Parents sue Boy Scouts of America after son with Down syndrome stripped of badges, attorney says

The program won't offer the necessary accommodations for the teen, lawyer says.

March 20, 2018, 8:32 PM

The parents of a 15-year-old boy with Down syndrome are suing the Boy Scouts of America, claiming that their son was stripped of his badges and suspended from the program "due to physical and mental disabilities," the family's lawyer alleges.

Before enrolling Logan Blythe into the Boy Scouts in 2015, his parents, Chad and Diane Blythe, confirmed with the Utah National Park Council that the youth organization would be able to accommodate him, allowing him to "fully participate in the program," attorney Ted McBride, who is representing the Blythe family, said in a statement. The Utah National Park Council is also named in the lawsuit.

Logan's parents were "naturally" relieved and excited when he was accepted to the group, McBride said. He has had limited verbal communications skills and developmental delays throughout his life, which has resulted in him "often" facing "social exclusion and isolation." His parents "have been very concerned about the lack of healthy opportunities for social interaction" for him, according to the complaint, which was obtained by ABC News.

"Logan wanted more than anything to earn his Eagle Scout award," the statement read. With the help of his father, Logan "planned and prepared" for his Eagle Scout project, which would have involved him volunteering at a community hospital to deliver maternity gifts for newborns and their parents, according to the complaint, filed on March 13 in the Utah 4th District Court.

To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, an individual must fulfill multiple merit badges, pass an oral interview, and plan and carry out a service project, according to the complaint, citing the Boy Scouts' Guide to Advancement with Special Needs. The Utah National Park Council advised the Blythes that Logan could earn his Eagle Scout award by completing "alternative merit badge requirements," the lawsuit states.

PHOTO: Statue outside the Boy Scouts of America Headquarters, Feb. 4, 2013, in Irving, Texas.
Statue outside the Boy Scouts of America Headquarters, Feb. 4, 2013, in Irving, Texas.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Utah National Park Council approved Logan's Eagle Scout Project on Nov. 9, but the next day, his parents received an email from Debby Roberts on the council's District Advancement Committee, suspending the approval.

"I have been asked to suspend Logan’s Eagle Project approval," Roberts wrote, according to the lawsuit. "Please do not do any more work on his project."

The email continued, saying that for "Star Life" and "Eagle Ranks," the young man "MUST do the requirements as written, including leadership responsibilities" and that "there are no alternates."

"I never should have allowed this to be approved for the above reasons," the email concluded, according to the complaint. "I sincerely apologize and regret any false hope we have given."

Without accommodation, Logan is unable to earn the necessary merit badges, which makes him ineligible for the Eagle Scout award or any other ranking in the Boy Scouts, according to the complaint.

In addition, the Utah National Park Council told the family that "although Logan had done his best in completing the required 'merit badges,' in the eyes of the Boy Scouts he had not achieved" any of them, the lawsuit states.

Chad Blythe said in a video statement cited by USA Today that while Logan is "able to participate in various activities that would normally earn" a Boy Scout a badge, his son is "unable to meet every requirement of any given merit badge, due to his mental disabilities."

"Logan does not qualify for any merit badge or any rank advancement," Blythe said. "This is the very definition of discrimination."

Blythe said that his son "should be allowed to do what he can to the best of his ability to qualify for a given merit badge."

The lawsuit claims that at the time Logan's Eagle Scout project was approved, the council "knew of the policy preventing children with disabilities from meeting the requirements for obtaining an Eagle Scout or any other ranking within BSA."

"Logan is noticeably depressed and, the uniform and badges that he once proudly displayed, he now becomes visibly upset simply observing them," McBride said.

Logan is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, "where much of the social, religious and community opportunities involve participating in the Boy Scouts of America," the statement read.

McBride said that while they cannot change the national policy for the Boy Scouts of America, he and Logan's family are "hopeful" that the lawsuit will raise "public awareness of his treatment" so that others in similar situations "don't face the same shame and disappointment."

"The BSA has lost its way," McBride said. "It’s mindboggling that an organization dedicated to teaching young men (and now young women) morals, discipline, work ethic and compassion, is now teaching its members that discrimination is acceptable."

The lawsuit seeks for Logan to be reinstated and accommodated by the Boy Scouts of America as well as damages "not less than $1.00" and further relief as the court deems appropriate.

"The defendants' conduct was outrageous and reckless and was in complete disregard for the emotional well-being of Logan and the Blythes," the lawsuit states.

PHOTO: A Boy Scout uniform, Feb. 4, 2013, in Irving, Texas.
A Boy Scout uniform, Feb. 4, 2013, in Irving, Texas.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America that the option to earn the rank of Eagle Scout "has been -- and still is -- available to Logan."

The program said that while the "process of achieving the Eagle Scout rank is rigorous for any Scout, it is designed so that accommodations can be made for Scouts with disabilities or special needs."

In addition, the Boy Scouts said that is 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 that is both appropriate and empowering for their situation."

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

Boy Scouts of America said it is "uniquely positioned among youth groups to meet the needs of children with special needs by providing these 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," the statement read.

The Boy Scouts' statement did not address whether Logan's badges were stripped and exactly why his Eagle Scout project was denied after it was initially approved. More than 90 percent of the population in Utah County, where Logan resides, are active members in the church, according to the complaint.

The Utah National Parks Council did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

ABC News' Jennifer Harrison and Amanda Maile contributed to this report.

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