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Boy Scout with Downs Syndrome article


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I have no particularly strong opinions about this, other than that telling a special needs child one thing and then pulling the rug out from under him is probably the most cruel way to treat someone with special needs. I just thought this piece was interesting and was the sort of thing the board enjoys a discussion of:

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2018/03/17/utah-boy-who-has-down-syndrome-loses-merit-badges-and-his-shot-at-becoming-an-eagle-scout-because-of-discriminatory-policies-lawsuit-says/

 

tl;dr A boy with Downs Syndrome was starting his approved Eagle Scout project only to have the national Boy Scouting organization overrule the approval of their local organization and take away all his merit badges because the local organization made accommodations for him in getting them. The family are suing (for a dollar in damages and to have the policy changed).

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Reading between the lines a little , it sounds like BSA has some policies in place for accommodations , but the local scouts didn’t use that and instead just awarded badges for effort. Which was fine until they got to the Eagle Scout stage. Then BSA put its foot down .

 

I really sympathize that the kid is caught in the crossfire , but it sounds like the local leaders only did a halfway job in advocating for him .

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Reading between the lines a little , it sounds like BSA has some policies in place for accommodations , but the local scouts didn’t use that and instead just awarded badges for effort. Which was fine until they got to the Eagle Scout stage. Then BSA put its foot down .

 

I really sympathize that the kid is caught in the crossfire , but it sounds like the local leaders only did a halfway job in advocating for him .

 

Well, the actual lines are that the boy's dad "got an email a day after Logan's Eagle Scout project, to distribute care kits for newborns at a local hospital, was approved...National organization policy required that Logan 'MUST' complete merit badge requirements as written and that he should 'plan, develop and carry out' his project on his own."

 

What are the BSA policies in place for accommodations? It didn't sound to me like the badges were awarded "just" for effort at all. It sounded like they used their knowledge of this young man to help him participate in line with his abilities.

 

This strikes me as discrimination, plain and simple. Like it will somehow tarnish the meaning of being an Eagle Scout if this young man, who is already facing great challenges to participate with his peers, achieves the honor. Seriously, asking him to go back and complete all the merit badge requirements "as written" and challenging him because he received help in planning and developing the project?

 

Edited for possible hyperbole.

Edited by fralala
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Wow.

 

As the parent of a 16 year old, who is a scout, who has down syndrome, this is hard to process. I've been putting my years of special education training to good use adapting materials. Or at least I thought I was. Our troop is all young men who have special needs. Now I am wondering about how the council treats us.

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I don't know enough about the BSA to really say for sure what's appropriate. Obviously the way this was handled is cruel in the extreme to the kid and was not okay on a basic level.

 

The issues that I feel like weren't tackled in the article directly were more like... what should we provide accommodations for and what shouldn't we? How far should accommodations go? Are there some things that people just can't access sometimes because certain levels accommodations would lessen the value of it, like a college degree or an Eagle Scout badge? And is an Eagle Scout badge one of those things (I would say no, I mean, come on... but I don't have strong enough feelings about the scouts to have a stake in that opinion, I feel).

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I'm not an expert on any of this but do know a local BS who is developmentally disabled received his Eagle last year without issue. I don't know what specific accommodations he was given but I know he was given a lot of support locally and it all went through without issue.

 

I'd like to hear more info because it doesn't add up with our experience so far. To deny the project is not all that surprising or a big deal but for all his badges to then be voided doesn't make sense to me, what was done to determine that they weren't done correctly? Did they call every single MB counselor? 

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Can they give them more time to work with BSA and figure out what accommodations will work?

 

I would be OK with that as long as there was some reasonableness there.  I hope they can't actually refuse to allow people with intellectual disabilities a path to Eagle.

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I think I'm okay with that too. Or even maybe with the merit badges having very specific requirements. Or anything really. I don't think a private organization is required to provide accommodations. Organizations like universities that receive federal monies have to make accommodations of various kinds, and that's good. But they still can have certain standards.

 

On the other hand, the world is better when organizations do make accommodations. I mean, kids who need more time need more time. You can't just wave a wand and make them need less. Kids who need assistive tech, just need it. I'm not totally sure where the lines should be.

 

Again, it should go without saying that their handling of this was an epic fail.

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I also wander if there's more to the backstory. Like someone decided their boy's achievement couldn't be tarnished by this young man getting something comparable. So they pushed the local and national organization to review.

I know exactly what parents mean when they say the activities uncovered ability they didn't know their son had. One reason I like participating is it's a way to push my ds' learning.

I also know the pain when something close to the child is taken away. Whatever happens, I doubt this boy will wear a scout uniform again. A bully scared my ds out of the swimming pool. At that point he had had a successful year swimming on the neighborhood team. It was two years before he showed he knew how to swim again (2years with me dragging him to the pool because I didn't want him to forget). He does compete now (neighborhood and special Olympics),but he's never had the same level of joy he previously had. Something important was taken away.

 

ETA: about the "important" thing. As parents we like to help our dc find a passion or find a sense of purpose or find simply find something basic to enjoy doing. Achieving that for a child with special needs can be extremely hard. When it is taken away the pain is deep and finding something new may not be possible. Our kids cannot just go try something new. There are not a lot of opportunities for our kids to try stuff in the first place. 

