Week of November 11, 2004

How about a merit badge?... As the mother of a former Girl Scout, I can understand both sides of this dilemma. Mrs. Irby wants her son accepted into the Cub Scouts. She obviously has no time to start her own troop, nor should she have to. A troop filled with developmentally disabled children really could not give them a flavor of what Boy Scouts is all about unless you have phenomenal leaders. Cub Scout Pack 765 doesn't seem to have the leadership to handle a child with special needs; a group of seven-year-old boys is challenging enough to handle on its own. Some people have a gift for working with those with disabilities and others have to be taught.

My suggestion is to allow Christopher to remain in Pack 765 but assign to him one or several older boys to be with him at the meetings to help him to be an active member of that troop. I'm sure the Boy Scouts must have some sort of badge that can be earned by serving in this way.
Darlene Houry
Willowich, Ohio

...Or a move to North Carolina? While I do not have all of the facts about the boy in your story, I feel appalled at the action taken by the pack leaders. I have been involved in Scouting for many years and have had to deal with boys who were "slow." it would take quite a bit of bad behavior for me to take that kind of action.

My own son is ADHD, which I used to think of as something that could be controlled by parents but have since found is not true, and he has a tendency to be compulsive and indirectly disruptive, but I or my wife attend all activities, not to control him but to be there just in case. The leaders of this pack seem like they would not be interested in him, since he is not Mr. Perfect. Were I in your area, I believe the leadership of my son's pack would welcome this young man.
Harry Davis
Hillsborough, North Carolina

Insult to injury: To suggest that a separate group for disabled children be founded adds insult to injury. The adults who made this decision have passed on a lesson to their charges: Some are better than others and it's acceptable to discriminate against the "others." I don't think that's what the Boy Scouts of America had in mind when the Scout Creed was written.
Gayle Fitzpatrick
Falmouth, Maine

Watch your language: I understand the Cub Scouts' position, inasmuch as it is a private club, anything goes. The mother's comment at the end ["I feel like it's all bullshit"] possibly shows the true attitudes of the family.

There was no need for that comment, and if she speaks like that to the newspaper, how does she speak at home? Could that possibly have an effect on the boy? The Scouts gave an alternative; take it and quit crying. Life is not fair. Wake up and stop looking to attorneys every time you do not get your way.
Jack St. James
Las Vegas, Nevada

Between the lines: In my experiences with mainstreaming handicapped youth in the Boy Scouts, it usually takes a family member or two (or three) to work shoulder-to-shoulder with their handicapped son, especially those with extremely short attention spans or no retention. I am going out of an assumption here: If all the parents were complaining about the safety of all the other kids, where was this mom and why didn't she do anything to control her son?

Something is not being said in the article if the Scout leaders had to resort to communicating officially via a letter. Again going on an assumption, one would think that the mom would understand when talked to in person and recognize during the meetings that her son is out of control to the point of endangering the other kids.
Name withheld by request
Indianapolis, Indiana

Cut both ways: On one side of this double-edged sword, I despise discrimination of any kind. On the other hand, I can understand the pack's decision. Whether I agree with the cruel inhumanity of their act is another matter. Yet they have the right to make this heartless request. This is a private group.

Any group that already has a reputation of discrimination against one segment of society will easily engage in discrimination against another. This is an evil that always claims a higher moral ground. To expect otherwise is impractical. If discrimination is allowed and accepted in one form, then it must be greeted with open arms and sanctified when it presents itself in another. They have shown themselves incapable of producing and apparently unwilling to produce an extra measure of integrity that would allow this child to participate.

Let them exclude at their will. Why associate with people that would refuse a child with special needs, a gift from their hearts? I speak from an emotional standpoint and years of experience. I am the mother of two special-needs children. I've been waging my own battles with discrimination against the handicapped for two decades. Use the actions of this group as a guide that will teach your child what a painful lack of compassion in word and deed -- truly is. This is an unfortunate fact of life; it will never go away. There are people out there that will always treat this child as inferior and exclude him, no matter what you do to shield that child from the pain of this isolating behavior. This will happen again.

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