Monday, June 8, 2015

Response to An Anonymous Scoutmaster

This morning I read an op-ed piece posted in the South Seattle Emerald written anonymously by a gay scoutmaster, currently serving in Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He says:
I am an Eagle Scout myself. I am also a Scoutmaster, and I happen to be gay. I was awarded Scoutmaster of the year by my district in 2014, but if my local council knew that I am gay I would no longer be allowed to serve which is why I write this in anonymity. I am committed to serving the youth in my troop and for that reason I cannot be honest about who I am...
It’s about time the BSA follows its own rules and allow LGBT leaders to serve. I’m calling on the Chief Seattle Council of the BSA to be a leader and adopt its own inclusion policy for the sake of the youth the program serves. After all it is the Cub Scout Motto to “Do your best.” Is the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts really living up to that?
Source: southseattleemerald.com
I posted this response:
Dear anonymous gay Scoutmaster currently serving in Chief Seattle Council,
Thank you so much for sharing your story. The voices of the oppressed, in their oppression, help us all understand the continuing need for reform.
The pillars of discrimination in Chief Seattle Council have changed from last year, and its foundations have eroded. Specifically Sharon Moulds is no longer Scout Executive. And the President of BSA has said he will not de-charter councils who refuse to follow the discrimination policies of National. And the district executive of your district may have changed.
Because of those changes it may be that an out gay scoutmaster in BSA, with the full support of his Charter Organization can successfully change the discriminatory practices of Chief Seattle Council and end the shame the continuing discrimination practiced by these scouts in our town brings upon us all. Coming out is required in order to change the practices, and support and defense by the Council is required in order to change the opinion of the community.
Harvey Milk famously said "Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out." Your bravery is what changes matters for yourself, your troop, your district and your Council.
If you find that Chief Seattle Council fails again to live up to the ideals expressed in the Scout Oath and Law, you will not be alone. Many others in this community will stand by and defend you. Our hearts and hands are outstretched towards you. And there are other scouting organizations who will welcome you around their campfire: specifically Baden-Powell Service Association seeks brave men and women such as yourself to continue bringing traditional scouting values to the next generation, equally to all.
Coming out is for the sake of all youngsters. Coming out frees straight scouts from the embarrassment they currently feel as participants in oppressing others. And for the gay scouts and their families it creates a world free from the fear of discrimination, exclusion, excommunication and shame. It is 2015. It is time to come out.

Friday, February 20, 2015

BSA Cub Scout Enrollment Declines 8.5% in 2014

I've never heard of an inclusive Klan registry. But I have heard of an inclusive BSA registry (link below). It is curious that not a single current unit, charter organization, district, nor council is listed in the inclusive BSA registry.

When I've asked BSA volunteers who claim their unit or council is inclusive, but who are not listed in the registry, I've gotten various unsatisfying answers as to why their unit is special and cannot be listed.

So here we remain, it is 2015, no BSA units are certifiably inclusive, and none (that I know of) are working towards certification.

Meantime, nation-wide cub numbers declined 8.5% from 1,416,000 to 1,295,000 (source unavailable for attribution, change in membership 2013-2014), this during a year when the leadership emphasized a focus on cub scout membership.

Can one be ethical and moral and still be a member of BSA? I think one can, but it does require some hard work, which begins with an honest assessment quickly followed by action. Scouting isn't so much about "being" -- these marketing slogans ("be a cub(tm)" and "be a scout(tm)") get in the way of "doing," which is more to the point of scouting. Doing non-discrimination is significantly different from "hoping" and/or "waiting" for it.

The Civil Rights movements of the past taught us many things. The most important being that it doesn't happen by wishing; it requires hard work and pressure tactics. Nice doesn't get it done. It requires dreams supported by actions.

Here is the link I promised: http://www.scoutpride.org/InclusiveUnits.html

Friday, October 17, 2014

Highline School District Ends BSA Recruiting During School Day

Highline School District is taking the matter of nondiscrimination seriously, ending the prior practice of allowing BSA personnel access to students and facilities during the school day. See this post for background: http://huhwot.blogspot.com/2014/09/boy-scouts-of-america-and-illegal.html. Here is the reponse from Superintendent Enfield:
Highline Public Schools
Ambaum Boulevard Southwest
Burien, Washington 98166
highlineschools.org
206.433.0111

October 10, 2014

Dear Mr. McGrath,

I have received notification of your complaint regarding Boys Scouts of America distributing program material and recruiting students during the school day. We recognize that these activities should not have occurred during the school day. The district has implemented reasonable measures to eliminate this circumstance in the future. We have spoken with the principal in question to make sure she is aware that these activities should occur befoer or after school. Further, we have taken the initiative to remind all building leadership of our Nondiscrimination policy and the Equal Access Act.