Edited by Diana P.
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Well, the actual lines are that the boy's dad "got an email a day after Logan's Eagle Scout project, to distribute care kits for newborns at a local hospital, was approved...National organization policy required that Logan 'MUST' complete merit badge requirements as written and that he should 'plan, develop and carry out' his project on his own."

 

What are the BSA policies in place for accommodations? It didn't sound to me like the badges were awarded "just" for effort at all. It sounded like they used their knowledge of this young man to help him participate in line with his abilities.

 

This strikes me as discrimination, plain and simple. Like it will somehow tarnish the meaning of being an Eagle Scout if this young man, who is already facing great challenges to participate with his peers, achieves the honor. Seriously, asking him to go back and complete all the merit badge requirements "as written" and challenging him because he received help in planning and developing the project?

 

Edited for possible hyperbole.

 

These were the lines I  was thinking of:

But Logan hasn’t been kicked out, according to Boy Scouts of America spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos, and the changes the Blythes reference were revisions to the eligibility policy. Despite the committee’s decision on Logan’s Eagle Scout project, he is just as welcome in the Scouts as anyone else.

“In fact, he was recognized at a special event in January to celebrate his commitment and love of Scouting,†she said.

She disputes the assertion that the decision was discriminatory and says the organization offered the Blythes “a path to earning alternative merit badges based on [Logan’s] abilities,†as well as additional time to complete the badge requirements. To qualify for Eagle rank, a Scout must meet the requirements by age 18.

 

My guess -- and it's just a guess -- is that there are paths to badges with accommodations, but the local leaders didn't go through BSA, but instead just handed out badges as they wished, and it's become a tug of war about if that level of local approval is OK.

 

My background is as a  girl scout leader; I have had a Scout who required some accommodations due to being Deaf, and we went through our council so they were aware (it was never a problem; they  gave us funding for translators).

 

I am not defending the decision here, it's awful.  I'm just guessing at the context.

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Reading between the lines a little , it sounds like BSA has some policies in place for accommodations , but the local scouts didn’t use that and instead just awarded badges for effort. Which was fine until they got to the Eagle Scout stage. Then BSA put its foot down .

 

I really sympathize that the kid is caught in the crossfire , but it sounds like the local leaders only did a halfway job in advocating for him .

Absolutely.  My son's troop has three scouts with Autism.  One of whom is primarily non-verbal.  He will earn his eagle in the next year.  I was the awards committee chair for the last four years and our troop has followed all BSA guidelines for accommodations.  You cannot just make up your own.

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If he were in a wheelchair and did adaptive sports, would BSA deny the merit badges for those sports since the Scout “didn’t follow the directions as written�

 

As parent to a child with both a physical disability (hearing loss) and a developmental disability (autism), it infuriates me how much better people generally treat children with physical disabilities compared to those with DD’s. Physical disabilities garner sympathy while DD’s often get treated as making excuses for bad parenting.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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There’s way more to this story. BSA has very well written and clearly defined guidelines for special needs scouts. They have a road to Eagle, but it involves following the rules, which these parents haven’t done. There is no “family prepared the Eagle projectâ€. An Eagle project is a scouts alone. That article also said that he didn’t follow all of the requirements for the merit badges, which also isn’t allowed. Like I said, BSA has a clearly defined policy for SN scouts, but the parents have to be the ones who get the scout on that track, starting with having him officially designated as a SN scout.

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I can be on board with having clearly defined specific requirements. There have been young men who happened to have down syndrome who achieved Eagle. 

 

If the situation is truly based on clearly defined specific requirements, the problem I see is someone set this young man up to think he was meeting requirements. There are consequences to doing that. He could probably have been happy as a scout progressing with the badges he could do with appropriate accommodations. Letting stuff slip by created expectations. Backing up on those expectations can be seriously damaging, in a way that is not something easily recovered from if it can be recovered from. 

 

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The young man has more time to get this fixed.  I would hope they could still make it work.

 

It's a shame someone gave him false expectations, but if he needs to do more to make eagle, then he needs to do more.  I think the parents could take a more productive view of it.

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Margaret,

 

Is it typical that when a locally approved Eagle Scout project is sent to the national organization, all of the kid’s merit badges leading up to Eagle are scrutinized? Or does the organization generally assume the that if the scout master awarded them, they must have been legitimately earned?

 

The turn around on this was super fast, which makes me think that this kid was targeted for scrutiny because his disability was visible and named. That matches with my experience as a special educator, that kids with disabilities are constantly under the microscope, and held to standards that aren’t actually enforced for others.

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I'm going to sound like a bad, negative person here, but I assure you that I'm just a realist when it comes to things of this nature. My son has a disability and qualifies for accommodations in various environments. He is a former Scout and my husband is still a merit badge councilor. 

