- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2000

A Manhattan school district has barred its schools from sponsoring Boy Scout troops to protest the Scouts' exclusion of homosexuals, and has asked the chancellor of New York City public schools to impose this action systemwide.
Chancellor Harold O. Levy announced yesterday he has instructed the school system's chief counsel to evaluate the relationship the New York Board of Education has with the Boy Scouts.
"We want to make sure it complies with our anti-discrimination policy," which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, said school board spokeswoman Margie Feinberg.
The situation is causing great concern at the Greater New York Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which represents 148,000 boys and girls.
"We just hope the chancellor continues to support the programs" the school board has with the Boy Scouts, said council spokesman Patrick Stuhlman.
He said the Scouts are particularly concerned about an in-school program called Learning for Life, co-sponsored by the Scouts and the school system. "That program is enjoyed by 100,000 children in New York City," but would be lost if the resolution adopted Tuesday night by the board of Community School District Two is adopted systemwide, said Mr. Stuhlman.
The District Two school board passed the resolution with six affirmative votes and one abstention. "We have a letter that's about to go out to Chancellor Levy, urging him to adopt a similar policy for the entire New York City Public School System," Brian V. Ellner, a lawyer and member of that board, said yesterday in a telephone interview.
"It's an important message to send, that discrimination will not be tolerated in our schools," said Mr. Ellner, who wrote the resolution.
"We believe our schools should not sponsor an organization that discriminates against our students," he said.
Mr. Stuhlman firmly denies the the Boy Scouts discriminates against youths who have questions about their sexual identity or orientation. "If a young Scout comes up and says he is concerned about his sexual orientation, he won't be thrown out of the organization. He will be told to talk to his parents, or to a teacher or counselor, or to a clergyman," the New York Scout official said.
New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said he spoke with Mr. Levy yesterday and came away hopeful that problems may be resolved.
"The chancellor has a letter he worked out with the Boy Scouts chapter of New York that says they don't discriminate against members" or leaders of the Scouts, Mr. Giuliani told reporters.
He said Mr. Levy has been told the "local chapter in New York City does not remove scoutmasters because they are gay."
Mr. Giuliani acknowledged Mr. Levy "is going back to clarify that."
"He's going to come up with a policy for the Boy Scouts of New York. He'll make certain the Boy Scouts of New York City do not discriminate," said the mayor.
A spokesman in the chancellor's office said Mr. Levy is also trying to determine whether District Two "overstepped their legitimate bounds" by setting this new policy.
Community School District Two, which encompasses much of lower and midtown Manhattan and parts of the Upper East and West Sides, is one of 42 school districts in New York City. The district has 32 schools mostly elementary and middle schools and an enrollment of 23,000.
The new ban prevents those schools from sponsoring Boy Scout troops, which none currently does. "We will not abridge the Scouts' right to meet in our schools [after hours]… . It's a First Amendment right that all groups have a neutral right to access" to public facilities," Mr. Ellner said.
At this time, "at least one" Boy Scout troop holds its meetings in a school in District Two, and it can continue doing so, he said.
But the measure bars Boy Scout activities in the schools during school hours. It also prevents the Boy Scouts from recruiting in schools and from using a school's name as part of a troop name or displaying it on their uniforms.
Asked if there are similar bans against any other groups, Mr. Ellner said no other group has received "special privileges, including sponsorship," that the Boy Scouts have in New York schools.
Mr. Stuhlman said that he does not believe the Scouts' in-school Learning for Life program operates out of any schools in District Two. But he said that program comes highly recommended by "parents, teachers, and principals," and its loss would have a "great impact, hurting many kids."
Mr. Ellner said District Two board members first discussed the possibility of banning special privileges, access or recruitment opportunities for the Boy Scouts in June, after a 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld the Scouts' right to bar homosexuals. The case in question specifically dealt with a homosexual adult member or leader, not a child.
Mr. Giuliani said yesterday New York City opposed the Scouts in that case.
"But we lost," he said.
As for the prospect of the city's severing relations with the Boy Scouts, the mayor said: "We would prefer having the Boy Scouts as an organization in our schools. If there's a way to work this out, we would prefer to do that."
According to Lambda Legal Defense, a homosexual civil rights advocacy group, New York's District Two is at least the ninth public school jurisdiction to cut off ties with the Boy Scouts. The others are the Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco school systems in California; the Alum Rock Union School in San Jose, Calif.; the Davis Joint Unified School District in Sacramento, Calif.; and public school districts in Keene, N.H., Framingham, Mass., and Bethel, Ore.
The schools in New York City's District Two and those in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Oregon all have changed their policies since the Supreme Court ruling.

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