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New York schools cut ties with Boy Scouts
Education board objects to anti-gay policy
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The nation's largest public school system has severed ties with the Boy Scouts of America because the organization discriminates against gays and lesbians.
New York City Schools Chancellor Harold Levy announced Friday evening that city schools and educators can no longer sponsor troops or recruit Scouts during school hours on school property. Scouts will also be barred from all facilities except those mandated by federal law.
Levy announced the schools will not renew an $800,000 contract the Scouts have to provide services to its 2 million students. Levy said the schools will allow the scouts to finish out the contract to provide facilities for summer and winter programs. That contract ends April 30, 2002.
"The policy of the Boy Scouts of American with respect to homosexuals is contrary to the policy of the Board of Education," Levy said in a written statement.
George Davidson, an attorney for Boy Scouts of America (BSA), declined to comment in a phone interview with CNN. Calls to the BSA headquarters in Irving, Texas, were not immediately returned.
'Discrimination will not be tolerated'
The New York school system is the latest institution to take action against the Scouts since the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision last June, upheld the organization's policy of excluding gays and lesbians.
The Scouts' policy had been challenged by James Dale, an Eagle Scout and decorated assistant Scoutmaster, who accused the Boy Scouts of discriminating against him when they dismissed him for being gay.
"Discrimination will not be tolerated. This is the right thing to do," school board president William C. Thompson Jr. said in a statement. "Until the Scouts change their policy, they will not be eligible for future contracts, sponsorships or special privileges."
New York City Board of Education policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The order would affect the Boy Scouts dramatically, halting in-school recruitment, depriving the organization of facilities and staff during school hours, canceling its joint summer program and ending the Boy Scouts' endorsement by the nation's largest school system.
Levy said the Boy Scouts should not bid when contracts come up for renewal.
Brian Ellner, a Manhattan school board member who led a campaign to remove the Scouts from the schools, told CNN in a phone interview, "The Board of Education has firmly endorsed the principle that students, whether straight or gay, are entitled to equal treatment in our schools."
He said his "hope is that the chancellor's decision will send a clear message to students and educators citywide and around the country that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should not be tolerated in our schools."
Scouts lose support
Boy Scouts of America officials have said previously that the organization, being private, "must have the right to establish its own standards of membership if it is to continue to instill the values of the Scout oath and law in boys... We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout oath and law."
The cities of Chicago, San Francisco and San Jose and Minneapolis have also ended their sponsorship of Boy Scout troops and prohibit the Scouts from recruiting new members in the public schools.
David Buckel, a lawyer for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented Dale, said in a phone interview that several major corporations like J.P. Morgan, Knight-Ridder and Levi Strauss have also dropped sponsorship of the Scouts.
The Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910 and chartered by Congress in 1916, has 3.2 million members.
Scouts' policy on gays divides communities nationwide
New York City Board of Education
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