 

Whoever told them that BSA would modify badge requirements gave them, at best, incomplete information. The troop leadership, council leadership and parents should all have worked together to ensure that everything was done according to BSA specifications. There is actually specific training available to leaders of special needs Scouts. There are some circumstances where they can substitute individual requirements of a specific badge and some when they can substitute required merit badges, but there is a stated procedure for going about doing this. Following the procedure correctly leads to no surprises. BSA will also sometimes allow an active Scout with disabilities to remain in the program to progress in rank beyond the age of 18, but agin there is a specific procedure to follow for this to be allowed.

 

 If the phrase "the family prepared Logan's Eagle Scout project" is accurate, than he most assuredly didn't meet the requirement for the Eagle project. That is something the scout is supposed to do. This young man is fifteen years old - honestly, in my area, that's young to be an Eagle Scout. I know that it is technically possible, but speeding through the program isn't encouraged in our area and many of our young men who attain the rank of Eagle do so late in their 16th year or in their 17th year. I am well aware that in other areas, kids are encouraged to progress much more quickly, it's a matter of preference, I suppose. 

 

The fact stands that while people with disabilities (my son is one), are entitled to accommodations in public places and in places of employment that meet certain criteria, but they are not entitled to have requirements for anything changed or waived. Both public and private institutions have the right, and in many cases, the obligation, to protect the integrity of their program. Just by way of example, everyone is entitled to accommodations that ensure their access to a "free and appropriate education." Everyone is not entitled to a high school diploma, minimum high school diploma requirements must still be met. If you are disabled and cannot meet the minimum math requirement, chances are you will work on a vocational certificate or earn a certificate of completion, but you won't earn a high school diploma unless you meet the diploma requirements. Everyone is entitled to apply for a driver's license, but if you don't pass the vision screening, you are not entitled to a driver's license. If you cannot read, you are entitled to opportunity to take the written test orally, but you are not entitled to a passing score. If you have limited mobility, you are entitled to use adaptive equipment, but if you don't follow basic traffic laws, you are not entitled to a passing score on the road test. You still have to know the law, recognize signs and drive in a safe manner.  

 

The parents want the line "to the best of the boy's ability" added to the merit badge requirements. That changes the entire nature of the BSA program, in my opinion. Scouting simply isn't an environment where everyone gets a trophy, so to speak. The purpose of earning the merit badge is for the boy to learn about and demonstrate competency in a particular area. For example, if someone can't swim the required distance for the swimming merit badge when working "to the best of their ability," then they are not competent in the same manner that someone who can swim for the required distance. Part of the point of that particular merit badge is to build up endurance, because swimmers who can swim longer distances without stopping are safer swimmers. As written, that requirement is objective in it's measure, as most of them are. I think many people who haven't been involved in the program don't realize how well thought out and well designed the requirements for badges and rank advancement are. There is a reason that few people make it to Eagle. It's hard. It's supposed to be. 

 

If anyone is interested in the "official" information, here's a link for you. You can also poke around on that site and get to the requirements for rank advancement and for individual merit badges (earning specific merit badges is a requirement for rank advancement, as is troop leadership experience). 

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Wow.

 

As the parent of a 16 year old, who is a scout, who has down syndrome, this is hard to process. I've been putting my years of special education training to good use adapting materials. Or at least I thought I was. Our troop is all young men who have special needs. Now I am wondering about how the council treats us.

 

Here is the official policy. I strongly suggest that you go for the special needs training program through your council, that way you can make informed decisions. 

 

I will say that it's okay for anyone to participate in scouts and not advance through the ranks. My son was a second class scout for three years. He simply didn't meet the advancement requirements. He still loved camping and he learned a lot. 

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I missed that he is 15 . That might have been a red flag that caused the investigations .

 

 

No matter what it sounds like this kid did everything in good faith and I truly hope they can come to a way to get him to Eagle.

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Here is the official policy. I strongly suggest that you go for the special needs training program through your council, that way you can make informed decisions. 

 

I will say that it's okay for anyone to participate in scouts and not advance through the ranks. My son was a second class scout for three years. He simply didn't meet the advancement requirements. He still loved camping and he learned a lot. 

 

There is a difference between choosing not to do something, and not being able to do something because of disability.  

 

The more I think about it, the more I think that a reasonable amount (determined based on the individual) of personal assistance, from a parent, or a fellow scout, or someone else, needs to be an allowed accommodation.  It's a very common accommodation used by people with ID and/or severe physical disabilities.  It's an accommodation recognized under federal law, and spelled out in ADA.  Schools use it widely, as do other public places like rec centers, movie theaters, and public transportation.  Given that, it seems reasonable to assume that it would be included under this description.

 

 

Simple modifications very close to existing requirements need not be approved. A Scout in a wheelchair, for example, may meet the Second Class requirement for hiking by “wheeling†to a place of interest. Allowing more time and permitting special aids are also ways leaders can help Scouts with disabilities make progress. Modifications, however, must provide a very similar challenge and learning experience. 

 

I happen to be very close to a young woman with a severe physical disability.  I have to wonder how the scouts handle cases where scouts have very limited physical abilities.  Do they simply exclude them?

 

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I happen to be very close to a young woman with a severe physical disability.  I have to wonder how the scouts handle cases where scouts have very limited physical abilities.  Do they simply exclude them?

