The U.S. Department of Education is seeking public comment on proposed regulations that guarantee equal access to public school facilities for the Boy Scouts of America and other patriotic youth groups, Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced today. On behalf of Secretary Paige, Assistant Secretary of Education Ray Simon and the Office for Civil Rights’ Ken Marcus joined Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for an event to discuss the proposed regulations at Ellen Smith Elementary School in Conway, Ark.
“The goal of these regulations is to ensure that the Boy Scouts and other patriotic youth groups have equal access to public facilities, and today’s action is another step toward achieving this goal,” Secretary Paige said.
The proposed regulations enforce the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, which requires public schools that receive federal education funds to provide the Boy Scouts and other designated patriotic youth organizations under federal law (including, among others, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. and Little League Baseball, Inc.) with equal access to school facilities as compared to outside community and youth groups. The law also requires that these patriotic youth groups be given equal access to school activities and school-related communication tools (e.g., bulletin boards) as compared to other outside community and youth groups. Congress passed the Boy Scouts Act as part of the bipartisan No Child Left Behind education reforms and charged the Department’s Office for Civil Rights with enforcing the law.
The proposed regulations will appear in an upcoming edition of the Federal Register and there is a 45-day public comment period from the date of publication. The Secretary expects to publish the final regulations after reviewing comments from the public.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Boy Scouts have the right to set their own standards for leadership. Schools must respect that right and not exclude the Boy Scouts because of its membership and leadership policies and oath of allegiance to God and country.
The Department invites public comment. Comments can be sent to Kenneth L. Marcus, Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W., Room 6095 Potomac Center Plaza, Washington, D.C., 20202-1100. Comments also can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or www.regulations.gov.
All public comments will be available for inspection both during and after the public comment period. Persons wishing to view the comments may do so at the Department of Education–Potomac Center Plaza, 550 12th St. S.W., Room 6128, Washington, D.C., between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. each business day except federal holidays.