The Broward School District Should Be Proud That They Stood Up Against The Discrimination of
the Boy Scouts of America
Broward schools may pay $190,000 to settle Boy Scouts lawsuit
By Bill Hirschman
September 20, 2001
The Broward County School Board and the Boy Scouts may be nearing the end of their constitutional battle over discrimination
against gays vs. equal access to public buildings -- but it may cost taxpayers nearly $200,000.
One year after the controversy pushed Broward into national headlines, both sides have agreed to the wording of
a settlement of a federal lawsuit filed when the board tried to evict Scouts from meeting in schools, according
to the South Florida Boy Scout Council.
School Board Attorney Ed Marko said that characterization may be premature because the School Board will not formally
consider any proposal until its Oct. 2 meeting.
"We may be close, but we're not there," Marko said. He declined to cite specifics of the proposal.
According to Scout Executive Jeffrie Herrmann, the Scouts' local board of directors signed a settlement dismissing
the lawsuit in exchange for the School Board paying the council's $190,000 legal expenses.
Marko stressed the specific document approved by the Scout council had not been thoroughly reviewed, let alone
endorsed by anyone at the district.
But the Scouts' attorney, Sharon Kegerreis, said attorneys for both sides agreed to specifics. School Board members
told their attorneys in closed session last month what would be acceptable to them, a board source said.
The groups, each claiming the moral high ground, began wrestling last September over the Scouts' national policy
barring gay members and leaders.
School Superintendent Frank Till said the policy violated the district's contract allowing Scouts to meet in schools
for free because the agreement forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Herrmann countered that the district could not bar a group from using facilities based on its beliefs. He asserted
every organization must be given the same access.
The dispute became more complicated when district officials discovered thousands of groups were charged widely
When the two sides could not agree, the Scouts asked a federal judge in December for an injunction to block the
School Board from its plans to evict the troops.
U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks issued a preliminary injunction in March that the district could not treat
Scouts differently than anyone else. A final order was not entered because the two sides asked for a chance to
develop a settlement.
Since then, the district has sought but failed to find a way to charge the Scouts while allowing other groups rent-free
access, Till told the board last week.
The board plans next month to approve a fee schedule with lower rates for all nonprofit groups such as the Scouts:
$10 per meeting per organization at each school, capped at $100.
While Girl Scouts felt that would pose a prohibitive burden to some younger troops, Herrmann said his council plans
to pay the fee for all troops meeting in schools.
About 50 Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs meet in Broward schools, a quarter of all troops in the council.
Currently, 354 Girl Scout troops meet in 154 schools. Several Boy Scout troops -- some serving underprivileged
boys -- were discouraged by the debate and folded rather than seek another meeting place, Herrmann said.
Both sides claim victory, although neither acknowledges defeat or wrongdoing in the settlement proposal. Till has
said the district can keep its nondiscrimination clause in its contract and agrees it just can't treat groups differently.
Herrmann said the Scouts had clearly prevailed, because the district would have to pay the legal costs.
Bill Hirschman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4513.
Copyright (c) 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel