“Deaf girl’s family sues Girl Scouts for disbanding troop”

by Walter Olson on August 14, 2012

A “federal lawsuit filed Wednesday on the 12-year-old’s behalf alleged that the Girl Scouts abruptly disbanded Megan [Runnion's] Schaumburg troop early this year in retaliation for her mother’s efforts to keep the 100-year-old organization paying for the interpreter.” [Chicago Tribune]

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Advice Goddess Blog
08.15.12 at 3:44 am

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1 Deb 08.14.12 at 9:53 am

What ever happened to common sense and compromise by both parties? Transcribing via texting or computer, used in a similar manner as Dual Party Relay, would solve the problem. In fact, troop members can share transcribing duties to make the point that everyone should be assisting the handicap. Does accommodation always have to involve lawyers and be expensive?

2 Allan 08.14.12 at 10:14 am

This young lady should be in the Girl Scout Troop. Do we all agree on that?

Once that is agreed upon, the next question is who should pay. Is this a societal cost or a personal cost?

I believe that this is a tough question. The liberals in the country have an answer. I am not sure the conservatives or libertarians do.

Whomever bears the cost, it should be an accomodation that meets the needs of the young lady. If she cannot read, transcription would not do her much good. On the other hand, in the long run it would probably be more cost efficient to spend the money to help her read well or read lips.

3 Don 08.14.12 at 10:29 am

I assume that the parents can communicate with their daughter. Why didn’t they provide themselves as interpreters for their daughter.

No cost to them, no cost to the girl scouts.

Oh wait, I forget, it might have inconvenienced their schedule

4 peter 08.14.12 at 10:49 am

Which bit of “Voluntary organization” do these people not understand. They should be thanking the organization for bending over backwards to accommodate her little girl, expressing their sadness and understanding that that the organization cannot afford it any more and then pledge their own time and effort in fundrasing and integrating the deaf into society at large and this troop in particular.

Did the parents offer their own voluntary services to this troop? Did they give up their own time and effort to become Scout leaders? How much did they personally raise towards the costs involved in running this Troop? Oh wait. They are entitled so don’t have to.

5 Chris Hoey 08.14.12 at 11:06 am

There is something missing here, the requirement for “reasonable” accommodation specified in the statutes. The use of that entirely subjective term as a standard has rendered the ADA into one of the more litigious statutes in modern history. Try to compromise with activists in an accommodation case-they toss all economic considerations aside in pursuit of their objectives. At one point the EEOC was considering requiring retailers to hire sighted people as aides to blind cashiers, calling the doubling of salary costs a “reasonable accommodation.” That didn’t happen (yet), but it is an example of the extremes you find in these arguments. Now the litigation guns are aimed at the GSA, a group staffed largely by volunteer parents at the troop level, giving of their time freely to help their children. Along comes the parents of a disabled child, who, rather than give freely of their own time, as do many of the other kids’ parents, apparently demand the troop pay the expensive interpreters for their child. This expense, occurring weekly, weighed against the minimal costs of the volunteer activities, evidently was too much to bear in the eyes of the voluntary troop leaders, and they folded. That shouldn’t be a matter for the courts, where the plaintiff’s lawyer seeks his fees as part of the recovery; rather it should be relegated to a mandated mediation process where cooler heads might prevail.

6 Allan 08.14.12 at 11:50 am

Yes. The parents have a responsibility. But should society require more of a parental commitment from parents of children with disabilities than parents of children without disabilities? If so, should society compensate those parents for the opportunity loss? And why should the child be forced to attend functions with a parent, when other children are given some freedom from parents?

I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that it is that families with children with disabilities are are an extreme economic disadvantage. It seems to me to be one of life’s unfairnesses. If society can make life more fair for them, should we not try.

7 DeafDeaf 08.14.12 at 12:18 pm

We never asked to be people with disabilities! Our parents do tremendously raise us up to be better citizens. However, those organizations, regardless of being a volunteer or nonprofit , serve all people, why denying us. Reasonable accommodation must be provided so each of us can use, enjoy, or participate, equally and fully, in meetings, programs, services, events, activities, clubs, courses, and other privileges and advantages the “hearing” people have. The problem is the people who refuse to face the reality – even it can happen to them when each becomes disabled some day.

