Girl Scouts Accused Of Excluding Child With Special Needs
An Illinois family is suing the Girl Scouts for allegedly disbanding a troop because the organization no longer wanted to foot the bill for disability accommodations.
Megan Runnion, 12, joined the Girl Scouts in kindergarten. Since that time, the organization paid for a sign-language interpreter to accompany the girl, who is deaf, at scouting activities.
But earlier this year, Runnion’s Chicago-area troop was disbanded. Troop leaders said the decision came because officials at the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana were limiting the group’s activities due to the cost of the interpreter, the family said.
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Now, in a federal lawsuit, Runnion’s mother, Edie, charges that the scouting organization violated the Rehabilitation Act by effectively excluding her daughter due to her disability.
“Megan is heartbroken that she can no longer participate in Girl Scouts,” said Edie Runnion, who brought the suit on her daughter’s behalf with the assistance of two advocacy groups — Equip for Equality and the National Association of the Deaf. “All of the children in our family have been involved in scouting, and it is devastating for Megan that she is being prevented from being a Girl Scout.”
For their part, a spokeswoman for the local council of the Girl Scouts told the Chicago Tribune that the organization “welcomes all girls as members” and “has a long history of adapting activities for girls who have special needs.”
The Runnions are asking the court to require the Girl Scouts to establish new policies to provide “auxiliary aids and services” to participants who are deaf or hard of hearing at all events. They are also seeking compensatory damages.