 'behalf of the child's safety.

 

'We assist every Scout that joins us to succeed,' Lanning said. 'Our record is incredible in that regard. We only have one or two boys per year that leave the troop.'

 

Ross Harrop, the executive of the Western Los Angeles County Council, oversees 27,000 Scouts in LA County, and he supported Lanning's decision in an interview by telephone on Tuesday.

 

'The needs of special-needs boys are best met with the involvement of parents. That is why the father of the boy was asked to be involved,' he said.

 

Lawyers for Casey said that the success of their case will likely depend on whether the Boy Scouts of America, a private organization, is required to follow the ADA. No court date has been set. In a landmark ruling in 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Boy Scouts. The decision allowed the Boy Scouts to dismiss troop leaders for being homosexual.

 

Jane Dubovy successfully sued the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2002 over Casey's right to speech therapy at Marquez Elementary.

 

In the year since Casey was dismissed from the Troop, he has not returned to the Scouts. In place of going to Emerald Bay this August, Casey attended volleyball camp. He began the seventh grade this week at New West Charter School in West Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I know this news article is an imperfect representation of a complex situation, but I have to wonder why the Troop would not allow the boy to go to summer camp with a disabilities specialist? Why insist that the father attend if he simply cannot? Are other dads in the Troop expected to meet that same requirement?

 

I mean, this isn't Cub Scouts -- a boy doesn't have to have a parent with him on every campout. And it seems the boy's dad was willing to be there but for this one instance, then arranged to have a specialist attend in his place to be responsible for the kid -- what's wrong with that?

 

As detailed as this article is, I suspect there is still much more to the story.

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Thanks for the update. It's interesting the father was an ASM, and attended meetings, and the boy having an older son who was an Eagle, meant they hopefully knew the program.

 

Having changed troops several times because the right "match" wasn't there, I understand not wanting to change, but also realize that getting used to a new group is far better than a group that doesn't work for your family. My younger son is face blind, it takes him a long time to recognize people, he looks at hair, glasses, body shape, voice, stance etc. etc., he can't even tell anymore, it's an involved process. He's been learning to fake it until he gets to really know someone. That's one of the reasons why we didn't like to change troops.

 

I also don't understand the troop not letting another adult take the place of the father. Then again we just left a troop were the SM didn't like parents going on camping trips, and refused to let my spouse go to summer camp this year.

 

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I also wonder why the troop leaders would not let someone else chaperone the boy since his father was not able to go to camp.

 

But, this article confuses me in so many ways.

 

"Upon turning 10 years old, Casey graduated from the Cub Scouts to the Boy Scouts." - Either he earned the arrow of light or finished 5th grade very young, or there is something wrong here.

 

"Casey's parents searched for ways to reconcile his illness to the social and physical demands of being a Scout. Jane Dubovy, his mother and a Palisades-based disability lawyer, hired a children's development specialist to attend Scout meetings and suggest ways of accommodating the Scout curriculum to his individual needs. Casey's father, Mike Reilly, volunteered as an assistant Scoutmaster and attended meetings and hikes." - This makes it sound like they knew nothing about the Scout program before enrolling Casey, but the article later states that they have an older Eagle Scout son and Dad has been a scout leader for 10 years (Casey has only been in for 4).

 

I don't understand the bit about "prerequisite for advancing from the first to second year of the Boy Scouts." Guess that means something like First Class/First Year. But, where does the idea in the article come from that a Scout has to start over from the beginning if they miss summer camp or are dismissed for a while?

 

And finally, the sentence with "...in the past 50 years with Lanning as leader..." - that is ONE OLD Scoutmaster!

 

No offense to any of you 70+ year-old Scoutmasters out there. :-)

 

 

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Since dad was an ASM in this Troop he knew what his younger son would have to do.

 

"Be Prepared"

 

I can understand the Troop not allowing someone the parents "hired" to go on outings with this Scout. The G2SS addresses this. And why, if dad is an ASM, would they "hire" someone to go. Why couldn't mom go? Or the older Eagle brother?

 

Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10(This message has been edited by evmori)

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