Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Girl Scout Wins Disability Discrimination Suit against Troop: Megan, Then Age 12, Sued the Girl Scouts, Claiming the Organization Violated the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by Refusing to Provide Her with Sign Language Services and Then by Disbanding Her Troop Because Her Mother Complained

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Girl Scout Wins Disability Discrimination Suit against Troop: Megan, Then Age 12, Sued the Girl Scouts, Claiming the Organization Violated the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by Refusing to Provide Her with Sign Language Services and Then by Disbanding Her Troop Because Her Mother Complained

Article excerpt

Megan Runnion was active in a Girl Scout troop run by the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, the largest regional Girl Scout organization in the United States. Megan is deaf. For several years she benefitted from sign language interpreters provided by the Girl Scouts that enabled her to participate fully in the troop's activities. But when Megan's mother renewed the request for the interpreter in 2011, the Girl Scouts denied her request and, rather than providing the requested interpreter services, disbanded Megan's troop.

Megan, then age 12, sued the Girl Scouts, claiming the organization violated the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by refusing to provide her with sign language services and then by disbanding her troop because her mother complained. The Act uses the Congressional spending power to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities by providing in Section 504 that, "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States ... shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance ..." A person who has been excluded, denied, or discriminated against may sue the recipient of federal funds to enforce their rights.

The District Court ruled against Megan. It found that private membership organizations like the Girl Scouts could never be subject to the Rehabilitation Act since, according to the court's interpretation of the Act, it required that the private organization provide a public service and be open to the public.

On Megan's appeal of the District Court's decision to the U. …

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