 

 

 

I have a girl with Muscular Dystrophy that uses a wheelchair and has limited muscle control in my troop of 10 yo GS. We do not exclude her--we find ways for her to participate. She has to have a parent with her at all activities and events (I'm not trained to help with some of her needs) but so far, if her mom has wanted her to do an activity, she has done it. She went camping with us once but since her mom hates camping, she hasn't signed her up for any other trips like that. There are some badges that aren't easy, but in GS we have the ability to adapt things to our girls. I did learn that we couldn't do ice skating at the rinks around here because they don't have the equipment to get her safely on the ice though, and that's a real bummer. We're going to find a way though. I'm sure she isn't the first girl in a wheelchair to want to skate.

 

Some of my girls (my own and some of my GS girls) want to camp and hike more so we've created a camping coop group in our town that's open to any GS whose parent is willing to volunteer. That helps with some of the more adventurous ideas. It is still open to her but it's a coop so you have to have a parent that can lead.

 

So no, the girl you know would be just fine in our GS troop.

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Girl Scouts sounds WAY less bureaucratic than Boy Scouts when it comes to badges and awards. For a gold award, the girl would have to plan and carry out the project on her own. But there aren't a bazillion prerequisite merit badges to complete in order to be eligible to start the gold. The badges have recommended activities but if a SN girl needed to modify or substitute an activity, it's up to the troop leader to decide what "counts" to earn a badge.

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There is a difference between choosing not to do something, and not being able to do something because of disability.  

 

The more I think about it, the more I think that a reasonable amount (determined based on the individual) of personal assistance, from a parent, or a fellow scout, or someone else, needs to be an allowed accommodation.  It's a very common accommodation used by people with ID and/or severe physical disabilities.  It's an accommodation recognized under federal law, and spelled out in ADA.  Schools use it widely, as do other public places like rec centers, movie theaters, and public transportation.  Given that, it seems reasonable to assume that it would be included under this description.

 

 

 

I happen to be very close to a young woman with a severe physical disability.  I have to wonder how the scouts handle cases where scouts have very limited physical abilities.  Do they simply exclude them?

 

 

Sure, personal assistance is one thing, waiving the requirement or changing it in such a way that it no longer meets the intent of the program is another entirely. The purpose of the BSA is to develop practical and leadership skills and they have a very prescribed manner in which they do so. Also, what a personal assistant can do is  strictly defined in the settings you describe. A personal assistant may transcribe verbal answers into written form, but not provide answers, for example. For the purposes of an Eagle Program, a personal assistant could act as a scribe. However, they cannot conceive of the idea, secure funding, materials, volunteers, complete the content of the application, or run the project. The purpose of ADA and IDEA is do guarantee access, not success. ADA guarantees less than IDEA. IDEA only applies in public, K-12 schools. People are guaranteed access to BSA programming. They are not, however, guaranteed that they will progress though the program because no one is given that guarantee. It would be discriminatory if they provided able-bodied, able-minded people the opportunity to progress through the ranks and denied that opportunity to disabled people. However, that is not what they are doing, at all. They are providing both groups access and are providing accommodations for disabled people, but they still don't guarantee that anyone will progress through the ranks. 

 

No, scouts do not exclude people with limited physical abilities. They offer reasonable accommodations to assist people to progress through the program. Not everyone will progress through the program, no matter their level of ability. Everyone is welcome to participate, whether or not they are willing or able to progress. 

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I happen to be very close to a young woman with a severe physical disability.  I have to wonder how the scouts handle cases where scouts have very limited physical abilities.  Do they simply exclude them?

 

 

 

I have a girl with Muscular Dystrophy that uses a wheelchair and has limited muscle control in my troop of 10 yo GS. We do not exclude her--we find ways for her to participate. She has to have a parent with her at all activities and events (I'm not trained to help with some of her needs) but so far, if her mom has wanted her to do an activity, she has done it. She went camping with us once but since her mom hates camping, she hasn't signed her up for any other trips like that. There are some badges that aren't easy, but in GS we have the ability to adapt things to our girls. I did learn that we couldn't do ice skating at the rinks around here because they don't have the equipment to get her safely on the ice though, and that's a real bummer. We're going to find a way though. I'm sure she isn't the first girl in a wheelchair to want to skate.

 

Some of my girls (my own and some of my GS girls) want to camp and hike more so we've created a camping coop group in our town that's open to any GS whose parent is willing to volunteer. That helps with some of the more adventurous ideas. It is still open to her but it's a coop so you have to have a parent that can lead.

 

So no, the girl you know would be just fine in our GS troop.

 

 

You can take a manual chair on the ice.  You don't need special equipment beyond that. It works really well actually, and the person pushing doesn't have to be a good skater since the chair acts as a walker.  A power chair is trickier because of the weight and other factors, but a manual chair is a delight on ice skates.

 

I have more experience with GS than BS, but having supported a kid with a significant disability through a gold award project, and now having read the BS requirements, it seems that GS is inclusive, while BS practices mainstreaming (they even use the word, which kind of made my head spin).  That's a pretty huge philosophical difference.  

