Autistic Child Denied Participation in Boy Scouts

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Autistic child in California has been denied participation in Boy Scouts because of his disability, which is discriminatory and violates state and federal law. Suit maintains that the organization must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and make programs available to all boys.

Lawyers for a young boy with autism announced today that they have filed a complaint against the Western Los Angeles County Council of Boy Scouts of America and Pacific Palisades, CA-based Troop 223 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The suit seeks injunctive relief and damages for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The plaintiff C.R., an 11-year-old boy with high-functioning autism, and his parents Michael Reilly and N. Jane DuBovy claim the defendants denied the plaintiff and others with autism equal access to and full participation in the Boy Scouts’ facilities and services because of their disabilities, which is discriminatory and violates state and federal law.

“The ADA was enacted to provide relief for people just like C.R., who because of their disabilities and the misunderstanding surrounding their disabilities are considered unable to fully participate in activities others take for granted,” said Shawna Parks, Director of Litigation for the Disability Rights Legal Center. “Although we have tremendous respect for the Boy Scouts, the organization still must comply with the law and make their programs available to all boys.”

C.R. joined the Cub Scouts in September 2000. With the help of his parents he flourished for five years and met scouting requirements for promotion to the Webelos and then to Boy Scouts Troop 223 in 2005. Around that time, a scout leader advised the family that C.R. would only be allowed to attend meetings and an overnight camping trip when accompanied by his father. No other child in the troop was subjected to similar restrictions. Because participating in the camping trip was mandatory for moving to the next scouting level, the scouts’ actions precluded C.R. from moving to the next level. This penalized C.R. through no fault of his own. Because of these restrictions, C.R. was excluded from the camping trip and feels humiliated and rejected by the entire troop.

Worse yet, the scouts e-mailed C.R.’s parents and actually advised them that they were excluding C.R. from advancing in the scouts because of his autistic disability.

“We understand the scout leaders’ concerns, but we have a track record with C.R. and his troop. We feel we have addressed the concerns more than adequately during our years of involvement with Troop 223,” said Ms. DuBovy. “Based on C.R.’s experiences, we know that our child is capable of handling the rigors of scouting with minor accommodations. In fact, he successfully attended an overnight event this year with his 6th grade class without incident. What happened with the Boy Scouts has had a profound impact on our son. We want to fix this going forward so that he can participate just like any other child and so that no other child in our community will be ostracized because of a disability.”

In addition to a preliminary and permanent injunction that will allow C.R. to be reinstated in Troop 223 at the level he would have achieved before the controversy, C.R. and his parents are requesting a jury trial that would settle any disagreement regarding the Boy Scouts’ responsibility to welcome and accommodate boys with disabilities into the organization.

The plaintiffs are represented by Los Angeles lawyers Barak Lurie, Christopher Knauf and the Disability Rights Legal Center. The case number is CV 06-5171 SJO.

Barak Lurie has practiced in the federal and state courts since 1989. His offices focus predominantly in general civil litigation. Mr. Lurie will serve as lead counsel in the litigation.

Christopher Knauf, principal of Knauf Associates, and a former staff attorney with the Disability Rights Legal Center, has practiced disability related litigation for nearly 10 years.

The Disability Rights Legal Center, formerly the Western Law Center for Disability Rights, affiliated with Loyola Law School, has been offering legal services since 1975 to people with disabilities through a variety of projects. The Civil Rights Litigation Project provides free legal representation to people with disabilities encountering discrimination in violation of their civil rights.

Contact: Carol Eisner (310) 839-1400


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