I’m not sure why I’m surprised that Boy Scouts of America is discriminating against overweight boys, since that organization doesn’t exactly have a great record for inclusiveness. But still, this one was a bit of a punch to my too-ample gut, not so much because it’s about fat-shaming as because it’s about fat-shaming kids.
BSA claims that it’s excluding from it’s annual jamboree scouts who have a body mass index above a certain threshold because of the health risks involved. From the official website (all emphasis theirs):
The national jamboree is a physically demanding experience. West Virginia is called “the Mountain State” for a reason, and our new home, the Summit, offers a very different environment than Fort A.P. Hill. The 2013 National Scout Jamboree is “on foot,” with all participants and staff walking/hiking everywhere; there will not be bus circuits or personal vehicles on site.
It goes on to explain that the health dangers this would present to obese or overweight scouts are just too great.
But the thing is this: They’re lying. Elsewhere on the same site, the jamboree FAQ cheerfully invites “handicapped Scouts” to come out and play:
Will handicapped Scouts be able to attend the jamboree?
Handicapped Scouts have always been able to attend BSA jamborees. They are absolutely welcome and encouraged to submit an application for attendance.
Somehow this entirely “on foot” event is open, presumably, to kids in wheelchairs. That tells me that BSA is willing to make accommodations for some children and not others. I don’t know if their preference for disabled scouts over overweight ones has to do with fear of litigation or just plain dislike of fat kids, but either way it’s the height of hypocrisy.
If it’s so important to BSA to combat childhood obesity, perhaps the best way to accomplish this is not by banning overweight kids from an event because that event involves lots of exercise. The event is too strenuous for the scouts who most need to exert themselves? Then downgrade the level of difficulty or offer alternative activities – which, again, presumably already exist for those “handicapped” scouts.
Jamboree is BSA’s marquee event, and the announcement that overweight kids are not welcome is a major statement by the organization. There’s a difference between wanting to see overweight children get healthier and just wanting them not to exist, and BSA has staked out a clear position in the latter category. The organization should be ashamed. Again.