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You can take a manual chair on the ice.  You don't need special equipment beyond that. It works really well actually, and the person pushing doesn't have to be a good skater since the chair acts as a walker.  A power chair is trickier because of the weight and other factors, but a manual chair is a delight on ice skates.

 

I have more experience with GS than BS, but having supported a kid with a significant disability through a gold award project, and now having read the BS requirements, it seems that GS is inclusive, while BS practices mainstreaming (they even use the word, which kind of made my head spin).  That's a pretty huge philosophical difference.  

 

That's good to know. She has a power chair. I'll have to talk to her parents and see what we can do about a manual chair. The ice skating place made it sound like some huge thing and super difficult. I'll have to try another rink.

 

I have kids in both GS and BSA and have seen good and bad in both programs. I understand the BSA opinion but really it seems heavy handed.

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As to the scrutiny on mbs, it is done at the Council level. When a young man's Eagle work is completed, it is usually checked over by the District Advancement (here, that would be me) to catch errors before it goes to Council. At that level, each page is gone over, each date is checked, etc. In all my years of doing this, only ONE time have I had a book go through with no corrections. It's easy to mess up on length of time for a Position of Responsibility, etc. Only once every thing is verified, does it go for the Eagle Board of Review. Once the Eagle Board has met (and signed a zillion more places) does it go BACK to Council and then on to National. 

 

I have a suspicion that the merit badges "earned" of this young man's were either NOT signed by a legal mb counselor or not entered correctly into his Scout records. If they HAD, the discrepancy would have been caught a long time ago. There's no doubt that some adults let this boy down, either through laziness, ignorance, or sloppiness. Or a combination of all three. I had a SM just two weeks ago expect me to give an extension to one of his Scouts because "well, he's in track, and he's busy" Yeah, right. He's had 7 years to get this done. No, I won't sign an Eagle project proposal for something that will take all of 30 minutes. The rule is: does it show leadership? I had a young man (in my troop no less!) want to "put up a few fliers and see if anyone wants to do a chess tournament"!!!! Again, nope.  Routine maintenance of painting graffiti on your grandma's fence isn't going to cut it. And getting your bishop to write me nasty grams won't make any difference. The camp director (a dear friend) can call me to see if a boy can work on camp property. Nope. It can't benefit BSA.

 

I had a SM try to bully me into accepting a project that the boy had not gotten approval for. First off, it was a blood drive, which here means, one call, hang a few posters, done. The hospital does it all. No leadership shown. The parents tried to claim the disability route. BSA is clear that ADHD or something similar that merely means that the boy will have to take longer to accomplish tasks is not a reason for a disability accommodation.

 

As to the previously mentioned SM's call, I visited with him, and clarified a number of things (he's new), and after suggesting a possible project or two, I finished the conversation by saying that I needed to talk to THE BOY. I believe he aged out over the weekend, never having contacted me. 

 

I'm confused how the bolded fits with "the idea must be the boy's".  

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Margaret

 

I'm still confused with how what you describe fits with what the article describes.  You describe a variety of steps that must be taken before the project is approved by the council, but in this case it seems that the project was approved by council.  So, either council felt that he met the requirements, or council didn't do their job.  Then National rejected it, within 24 hours.  So, my question is still, how closely does National (not council) usually scrutinize applications?  Do they look at everyone's application within 24 hours?  Do they redo the work that the council did, or take the council's word?

 

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How can merit badges be awarded by the parents? Don’t official Boy Scout leaders do this? I doubt you can sign off your own stuff and just purchase your own badgers. Someone “awarded†them to him in a ceremony of some kind. It seems odd to devote resources to scrutinizing old badges and revoking them.

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I don't tell the boy what I think he must do. I do have a list in the back of my mind, of what might be needed in the community. So, I might say, "I wonder if the social services people need more kid backpacks for kids put into foster care?" "I think the observatory might have a project or two." "You're interested in gardening. I wonder if the food pantry people might have a need." "You like animals. Any possibility with the new dog shelter?" I often suggest to a boy that they look through the very cool Eagle showcase: https://eagleprojects.boyslife.org/ for the sparking of ideas. The best projects are the ones that the boy has a connection to--maybe a friend who is a foster child, or dad is a firefighter, or, as in the case of my ds, getting injured at the town's ski hill due to outdated facilities. That's different than saying, "Here's what *I* think you should do." I throw out ideas, and usually, the boy goes, "Cool!" It's a process. I might say, "Hey, there's this fellow at city planning office who might help you. He's an Eagle Scout! You might talk to Mr. So-and-so. He might be a resource." What DOESN'T work well is dad saying, "Here's your project." We've had some great ones over the years. I have a young man right now in Finland, gathering ideas for a project over there. I had to read up how to go about dealing with the paperwork. I had a boy last year who had moved, but kept his registration in CO as he wanted to Eagle from his long-time troop. I had a young man who figured out as a Cub what he wanted to do--it was a massive project, taking over 800 hours, but was well received. 

 

My experience, is that often times kids with significant, visible disabilities (like Down syndrome), are held to higher standards than others.  So, if a child without a visible disability has that conversation with you, and ends up growing food in a garden for the food pantry, they still get credit for the idea.  But a child with Down syndrome who has a similar conversation, with reasonable accommodations like photos to give context to the conversation, or an adult to drive him to the food pantry so he can ask what they need, is accused of not thinking of their own idea. 

