Boy Scouts of America issues statement on Payson teen with Down syndrome, family responds

Mar 21, 2018, 9:55 PM | Updated: 10:36 pm

PAYSON — The Boy Scouts of America and the Utah National Parks Council in Utah County are facing a lawsuit after a family of a teen with Down syndrome claims their son was not accepted into the Alternative Eagle Scout Program because of his mental disability.

Logan Blythe, 15, has Down syndrome and autism. He has been actively participating in the Utah County Chapter of the Boy Scouts for the last four years, where he has earned dozens of awards, patches and badges to work toward his goal — to become an Eagle Scout.

“He was excited about being with the boys, he was excited about being in the group,” said Logan’s father, Chad Blythe.

Blythe said in November of 2017, he applied for Logan’s approval into the Eagle Scout program. He submitted the proper paperwork regarding his son’s disability, applied for the Alternative Merit Badge program and submitted a project, to pass out care kits at a local hospital, for approval to the Utah National Parks Council.

“They had no problem with it, they thought it was a great idea,” said Blythe, excited that the council had approved Logan into the program.

But the next day, Blythe said the excitement was met with disappointment, “Twenty-four hours later, we get a text saying, ‘We should have never said you were approved.’” Chad Blythe said he was informed the disapproval was due to his son likely not being able to fulfill the requirements for the project because of his disability.

In a letter, Blythe said he received the explanation that although the local organization approved Logan, the National Boy Scouts of America officials — did not.

“I have been asked to suspend Logan’s Eagle Project approval, please do not do any work on this project,” the Blythe family was told by text.

When Blythe asked what Logan’s other options were, he was told, “When National (BSA) was contacted about possible alternates, we were told that for Star Life Eagle Ranks, there are no alternates. The young man must do the requirements as written, including leadership responsibilities.”

In an email from the local Utah Chapter, Blythe was told, “I never should have allowed this to be approved. I sincerely apologize and regret any false hope we have given.”

“The Boy Scouts have lost their way,” said Ted McBride, attorney with Vial Fotheringham LLP, representing the Blythe family.

“The local Utah people did not want to enforce this discriminatory policy, but regrettably that turned out to be a bad decision for them,” McBride said. “The Boy Scouts have made accommodations for those who identify as transgender, they have even accepted girls into the boy scouts, and they are going to fight this? For what? To protect the prestigious Eagle Scout badge?”

McBride filed a lawsuit on behalf of Logan and his family Tuesday afternoon through the Provo District court, the complaint is against the Utah National Parks Council and the National BSA. The grounds of the lawsuit detail that the local organization intentionally allowed Logan to participate and approved him into programs knowing that the national policy would likely never let him move forward.

The Blythe family isn’t hoping for a payout, the suit was filed for no more than $1. They are hoping to change the policy on a national level, so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“I cannot support an organization that does not support my son … or support anyone who doesn’t support those with mental disabilities, it’s wrong,” said Blythe.

The following is a statement from the Utah National Parks Council:

We are moved by this young man’s desire to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. We’ve worked closely with this young man and his family to attain the benefits of the Scouting program and are committed to continuing to do so. The Eagle Scout Award is a national award. Final decisions regarding the Eagle requirements are made at the National BSA level. Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has served youth members with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. Through the Disability Awareness Committee, the BSA enables youth to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. The Utah National Parks Council stands ready to assist all Scouts and their families who, despite extraordinary circumstances, have the desire to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.

The Boy Scouts of America National Chapter had the following statement:

Many local volunteers and Scouting professionals at the Utah National Parks Council have worked closely with Boy Scout Logan Blythe and his family to deliver a positive experience in our programs.

We apologize for the confusion and want to be very clear: the option to earn the rank of Eagle Scout has been – and still is – available to Logan. We remain inspired by his dedication to Scouting, and we hope to continue working with Logan and his family to support him in the effort to earn the rank of Eagle Scout through the engagement of our National Disabilities Advancement Team.

The Boy Scouts of America is committed to making sure every Scout benefits from the program and has the opportunity to earn the Eagle Scout rank. The process of achieving the Eagle Scout rank is rigorous for any Scout, but it is designed so that accommodations can be made for Scouts with disabilities or special needs. The National Disabilities Advancement Team wants to work directly with the Blythe family to review what Logan has accomplished based on his abilities and help determine a path to earn the Eagle Scout rank that is both appropriate and empowering for him.

Since its founding, the Boy Scouts of America has served youth members with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. Scouting is uniquely positioned among youth programs to meet the needs of children with special needs by providing diverse programs and social experiences.

At its core, Scouting fosters the spirit of diversity and inclusiveness, and we are committed to continuing the Boy Scouts of America’s long history of working with Scouts with disabilities, including Logan Blythe, to help them succeed in and beyond Scouting.

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Family of teen with Down syndrome suing Boy Scouts over Eagle Scout Merit policy

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Boy Scouts of America issues statement on Payson teen with Down syndrome, family responds