The Boy Scouts of America has been consistently criticized for taking stances that critics see as anti-gay. But reports that the organization may be throwing its support behind the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) “No Name-Calling Week,” may help to temper this perception.
According to the campaign’s website, “The project seeks to focus national attention on the problem of name-calling in schools, and to provide students and educators with the tools and inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate name-calling in their communities.” Among other issues, eradicating harassment of individuals over anything, including their sexual orientation, is at the root of the campaign.
In a post on the “Bryan on Scouting” blog, Bryan Wendell, senior editor of Scouting magazine (an official publication of the Boy Scouts), took on the issue of name-calling and stated support for GLSEN’s initiative. On Monday, Wendell wrote:
Idiot! Retard! Geek!
Has a Scout in your unit called another Scout one of these names—or worse? If so, did you take action?
No Name-Calling Week begins today, so it’s an excellent time to remind Scouts and Scouters that these “harmless” insults can do real damage to a boy or girl.
The post goes on to share some tips on how handle name-calling if and when it occurs. Most of the information, of course, focuses on the grander scale of name-calling. Nowhere in the post is GLSEN or the word “gay” mentioned. Instead, the general sentiment of fighting against bullying and name-calling is heralded.
The Huffington Post discusses why this may be regarded as a major step in the eyes of Boy Scouts critics:
Though it may seem minor, embracing a pro-LGBT organization’s event is likely to be viewed as a considerably progressive step for Boy Scouts given its checkered history with such affairs. Many advocates have long been outraged by what they have deemed as the organization’s explicit anti-gay policy, which allegedly bars openly gay members from participating as troop members or leaders.
“I’m delighted the Boy Scouts of America’s official publication is calling on its adult leaders to join with the tens of thousands of educators and other youth-serving professionals who are currently observing No Name-Calling Week in order to improve the lives of millions of youth,” GLSEN’S Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard said in a statement.
However, she went on to claim that the Boy Scouts need to do more to counteract the “overwhelmingly negative messages sent to scouts” regarding gays and lesbians.
Regardless of any negative feelings that still exist as a result of organizational policies, GLSEN thanked the Boy Scouts for its support on the group’s Facebook page as well:
While many assume that the Boy Scouts endorsed this movement, there’s no definitive indication that this is the case. It’s possible that Wendell didn’t realize the connection to GLSEN. Or, if he did, it’s possible there wasn’t clearance for his post, especially considering where the Boy Scouts typically stands on related subjects.
In another scenario, it could be that the Scouts simply wanted to support an effort aimed against any and all name-calling. Either way, it’s an intriguing development to say the least.