An Illinois couple is suing the Boy Scouts alleging that their son with Asperger’s syndrome was improperly dismissed from the group. (Marcus Yam/Seattle Times/TNS)
The parents of a Hanover Park, Ill. boy who has an autism spectrum disorder are suing the Boy Scouts of America Northwest Suburban Council for what the lawsuit calls the “improper and illegal” revocation of the child’s membership.
Brian and Deborah Smith say in the lawsuit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, that their teenage son has Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder that affects language and behavioral development in children.
According to the suit, their son was a member for more than seven years and a patrol leader in the Northwestern Suburban Council Troop 399, but last July, the family received a vague notice from the council revoking his membership.
“Without warning or any effort to complete the steps set forth in the BSA publications, on July 22, 2014 Plaintiffs received a notice from Boys Scouts of America that (the boy’s) membership in BSA was revoked effective immediately,” the lawsuit said. “The notice did not articulate any reason why the termination was made other than that ‘information was received which ‘compelled us to revoke your son.’”
Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith issued the following statement:
“We were only recently made aware of this suit, but we will closely review this matter and respond appropriately. While we can’t immediately discuss this matter, I can tell you that the BSA works to accommodate the needs of Scouts.”
In a phone interview Monday, the boy’s parents described feeling surprised upon receiving the letter.
“Our family has been very involved in Scouts for years,” Brian Smith said. “They talk about how to deal with discipline, policy and procedures; they don’t just send letters completely out of the blue.”
According to the lawsuit, the boy, identified therein as “P.S.,” suffered from “severe emotional distress” and needed counseling services.
“He was completely devastated,” Deborah Smith said. “It took a long while to get over the hurt. It was a huge hole in who he was. All of his goals were around Scouts. He had been doing it since first grade.”
The boy, “who loves the outdoors and scouting,” is currently working on a farm, his father said.
The suit cites the Boy Scouts of America’s “Guide to Working with Scouts with Special Needs and Disabilities,” which states that there must be “preestablished consequences for misbehavior for all Scouts.” The guide also requires that “the discipline fits the offense and is not unduly harsh.”
The Smiths are seeking further explanation on the circumstances that led the council to strip their son’s membership and that the decision be overturned.
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