8 Deb 08.14.12 at 12:41 pm

Whatever happens, that whole troop is going to learn a lesson from the outcome. That lesson will stick with those girls for the rest of their lives and will influence their opinions on supporting the handicapped. Lets hope that a positive compromise is reached and that the outcome isn’t resentment on both sides.

9 Mannie 08.14.12 at 1:12 pm

And when your “reasonable accommodation” breaks the bank, no one gets any services at all. I don’t see why a service that is offered to you for free should be obliged to pay out to service you.

10 gasman 08.14.12 at 1:59 pm

The anatomy of a Scout troop:
Labor – all volunteer
Funding – troop gets to keep 50 cents of each box of cookies sold.
Facilities – donated by chartered organization (typically church, school, or community organization).
First layer of hierarchy contact with council – volunteer troop commissioner.
Next layer, – volunteer district commissioner
Next layer – volunteer council commissioner
Lastly, paid council staffer.

So one professional scouter, thousands of volunteers, tens of thousands of girls. For every dollar spent by council, thousands of hours of volunteer time is spent. It sounds like her parents are trying to monopolize the dollars and efforts of this organization taking way more than they deserve.

So why is this girl not learning to read lips, use a cochlear implant, or otherwise herself become a capable and functioning member of society? It is not up to Scouting to do this for her, but her parents.

11 boblipton 08.14.12 at 4:09 pm

Offer badges in signing and lip reading.

Bob

12 Ron Miller 08.14.12 at 5:32 pm

I can’t imagine why anyone would be flip about this. I really can’t.

Personally, I think that the girl scouts should try to do more. They could have done more and they could have tried to make an accommodation. But the parents should begin to teach the kid – as we all have to teach our kids, hopefully under less trying circumstances – that the world is not always going to be fair to you. I don’t begrudge their bringing a lawsuit. But I don’t think they should have either. If everyone is acting remotely reasonably, a lawsuit could not have been filed.

Who knows but my completely unfounded speculation would be that they would have tried harder if the parents were not unreasonable people. Because at the risk of overgeneralizing, people that file lawsuit over these kinds of things are usually not the most reasonable people on earth.

13 David Schwartz 08.14.12 at 9:18 pm

Allan: There are a long lists of things that “should” happen, a list that vastly exceeds the sum total of human resources. The conservatives and libertarians have a good answer to that question — they propose a system that determines resource priorities to decide which things that we should do actually get done. (Roughly, that those who produce the value get to decide how it should be used.)

Say we all agree she should be a member of the troop but that it would cost, say, a billion dollars to accommodate her. Someone has to decide whether that’s the best “should” to spend that billion dollars on. Conservatives and libertarians would argue that those who produced that money are the right ones to decide which “should”, of the potentially unlimited human desires, it gets spent on.

14 Hugo S. Cunningham 08.14.12 at 9:50 pm

Allan wrote:
[...]
[In response to suggestion that parents volunteer their own time to be their deaf child's interpreter]
>And why should the child be forced to attend functions with a parent, >when other children are given some freedom from parents?

A related problem arose in my overseas military unit in the late 1970s, with economical chartered overnight weekend bus tours. Some parents of small crying-age children complained that such children were barred from the tours. Tour management did not back down, pointing out that screaming babies had been the number-one complaint of tour customers before they were banned. Management’s counter-suggestion, however, is applicable here: new parents should strike up friendships with other new parents, in order to exchange baby-sitting services. Each couple would be able to get away on one out of two weekend tours, and get a *lot* more pleasure out of it (not to mention the pleasure of others).

Similarly, parents of deaf kids could befriend other families of deaf kids and *exchange* interpreter services, on occasions when it is thought the kids might want to escape their own parents.

15 peter 08.15.12 at 4:11 am

I don’t begrudge their bringing a lawsuit.

said by a lawyer…the one person in the sorry saga who walks away with money in his pocket

16 Sio 08.15.12 at 4:33 am

“We never asked to be people with disabilities!”

