Friday, September 29, 2000
National Boy Scout controversy felt in Carlisle
The Carlisle School Committee and school administration are grappling with the question of whether to continue to allow the Carlisle Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts to use the school buildings for meetings. This is a concern because of the recent United States Supreme Court ruling that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is a private organization and can legally exclude gay youth and adult leaders and any other groups as they choose. At the national level the Boy Scouts have a policy barring gays and also atheists and agnostics.
Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson raised the issue at the school committee meeting on September 19 in response to questions she had received from citizens and faculty. That evening the school committee decided not to allow the Scouts use of the building until more questions could be answered. Then on September 22 that decision was modified to make it possible for the Scouts to use the school temporarily while the larger issues are investigated.
Fox-Melanson explained that the Carlisle School Association (CSA) sponsors the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, making them a school-affiliated program. As such, the Scouts have been permitted to use the school buildings for meetings without paying a fee. In light of the Supreme Court ruling, however, Fox-Melanson asked the school committee to consider whether they could continue to allow a discriminatory organization to use public school buildings.
Local Scouts may disavow policy
CSC member David Dockterman, who is also assistant packmaster to the Cub Scout pack, said that the local Scout district does not endorse the national policy, that he was trying to get an official policy statement from the district, as well as attempting to find out how other towns were handling this issue. Dockterman thought that the local Scouts would be willing to say that they disagree with the national policy and would not discriminate, but he was unsure about how the national leadership would respond.
CSC chair Paul Morrison said that if the Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop were able to assert that they disagree with the national policy and would not discriminate, the school committee could consider allowing continued use of the school. Nonetheless, he recommended that, until that time, the school should not allow further Scout meetings, and committee members concurred. The first Cub Scout pack meeting, scheduled for September 25, was cancelled.
When they learned of the decision following the meeting, the Boy Scout troop leaders protested that they had not been notified that the discrimination question would be discussed. (The issue was not on the agenda for the meeting.) They complained that they had also not
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