If you have any further questions, or believe your concerns have not been addressed, you may appeal to the School Board of Directors by filing a written notice of appeal to the Secretary of the Board. Please refer to the attached Board Policy and Procedure 3210 and 3210P for specific timeline information.

Sincerely,
(signed)
Susan Enfield, Ed. D.
Superintendent
It is interesting to compare the difference in tone and rational with that provided by Seattle Public Schools, who made program changes but claimed it was due to academic rigor rather than discrimination.

Do you think that Highline has gone far enough to ensure all students and families are treated with equal respect and dignity? Your comments and concerns are welcome in the section below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Boy Scouts of America and Illegal Recruiting in Highline Public Schools

The problem of illegal recruiting on the part of Boy Scouts of America in public schools in Washington State continues. This week it is in the town of Burien, a suburb of Seattle, in the Highline School District. I read about the recruiting in an article published in the Huffington Post, which prompted my letter to the District Ombudsman:
Dear Ms. Niizuma-Arambula,

I read this article in the press with alarm today: How the Cub Scouts' Exclusion Impacts Our Fourth Grader

I'm sure you are aware it is against state law and public policy for organizations that discriminate against LGBT people to have access to our students and facilities (see this article published by the OSPI: http://www.k12.wa.us/SafetyCenter/BullyingHarassment/pubdocs/ProhibitingDiscriminationPublicSchools.pdf).

The only exception to this in relation to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), in that they must be given equal access to rent facilities before or after school in an equal manner with any other neighborhood group.

Besides the recruiting event noted above, I have the following questions of Highline Public Schools:

  1. What other recruiting events for BSA happen during the school day?
  2. What will be done to correct this event and ensure no further violations occur?
  3. What other programs of BSA currently operate in this district?
  4. Does this district currently have Scoutreach, Learning For Life, or any other inter-operation, contracts or programs run by BSA or their Learning For Life subsidiary?
  5. Are BSA personnel currently permitted on school grounds during the school day?
I would be happy to discuss this with further, and look forward to your response. If there is a procedure that should be followed that I have not yet followed to ensure this is handled as a formal complaint please let me know what I should do.Thank you very much for your consideration and attention to this..

Yours,
Geoff McGrath, MSW
Are you aware of similar recruiting going on in your school district? If so, be sure and write a letter of complaint to your district ombudsman or compliance officer. They are required to respond within specific timeframes to resolve the matter within the constraints of the law. Discuss your efforts, successes and concerns in the comments below.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Analysis of the Scouts for Equality Strategy Briefing

Scouts for Equality (SFE) is "an American advocacy organization that advocates for equal treatment within the Boy Scouts of America's for all scouts and scout leaders, regardless of sexual orientation." It recently published a strategy briefing to see what the thrust of SFE would be going forward. It merits a longer post, but in brief here is my rather hard-nosed analysis:
  1. Praise of BSA
  2. Credit taking for the outcome of the 2013 vote and the new membership policy
  3. Little discussion of the problems of the new policy for youth
  4. Encouragement of continued participation in BSA
  5. No option for those who cannot or will not participate in BSA
  6. No participation/visibility of LGBT adults
  7. Praise for Robert M. Gates
  8. Charitable mind-reading of Gates' actual intentions and plans
  9. etc.
Significant as well is what was not discussed:
  1. duplicity of BSA regarding age of adult membership, and Gates' participation in that decision
  2. analysis of how these plans accelerate change above do-nothing baseline
  3. helping "grow" the program during epoch of discrimination--doesn't that rather discourage change?
  4. the steps individuals and units can/should take now
  5. addressing the actual needs of LGBT youth and adults in BSA now
  6. etc.
Perhaps the plans to rate individual councils on their actual support of full equality and preparedness to meet the actual needs of LGBT members will be useful, though it is hard to say until those plans are circulated. Why rating Councils rather than Units makes sense is not discussed. Note the prior advice for LGBT scout/scouters thinking of coming out was rather limited, broke no new ground, and provided nothing that wasn't already available from other venues.

Basically, I see little daylight between the official BSA position and SFE, in that both seek to grow the program (BSA) without bringing irresistible pressure for change to any layer of the program. There is a fantasy discussion about how the policy will change by virtue of a top-down effort driven by people who are on record to do nothing for the next two years, and with every reason to believe their intentions are to continue to do nothing after that, unless compelled to do differently by force majeure.

SFE appears to believe that because its board is made up of Eagle Scouts therefore it has leverage with the BSA organization. But there is no recognition that current BSA members (of which few if any SFE board members are), whether volunteer or professional, are hierarchically focused--they look up their chain of command and don't look to former members, no matter what rank those former members achieved.

Without a change in strategies and tactics I suspect that BSA will continue to ignore the efforts of SFE. But imagine BSA were to encourage the efforts of SFE--what happens then? Essentially it allows BSA to return to growth, to continue to confuse the nation that BSA is actually supportive of diversity and inclusion, without making any real or meaningful change.

