The No Child Left Behind Act passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives and currently awaiting consideration by the U.S. Senate has a deceptively simple title. Its purpose, as summarized on Congress”s legislative search engine, is “to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility and choice so that no child is left behind.” It”s enough to make any legislator feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
However, despite the bill”s apparently laudable goals, it contains at least one noteworthy injustice that quietly appeared on the version passed by the House. An amendment was added Wednesday that “prohibits the use of federal funds by any state or local agency that discriminates against the Boy Scouts of America in providing equal access to school premises or facilities.”
This amendment is an obvious attack on the teachers” unions and school boards across the country that have voiced their opposition to the BSA”s notoriously anti-gay policies by resolving that the organization is not welcome on their campuses. One such protest was staged by the Plymouth-Canton teachers” union in November the union signed a resolution asking the local school board to prohibit the BSA from assembling or recruiting in the district.
Although the BSA supposedly prides itself on molding young boys into honorable, patriotic young men, it has consistently ignored one of the basic tenets upon which the United States was founded: “That all men are created equal.”
They did not believe, for example, that former scoutmaster and New Jersey resident James Dale was created equal. Dale was expelled from his Eagle Scout assistant scoutmaster position when the higher-ups learned he was gay. Dale sued in 1992, demanding to be reinstated. The case wore on until 1999, when the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Dale”s favor. But the following June, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision, saying that forcing the BSA to allow gay scoutmasters would be forcing them to endorse “homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.” While the ruling did not specifically give the BSA the right to bar gay boys, it certainly left room for that interpretation.
Local school officials have every right to condemn the BSA and to stop them from congregating in their schools. While the Equal Access Act passed by Congress requires that all student-run extracurricular activities in a given district be afforded equal access to facilities, the BSA is an adult-run, privately funded organization and is not protected under this legislation.
As long as the Supreme Court continues to defend the BSA”s right to discriminate, the responsibility to speak up for equality will fall on private citizens. Perhaps if more schools would refuse time and space to the BSA, the organization would be forced to re-consider its overtly discriminatory policies.
If the No Child Left Behind Act is passed into law, the aforementioned amendment would punish courageous teachers like those in the Plymouth-Canton district that refuse to accommodate intolerant organizations. The implications would be startling. Where would it end? How long would it be before other adult-run groups with prejudiced practices started to demand equal access to our children?
The Senate should refuse to consider the No Child Left Behind Act until the offending amendment is removed. They should remember that passing this version of the bill will leave behind gay children and children of gay parents, regardless of what its name implies.