I didn’t ask to be short. Am I entitled to get women to be more interested in me by fiat? How about through “obamacare” for mental health wellness, we all get a free session with a prostitute once per month? What is reasonable?

17 boblipton 08.15.12 at 6:44 am

I didn’t ask to be tall with big feet. How about you pay for my shoes and larger bed?

Bob

18 a_random_guy 08.15.12 at 8:38 am

As Allan points out: life is not fair.

Life is not fair to this girl, that is a given. However, *she* is disabled, and that means that *she* is the primary person who bears this burden. How is she going to function in society at large? She will not always have an interpreter with her. *She* must learn to deal with this.

I have a deaf family member. He reads lips. People around him must still make some accomadations: They look at him when they talk, and only one person can speak at a time. This requires some adaptation, but is entirely reasonable. He does not expect someone else to pay for his disability, or to provide an interpreter for him.

DeafDeaf asks: why should deaf people be denied? The point is: they are *not* denied. You can join the scouts, hold a job, go shopping, do whatever you want. However, the primary responsibility for dealing with *your* disability belongs to *you*.

In this specific case: If the girl cannot yet read lips, it is reasonable to expect the scout troop to accept the presence of an interpreter, to make space for the extra person, and to alter their interactions to give the interpreter a chance to keep up. That is all reasonable.

However, expecting the troop to *pay* for the interpreter is simply insane. Not reasonable at all.

This troop has been disbanded. Think about just what lesson the other girls have learned: “Avoid the handicapped at all costs, because their unreasonable demands will destroy your organization.”

19 BelindieBartscrivner 08.15.12 at 9:40 am

She had been in Scouts for 6 years. They’d been paying. Why doesn’t someone volunteer to be her interpreter–her lawyer is deaf and was a Scout.

20 Melvin H. 08.15.12 at 11:13 am

Belinde, her lawyer then should have volunteered to be her interpreter pro bono. Far cheaper than what the local troop could continue to pay–or the lawsuit the lawyer is bound to file.

21 davnel 08.15.12 at 11:35 am

This is all silly, and an obvious ploy to get some attorney fees and billable hours going. All of the deaf people of either persuasion I’ve known, and there have been many, learned to cope in society, and on the job, for themselves. If they don’t, they starve, same as the rest of us. Yes, we can make it easier for them by learning to sign and by speaking facing them and one at a time, but it’s not required. There’s always writing. Do they expect or demand that we provide special “interpreters” for them, of course not, nor would we. They learn and cope. THEY are the ones with the disability, not us, so let’s cut the crap and get back to objective reality.

As for the GSA chapter, I don’t blame them. They saw the leagle attack in the making and decided they couldn’t afford it. I can’t think of many small, VOLUNTEER, organizations that could. What do you expect??

22 Ron Miller 08.15.12 at 12:58 pm

Peter, to the man with a hammer, everything is a nail. Read my post in context.

Comparing short and fat to being deaf is pretty outrageous.

I understand the dispute here. It is in good faith. The venom towards handicapped people? That I don’t get.

The idea that ADA lawyers are bring in the big bucks is just silly.

23 a_random_guy 08.15.12 at 3:01 pm

Venom towards handicapped people? Undeserved, but real. Why? Because a small minority of handicapped people and unscrupulous lawyers are idiots, and the ADA enables them.

One handicapped litigant and his lawyer file suit against dozens of small businesses restaurants for misplaced mirrors (Google “ADA lawsuit mirror”) and other irrelevant problems. Thousands of people become irritated at the handicapped in general.

A business hires a handicapped person. Perhaps they find that the costs simply don’t compute; perhaps the person simply cannot do they job. The business cannot fire the handicapped without risking an ADA lawsuit. Result: they do their best to never hire another handicapped person, no matter how well qualified the person may be.

Coming in 2013: The government decides that *every* pool run by a business must be handicapped accessible, hundreds of businesses close their pools (wait for it, they will), tens of thousands of people begin to really hate the handicapped.