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I don't know much about the Scouts, but was there really no other option for how to handle this beside invalidating all of the merit badges he had already done?

 

I thought that this quote was interesting: "After years of being told their son couldn’t do things other kids could, and knowing he’d never achieve many rites of passage within the LDS Church, such as going on a proselytizing mission, the Blythes said scouting appeared to be one of the few things he could do."

 

My own (broader) religious community, which places a huge emphasis on study and intellectual achievement, has struggled with how to truly include persons with disabilities, especially developmental disabilities.  I feel like we're making progress, but it's a process.  

 

 

 

Edited by JennyD
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I hate to say it, but I find it hard to believe that National rejected it in 24 hours. First off, they simply don't look at them that fast. National doesn't review every step (how could they?) so something is fishy there. Here's what National receives: https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/512-728_wb_fillable.pdf Possibly the records listed were not actually recorded, in which case, Council has a problem. It's obvious from the article that the parents have not familiarized themselves with the entire disability process, so I think there's some back story we're not getting. I hope the boy's records are straightened out. There IS a process to follow (of course there is--it's BSA!)  for Eagle under disputed circumstances. 

 

It seems that errors were made, by the Council and/or the leader, but I don't see how the parents are at fault here.

 

Wouldn't it be the scout master's responsibility for knowing the disability process and guiding the parents through it, not the parent's responsibility for familiarizing themselves with the process? 

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Ok, I really hate to say it, but the fact that it is an LDS group makes me suspect the leaders didn't know what they were doing. Now, that is more from personal experience (which is with Scouts Canada).

 

I am sure that there are some fine LDS groups out there. But I have been a leader for 25 years in Scouts Canada, both in LDS groups and community ones. Most leaders in LDS groups, from what I have seen, never chose to be a leader, have difficulty knowing what training is needed, and often stay apart from the rest of the scouting community. I have banged my head at group committee meetings telling leaders that they can't just do x because it is not allowed.

 

Anyway... I may be totally off base, but I suspect the troop did not follow the correct proceedures or get the special needs training mentioned above.

 

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Ok, I really hate to say it, but the fact that it is an LDS group makes me suspect the leaders didn't know what they were doing. Now, that is more from personal experience (which is with Scouts Canada).

 

I am sure that there are some fine LDS groups out there. But I have been a leader for 25 years in Scouts Canada, both in LDS groups and community ones. Most leaders in LDS groups, from what I have seen, never chose to be a leader, have difficulty knowing what training is needed, and often stay apart from the rest of the scouting community. I have banged my head at group committee meetings telling leaders that they can't just do x because it is not allowed.

 

Anyway... I may be totally off base, but I suspect the troop did not follow the correct proceedures or get the special needs training mentioned above.

 

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I am LDS and I can say that as in any group, some leaders are better than others. I happen to have two boys--one in a community troop and one in a church troop so I actually see both sides. For a while the community troop was definitely superior--number of boys, activities, leaders. Everyone was properly trained and you could tell that things were running really well. At the same time, the LDS troop was struggling. Strangely enough in the years since then, things have switched. I have my opinions on why, but training was part of it.

 

Trained leaders are better--I got trained when I was chosen to be a Cub leader many years ago and knew a lot more than some of the other leaders. I can say though, the other leaders at the training avoided me once they discovered that I was LDS (kind of funny since we were meeting in my church building). There is a huge disconnect between the community leaders and the LDS leaders and it comes from both sides.

 

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Reading between the lines a little , it sounds like BSA has some policies in place for accommodations , but the local scouts didn’t use that and instead just awarded badges for effort. Which was fine until they got to the Eagle Scout stage. Then BSA put its foot down .

 

I really sympathize that the kid is caught in the crossfire , but it sounds like the local leaders only did a halfway job in advocating for him .

 

Yes, this.

 

There have been many scouts who have had badges pulled because they were improperly approved.  Local units are not allowed to make exceptions to BSA rules.  The BSA has been adamant that local units cannot add to the merit badge requirements, nor can they take away from them.  

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There are two more other possible scenarios for the entire kerfuffle--was the boy actually registered? It happens sometimes--it happened here. I kept pointing out to a boy and his mom that he had not actually turned in the application. She kept blowing me off, saying he'd turned it in. Well, everyone else got a particular mb, but not her ds. I suggested he look in his backpack (as I had suggested many times over) for the app. Sure enough, there it was! I solved the problem, but it was extra work on my part. 

 

 

We had a scout whose Eagle application was denied because it showed that he had earned one of the required badges BEFORE he was officially a scout.   It was an error, but it caused a lot of last-minute commotion in getting his Eagle. 

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What an unfortunate situation.  I hope he can fix this and get Eagle Scout after all.  

 

We almost had to ask for alternative requirements before, for my oldest (Aspie) and my youngest with some hand issues.  He cannot (for example) do any rappelling or grabbing ropes or poles.  He was very upset for the camping MB as he had planned to rappel, but after grabbing the ropes for prepping, he didn't feel confident enough that he could actually hold on to it.  He ended up hiking and canoeing instead.  But he really wanted to rappel.

