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Bush Administration To Give Boy Scouts' Access to Schools While Ignoring Gay Student Groups

by Doreen Brandt
Washington Bureau Posted:
October 20, 2004 5:01 pm ET

(Washington) Saying that the Bush Administration is focused on protecting the Boy Scouts' access to public
schools while ignoring the rights of gay student groups whose equal rights are often violated, Lambda Legal urged the U.S. Department of Education Wednesday to add inclusive language to policy regulations. The new
regulations were made public this week and now enter a 45-day period of public comment before going into effect.

Part of the regulations guide schools on making sure Boy Scouts groups have access to schools for meetings, recruitment and other activities.

Lambda Legal said today that Gay-Straight Alliance groups should be specified in the new regulations as one kind of youth group that also has a right to meet in public schools.

"The Bush Administration wants to add thousands of words about the Boy Scouts to federal rules that don't say one word about gay student groups -- even though they're both protected by federal law and Gay-Straight
Alliances are unlawfully denied school access on a regular basis," said Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal. "The Boy Scouts need no help getting access to schools but they're the focus of the federal
government's attention, while gay youth are routinely ignored and left to fend for themselves when their rights aren't respected." In several places, the new regulations say the Boy Scouts should receive the same access to school facilities as "other groups." Cathcart said Lambda Legal is urging the Department of Education to specify the kinds of "other groups" that have legal access to schools, and to include Gay-Straight Alliances among the specific examples. "We want Gay-Straight Alliances mentioned and specified in these regulations, so that there can be no question that gay student groups and the Boy Scouts have equal rights to meet in public schools. Gay-Straight Alliances have all the same rights as every other group, but their rights are routinely violated -- in part because they are ignored and rendered invisible in regulations like these ones," Cathcart said. "These regulations are tied to a law that specifically addresses the Boy Scouts, but it is perfectly appropriate to add Gay-Straight Alliances as an example of groups that have equal rights in public schools."

In a statement, Secretary of Education Rod Paige said: "The goal of these regulations is to ensure that the Boy Scouts and other patriotic youth groups have equal access to public facilities, and today's action is another step toward achieving this goal."

Cathcart responded: "The purpose of our nation's Department of Education is to ensure that all youth are treated equally, are safe at school and have access to the best possible education. By focusing on the Boy Scouts while ignoring gay youth, the Department of Education is failing our nation's schools and putting young people in harm's way. We aren't going to sit by and let that happen without a fight."

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