For the vast majority of the handicapped population, the venom is completely undeserved. However, it is entirely understandable.

24 Ron Miller 08.15.12 at 10:45 pm

Random Guy, I agree with you on that a small number of handicapped people and lawyers try to abuse the system. (As long as we have laws, someone is going to be trying to abuse those laws.)

How that related to callousness and venom toward handicapped people generally still leaves me at a loss. If you have the mental acumen to type out a comment here you ought to be able to distinguish between the two.

25 Richard Blaine 08.15.12 at 11:51 pm

This calls for more government! We MUST have more government!!!

26 Hugo S. Cunningham 08.16.12 at 6:35 am

@Ron Miller–

The “venom toward handicapped people” is a strawman. Deal with the abuses (rather than saying “I don’t begrudge their bringing a lawsuit”) , and the chaff will blow away.

27 boblipton 08.16.12 at 7:25 am

Ron, I don’t understand how saying “I don’t wish to pay for your problem” is venom and animus. Nor is this a flat statement. I am willing to make concessions, but clearly my idea of what “reasonable” means in “reasonable” accommodation differs from yours. I am left with the conclusion that “venom and animus” are simply buzzwords intended to tar those who disagree with you.

To put it without any jokes, quips or attempts at creative solutions as I have tried earlier in this particular thread, the ADA is a good-intentioned piece of legislation that has been used to game the entire system. The results have been some gains for the handicapped, but the primary beneficiaries seem to have been lawyers and the difference in the two is paid in resentment. If the Girl Scouts shut down that troop rather than continuing to pay for the cost of an interpreter, then the lesson learned is that you better keep away from the handicapped, because it’s going to cost you a lot of money nd heartache and lawsuits in the end. Even if the Girl Scouts win the suit, it’s still going to cost them a lot of money to defend it.

Finally, the proper attitude to take if I believe the Girl Scouts have shut down my daughter’s troop so they can save a few lousy dollars is to take it to the press and expose them for the lousy hypocrites they are. I do not want my daughter associating with them and their rotten cookies.

Bob

28 Ron Miller 08.16.12 at 8:58 am

Hugo, I addresses the substance and I made a side comment. I think that is allowed, according to Internet Rule 424.25(b). And, I have to tell you, you are misusing the term “straw man.”

29 Melvin H. 08.16.12 at 10:02 pm

OK, Ron, a little math here:
According to the Tribune article, the cost of an interpreter in that area is $55-60 per hour with a two-hour minimum, possibly more on weekends. If you assume the troop meets every week for the year, that is:

52 weeks x $110 per week = $5,720.00

and that is before any weekends, outings, cookie sales at grocery stores, Girl Scout Roundup’s, etc. If the total time from those, for example, is approximately another 1/3 more hours, now you’re looking at an approximate total around $7,630.00.

How much of that Girl Scout Council’s budget–much less the troop’s available monies–would be taken up with that cost…or, how many boxes of Girl Scout Cookies would it take to cover the estimated cost? (If there are any Girl Scouts or Girl Scout Council members out there that can say how much the Girl Scouts get per box, jump in and let us know; I don’t know.)

And this is supposed to be a “reasonable accommodation”???

30 Melvin H. 08.16.12 at 10:04 pm

Ron Miller, one last thing: Where is this “Internet Rule 424.25(b)” from, and where are Internet Rules 1 through 424 (and 426+)?

31 Melvin H. 08.16.12 at 10:42 pm

I ask Mr. Olson for forgiveness on multiple consecutive posts…but I believe I found the answer: According to the Girl Scouts’ national website FAQ’s: The cost of a box varies by council, between $3.50-5.00–with 10-20% of that going to the troop itself, or between 35-70 cents per box.

That means, to finish my post two posts back: The number of boxes to cover $7,630.00 in costs would be in the range of 7,630 (@ $1.00/box) to 21,800 (@ $0.35/box) boxes, at a minimum.

