Seattle Public Schools Cuts Ties with Boy Scouts of America

Seattle Public Schools and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have parted ways.  Although the BSA insured and gave guidance to a popular outdoor education program at Garfield High School called POST, which educates about 500 students, the district decided to end its affiliation with the BSA.

A district letter explained that the decision was because of concerns about “academic rigor”, although it did acknowledge that  there had been an investigation based on the Boy Scouts stance on hiring homosexuals, says John Langeler of NBC affiliate KING5.

A former Boy Scout troop leader, Geoffrey McGrath, who had his position taken away based on his homosexuality, raised questions concerning the fact that the district’s relationship with the Scouts violated its own hiring policies.

“The concern is that the employees implementing the program, that are contracted to provide the service to Seattle Public Schools, that’s a straights only workforce,” said McGrath.

The program’s adviser, Scott McGowan, was not informed of the decision and was confused over the district’s “academic rigor” statement.

“I’m not clear why…an affiliation with Boy Scouts of America would have anything to do with the academic course work in the classroom,” said McGowan, “If the district wants to end that relationship, I hope they give us the support needed to continue this programming.”

McGrath added:

“This is a 30-year program they’ve had in place and they’re ending this year based on my complaint,” he said, “I don’t think it’s about academic rigor.”

Neither the Seattle Boy Scouts nor the Seattle Public Schools accepted a request for comment, but Garfield High School released a letter which included the following reasoning:

• The class in question is an outdoor recreation class taught by a district employee.

• The class was reviewed when a parent expressed concern about discriminatory practices surrounding the Boy Scout organization.

• The school decided that the affiliation of Boy Scouts of America with a credit-bearing course was not appropriate.

• Upon review of the course, there were concerns about academic rigor and course content, and it was decided that a curriculum update was in order.

Instead, a course in Natural Resources will be available with a stronger educational focus on science.  The Natural Resources curriculum is owned by the district and will be a developed as part of the course update.

Q13 Fox News reports that the Scout organization maintains it ban on openly gay adult leaders.  Organizations like GLAAD, an LGBT rights advocacy group, have attempted to convince public schools to end their association with the Boy Scouts, since the group’s decision to not allow leadership to be openly gay is discriminatory.  In 2013,  BSA changed its stance on banning gay youth from being a part of the organization.

Natasha Chen of KIRO explains that POST was a large, student-run organization at Garfield High School that organized 15 to 20 trips for 600 students a year. Students presented lessons on biology and geology as they explored the outdoors.

She points out that the BSA paid the insurance for POST and MacGowan said they also provided a valuable service, especially considering their long history of outdoor programming experience.  He said that the BSA also helped POST with outreach and facilities.  The Boy Scout organization did not supply funding to POST and did not provide its curriculum.

MacGowan adds that he wishes that the BSA could be as inclusive as POST, and that POST has had gay leaders over the years and the BSA was supportive.