 

My older 2 have Eagle.  Youngest prob won't get it as his interest in scouting has faded.  He will have almost 20 merit badges (9 towards his 13 Eagle required) when he quits.   Sigh......it isn't my decision ultimately, and he wants to pursue sports.

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Right or wrong, good or bad, understandable or incomprehensible, this is bad publicity for scouting and correcting the errors made by this boy’s troop could have been handled in a more delicate and professional manner. Perception is reality. This is something that scouting hasn’t done very well with in recent years and it’s compromising the viability of the program on several fronts and with several demographics.

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There is a process for mbs being claimed that weren't actually earned. 

https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33088.pdf

See section 7. The tricky part is: did the boy actually EARN the mb? If he did not, using the written rules, he has not earned it. Why in heavens that would not have been caught before, I have no idea. 

 

The section says that the process is limited, and this situation doesn't sound like it fits.  

 

At one point it says:

 

 The badge is his to keep and count toward his advancement. See “Personal Growth Is the Primary Goal,†2.0.0.3. The same holds true if a Scout, without intent to violate national BSA procedures or policies, fulfills merit badge requirements with someone who is not registered and approved as a counselor. 

  

 

Which would imply that even if it wasn't an approved counselor signing off, if the kid in question didn't know or understand that, the badge would still be his to keep.

 

At another point it says:

 

This procedure is not to be viewed as an opportunity for retesting on requirements, for interjecting another set of standards over those of a merit badge counselor, or for debating issues such as whether a Scout was strong enough, mature enough, or old enough to have completed requirements.

 

 

That seems likely to have been what happened here.  That someone looked at the scout, and questioned whether he was capable, causing them to interject another set of standards.  

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I can understand not allowing the boy to earn badges when the work was not completed (accommodations or no accommodations).  But if he was awarded these badges, then they should stand.  The time to revoke a badge was long ago, not after several years.  As far as his Eagle goes, no one is entitled to an Eagle honor, and he should have to complete the Eagle only after he completes the work as written and approved in his proposal.

Edited by reefgazer
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My thoughts exactly.

To be honest, I am ok with saying that if he can't follow eagle scout requirements as written he can't do it.  But, tell him ahead of time. 

 

But merit badges, I mean, they are little round fabric pieces with embroidery on them.  They aren't a means to employment, they aren't considered for scholarships, they are just a piece of fabric that show you learned something.  Taking those away from someone who didn't learn every single thing exactly as stated because he has special needs is...

 

just....I can't imagine being the person who made that decision.  

 

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Which would imply that even if it wasn't an approved counselor signing off, if the kid in question didn't know or understand that, the badge would still be his to keep.

 

See, I don't think that's implied at all.  The start of the passage makes it clear that the counselor has to be registered and approved.  

 

There have been threats in our council that merit badges not signed ff by an approved counselor at the time of completion are not valid.  I don't know if it's true, but apparently some scouts have lost badges that they thought they earned because the counselor wasn't approved.  

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I’m always a little wary of making judgments about articles like this. I feel like often there is more to the story than is portrayed in the press. And I’m not necessarily more sympathetic to big organizations, but I do think that it’s easier for an individual to appear sympathetic and for judgments to be made without really hearing all the details of what happened. 

 

For example, I’m not sure what it means that his Merit Badges were voided. Did they ask for him to physically return the badge? That would be cruel. Did they say they didn’t count towards the Eagle requirements...also upsetting but perhaps less cruel and more understandable depending on how they were earned. They mention offering a path to alternative badges to the parents. It’s not entirely clear what that means. It could be “start over†or it could be “he needs to also do these things in order to say he earned the badge for Eagleâ€. Those would be different. 

 

It also struck me that he’s only 15. Many kids don’t earn their Eagle until almost 18 and I believe there is precedent for allowing kids with disabilities to have “indefinite time†to work on Eagle. 

 

It looked to me that the BSA didn’t close the door completely, but instead said there were other things he needed to do and the parents are saying those aren’t fair. It’s hard to know without knowing all the details. The BSA does come out as being mean and insensitive, but I feel like that happens often in the media and may not always be fair (not just to the BSA but to any organization where the story is “little guy vs. big groupâ€.) 

 

 

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So this was our experience with a situation on the SM side.  Dh was the SM for our (LDS) troop for 5 years.  He has all the training up through Wood badge even though we have not had a scout aged boy until last year.  During his time as SM, in our troop was a boy on the autism spectrum.  The parents were informed (ad nauseum) about the appropriate accommodations that could be made for each merit badge being worked on as a troop.  The mom was insistent that her son earn all the merit badges without accommodations just by showing up.  She felt that if he showed up to the weekly troop meetings & the monthly merit badge class he should get the merit badge along with the other boys.  For example she expected that he would earn the swimming merit badge because he had shown up for the merit badge classes without ever getting into the pool.  She didn't want the accommodations that were offered.  This mom was so persistent that she wore down troop leaders &  merit badge counselors, and blue cards were being signed.  Unfortunately, she ran into Dh at the SM conferences for advancement.  It wasn't pretty.  She threatened legal action against my husband. 