32 Carol Herman 08.16.12 at 11:00 pm

To disband the whole troop was a matter that a majority of the parent volunteers decided was the best course! The girls have been part of the Girl Scouts since kindergarten! And GSA did “accommodate” the deaf child.

Then? Costs became prohibitive.

This is not the first troop to find itself facing financial shortfalls.

And, ALL THE GIRLS have been told that the Girl Scouting activities in their lives is over.

So, now the deaf girl’s parents sue? Whom are they suing? Why the Girl Scouts of America, of course!

Wouldn’t this whack any friendship that might have grown between some of the girls?

Plus, how come this child who has been deaf since birth … cannot read lips?

What if the girls who belonged to the troop “outgrew” their participation?

33 Bob Smith (Really!) 08.17.12 at 11:14 pm

As a deaf interpreter for over 30 years, I bring a differet perspective. First, paying for a deaf interpreter is a non-starter. The assets of the GSA are finite. Therefore, they must be spent in a manner that is beneficial to the largest number of girls. Spending $5,000+ on something that will benefit a single girl would be unfair to those other girls that were not deaf. The reality is that this is an issue that the parents should have considered before she joined the scouts. They have no right to impose the cost of an interpreter on the parents of the other girls. And let’s be clear: it is the parents of the other girls that will pay for an interpreter. While the obvious solution is for one of the parents to act as an interpreter, apparently they are unwilling to do so, or are unwilling to do so further. Another solution that came to me is for the GSA to offer levels of merit badges for increasing skill level of deaf interpreting. I can’t believe that this is the first young lady to come to the scouts that was deaf. For the economic geek wannabes, this is a classic example of Bastiat’s “Unseen Man.” Money spent on the interpreter for the one girl is money not spent for the other -unseen- girls.

34 Ron Miller 08.19.12 at 3:55 pm

Melvin, you need to respond to what people actually write as opposed to what you think they write. Where do I suggest the “reasonable accomodation” should be the most expensive option imaginable? I don’t say it and I don’t suggest it. If the parents were reasonable people and the girl scouts really wanted to help, I think they could find something that would work that would cost an estimated $0.00 cents.

As for the Internet rules, I was making a joke. Every single person who read that knew that it was a joke (I guess except you).

35 Carol Herman 08.19.12 at 10:59 pm

The lawsuit is way out of place, here! These kids were a troop, together, starting in kindergarten! When the age of 12 is reached … the parents, together, decided it was time to disband this troop.

Kids don’t “accommodate” friends. They make friendships. And, in this case? The lawsuit pretty much demonstrates a parent who is using her kid’s deafness … to create a “bind.”

Do the other parents have to come up with a wheelchair?

Where does it stop?

It’s a VOLUNTEER PROGRAM for kids. And, because of the costs associated with one “deaf since birth” girl … who has not learned to lip read … shows ya her parents aren’t too concerned about her handicap to give her the skills she needed to get by in a hearing world.

My accountant is deaf. He went to USC. He has no trouble reading lips. And, he has no trouble now taking over his dad’s lucrative firm.

I met him when he was a kid. And, his dad was my accountant. He came into the office, on he had on his belt, in the back, heavy duty batteries that enabled him to hear.

That’s what’s missing for this 12 year old girl!

When the troop dissolved? Whatever friendships had been built over time, went out the window.

Why? Because people don’t like getting their pockets picked.

And, being in the Girl Scouts is more than just selling cookies. And, earning badges.

The deaf kid’s parents should be ashamed!

36 Ron Miller 08.20.12 at 9:50 am

Kids don’t accommodate friends? What in the world are you talking about?

That little girl might go to a better school than USC and be more successful than your accountant friend whose Daddy handed him the business. And that kid could hear anyway. Your anecdote is worse than useless. Talk about being a prisoner of your limited experience.

It is the freaking girl scouts. They should have found a way to work with the parents. Reasonable people would have found a solution that would have cost nothing with all of the technology we have in 2012. I’ve said earlier I’m betting the parents were not reasonable based on just a hunch on the limited evidence we have. I also would not be surprised if the girl scouts were pretty inflexible in the way they approached these (maybe) difficult parents.

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