I may have missed an important point or two--what was your read, what do you think is useful or not useful in the presentation, and what is needed to make real our aspiration for fully inclusive scouting today?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Parallels between Jim Crow and current BSA Discrimination?

This article points to the dilemma we all face (it is addressing the United Methodist Church, but the situation is synonymous to that in the BSA, LDS and other institutions who hold the right to discriminate as a higher virtue): Echoes of Jim Crow in the United Methodist Church.

The comments are worth the read as well.

How we face the "echoes of Jim Crow laws" is key--and it is on each of us to find the justifiable and defensible place for ourselves, in front of our peers, and before the judgment of the generations to come.

For my own involvement in these institutions, I strive always for this: To work constantly and directly towards a fully-inclusive future, and otherwise to facilitate an "underground railroad" providing a route to safety and freedom for the oppressed and for those forced to oppress if they remain.

There is a test to know when we are collaborating with the status quo, or taking advantage of a closeted or privileged position: If after every participation in the discriminating organization we come away thinking perhaps the words spoken or actions taken on that specific day are likely to bring about the desired institutional change, or to lead to your own expulsion from the organization, that is when we know we have stepped into the uncertainty and taken the risks required for change. It doesn't require a majority of us to live dangerously, and to take the leap of faith, but it does require some of us.

When enough of us predicate our continued participation in this way the change becomes inevitable, and the discrimination will end.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Superintendent declares Seattle Public Schools will End Affiliation with Boy Scouts of America

Sometimes change comes slowly, even when the laws are in place and the policies already written that require change in a timely way. Sometimes the reason for the change, and the scope of the change is fully acknowledged, and other times the reasons become obscured.

Here is what I'm talking about: District policy requires prompt action within published time-frames. I wrote to the district in May--they requested additional time, and then agreed change was needed in July. I requested confirmation from the Superintendent--policy requires a prompt response, with the change actually implemented within 30 days. Here we are two months later. The letter you'll read below is reasonably straight-forward. It is clear that the Superintendent is going to end the affiliation with the Boy Scout of America (BSA) based on the concerns raised with the school district back in May. I was gratified to finally received this letter via e-mail (even though it never arrived in the post as promised, and required some persistence on my part to have it finally sent).


August 18, 2014

Mr. Geoffrey McGrath
Seattle, WA 98118

RE: POST at Garfield High School

Dear Mr. McGrath,

Thank you for bringing your concern about the POST program at Garfield High School to the attention of our staff. Our staff, led by Mr. Larry Dorsey, reviewed this course offering and determined that the affiliation of the Boy Scouts of America with a credit-bearing course is not appropriate. Therefore, we are taking steps to end the affiliation before the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

It is our plan to transition this offering into an environmental education course for the students who have enrolled in POST. In order to make this transition, the content of the course will be evaluated by our Career & Technical Education (CTE) program manager to ensure the content is sufficient to provide course credit. In addition, we are working with our Risk Management office to determine the insurance needed for this type of course. As long as the course is worthy of credit and the district is able to obtain sufficient insurance, we will transition to an environmental education course for the 2014-2015 school year. If it is not, the course will be dropped and the students will be reassigned to other courses.

Again, thank you for your concern and I hope this answers your questions. Mr. Dorsey will be available to keep you updated as we work on this transition.

Sincerely,
(signed)
Dr. Larry Nyland
Superintendent
While the letter doesn't address my concerns about the Scoutreach(tm) program, it is clear they intend the POST program to be re-implemented without BSA's involvement. If you look at my prior blog entries the district arrived at this decision and wrote about it back in early July. Curiously, the district never informed the instructor (I hear he was called by the press today about it, and likely was distressed to hear first from them rather than from his superiors).

Today a member of the press stopped by to get my reaction. He tells me the district told him that they were making program changes not because of discrimination, but because of problems related to academic rigor. I think they suggested that discrimination had nothing to do with it, and even claimed that the original concern was originated by a parent. The story just got published, you can read it here: http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/seattle/2014/08/27/seattle-public-schools-ends-boy-scouts-affiliation/14718563/

As far as I can tell, our new Superintendent was being straight with me, even if he has yet to be responsive with regards to the other BSA programs operating in other public schools. I don't know who the reporter spoke with--but I'm curious to find out. If it was some bureaucrat simply invented a reason then I suppose that is understandable, and they'll get their story straightened out. But if it turns out the Superintendent is inventing new reasons, then that could be an early indicator of truth-telling problems coming from the top.

Either way, transparency matters. Just ask the people of Ferguson, Mo. They'll tell you. They have a tale of woe we should all be paying attention to because of the official shenanigans played out by the folks in power.