The National Association for the Deaf (NAD) has reported on a serious case of discrimination. Megan Runnion, a 12-year-old girl who is deaf, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana for refusing to provide her with a sign language interpreter. The lawsuit was brought under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and was filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.
Megan joined Girl Scouts in kindergarten and was provided with a sign language interpreter for troop meetings and outings by the Girl Scouts for six years. But this year, when Megan’s mother renewed the request for the interpreter, the Girl Scouts denied her request. Rather than providing the requested interpreter services, Megan’s troop was disbanded.
Megan’s mother reports that Megan is heartbroken that she can no longer participate in Girl Scouts since she cannot participate without an interpreter.
Megan’s lawyer, Steven Blonder, states that the Girl Scouts’ denial of a sign language interpreter is a clear violation of federal law. Federal law prohibits entities that receive federal funding, like the Girl Scouts, from discriminating against people with disabilities.
The Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana is the largest Girl Scout Council in the country with net assets exceeding $28 million. Its stated mission is to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place” and to create programs for “girls of all age levels, races, ethnicities, beliefs, economies, geographies and physical abilities.”
This is not the first case of discrimination in scouting. The Boy Scouts have been accused of discriminating against boys and leaders who were gay. Now, the Girl Scouts are being accused of discriminating against someone requesting sign language.
What kind of message is this giving to girls participating in scouting and girls in general? Are we being told that, yes, we should all be nice to everyone–but only if it does not cause us any difficulties? What do the girls in Megan’s former troop think about this? I wonder what exactly they have been told. I, for one, am not buying Girl Scout cookies this year. And not again until the Girl Scouts shape up.