 

My hope would be for the young man in the article that his merit badges would be reviewed with an eye for accommodation.  I would hope that there would be ways that the work he has already done for each merit badge could be considered and appropriate activities could be planned for him by merit badge counselors to complete each merit badge.  I also know scouts whose eagle project idea has been rejected, re-thought, reviewed, rejected, re-thought, etc, until the project was acceptable.  I hope that will be the case for this young man.  His project needs to be tweaked & reworked by the scout and an adult leader who understands this scout's abilities and the appropriate accommodations that can be made while still remaining within the rules.  Together they should come up with a plan for the scout to succeed.  There is time for these things to be worked out.

 

Amber in SJ

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This thread is making me glad my SN child is a girl and in an organization that is far less bureaucratic than BSA. I don’t know if she will be capable of planning and carrying out a Gold Award project but if she does not earn it it won’t be because National has decided to nitpick all her badges.

 

 

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This thread is making me glad my SN child is a girl and in an organization that is far less bureaucratic than BSA. I don’t know if she will be capable of planning and carrying out a Gold Award project but if she does not earn it it won’t be because National has decided to nitpick all her badges.

 

 

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You think girl scouts is less bureaucratic? Not my experience at all. DD did brownies through finishing her bronze award and then dropped it to focus solely on 4H.

 

Her years of girl scout participation were definitely filled with bureaucracy and rigid rule following that made no sense. One example was counselors at gs camp not allowing DD to go to the latrine alone, but not getting her a partner to go. How do you let a 8 year old wet her pants twice in one week because you have a procedure. DD never went to go camp again. She did go camping with her troop and she did go to other overnight camps. DD encountered similar inflexible adherence to procedure throughout her time in girl scouts.

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And the official word from BSA: (lots of the article was bunk, as suspected)

U.S. Scouting Service Project (USSSP)

3 mins ·

There has been a lot of really weird stories concerning a Scout with Downs Syndrome who was working toward Eagle Scout. As a result, many Scouters thought that somehow the Scouting program was making a turn away from the disability community in this nation. Nothing further from the truth.

For the OFFICIAL record, here's the text from this evening's Scouting newsroom blog. Please share this along with the link provided below...and to those of you who reached out to us asking us to interviene, thank each one of you and know that we have done what we could to forward your and our concerns to the appropriate offices at the BSA's National Center...

(Settummanque/Mike Walton)

-------------

BSA Clears Up Misconceptions About Path to Eagle Scout Rank for Scout with Downs

Many local volunteers and Scouting professionals at the Utah National Parks Council have worked closely with Boy Scout Logan Blythe and his family to deliver a positive experience in our programs.

We want to be clear – the option to earn the rank of Eagle Scout has been – and still is – available to Logan. We remain inspired by his dedication to Scouting, and we hope to continue working with Logan and his family to support him in the effort to earn the rank of Eagle Scout through the engagement of our National Disabilities Advancement Team.

The Boy Scouts of America is committed to making sure every Scout benefits from the program and has the opportunity to earn the Eagle Scout rank. The process of achieving the Eagle Scout rank is rigorous for any Scout, but it is designed so that accommodations can be made for Scouts with disabilities or special needs. The National Disabilities Advancement Team wants to work directly with the Blythe family to review what Logan has accomplished based on his abilities and help determine a path to earn the Eagle Scout rank that is both appropriate and empowering for him.

Since its founding, the Boy Scouts of America has served youth members with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. Scouting is uniquely positioned among youth programs to meet the needs of children with special needs by providing diverse programs and social experiences.

At its core, Scouting fosters the spirit of diversity and inclusiveness, and we are committed to continuing the Boy Scouts of America’s long history of working with Scouts with disabilities, including Logan Blythe, to help them succeed in and beyond Scouting.

FAQ

Were Logan’s merit badges revoked?

No, Logan still has the merit badges he worked on.

Was Logan demoted to a Cub Scout?

No, Logan is still registered as a Boy Scout.

Will Logan be able to earn his Eagle Scout rank?

The Boy Scouts of America is committed to making sure every Scout benefits from the program and has the opportunity to earn the Eagle Scout rank. The process of achieving the Eagle Scout rank is rigorous for any Scout, but it is designed so that accommodations can be made for Scouts with disabilities or special needs.

The National Disabilities Advancement Team wants to work directly with the Blythe family to review what Logan has accomplished based on his abilities and help determine a path for him to earn the Eagle Scout rank that is both appropriate and empowering for their situation.

 

BSA Clears Up Misconceptions About Path to Eagle Scout Rank for Utah Scout With Down Syndrome - Scouting Newsroom

SCOUTINGNEWSROOM.ORG

This reads like a press release (one that makes a couple of key blunders to boot) and doesn’t take responsibility for whatever it is that the Blythe family reacted to in their email. I feel like we still don’t know what happened. If the family is so dedicated to scouts, I’m inclined to believe them when they say their son doesn’t want to go and when they say his merit badges were essentially nullified.

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