The mother of an 8-year-old girl is accusing the Girl Scouts of discriminating against her deaf daughter.
Florida mom Sloan LoSauro says she wanted Vanessa, whose cochlear implant allows her to both talk and sign, to be a Girl Scout because she thought “it would be good for her to get in with a group of girls and learn the ropes of life,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “I wanted her to learn the things that the Girl Scouts teach you – to honor, to respect, to raise money for others.”
But LoSauro says the local troop leader wouldn’t accept Vanessa into the group due to her hearing impairment. “I was told we were better off just to start a deaf troop,” she says. “But I like for her to be around hearing kids as well.”
Vanessa was first rejected from the troop two years ago. Now, LoSauro says she’s inspired to speak up about the incident because her daughter’s classmates are facing a similar struggle as they try to establish a Girl Scout troop for the day students at Vanessa’s school, the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.
“I found out from the parents there that they have been fighting to get a troop there for years,” she says. “They have one for the dorm students, but not for the day students. I’ve never heard of anyone working so hard to get a Girl Scout troop together. It shouldn’t have to be such a fight.”
Sloan and Vanessa LoSauro. Photo courtesy Sloan LoSauro.
LoSauro says that in her experience, it’s hard to get troops together for deaf kids because “the Girl Scouts are discriminatory to anyone with a disability because they don’t want to deal with it.” She says that while she believes it was the local troop leader who first didn’t allow Vanessa in, when she brought her complaints to the higher-ups at the local Girl Scouts-Gateway Council, and then to the national office in New York, she was given the run-around. “When I addressed my frustrations with the Florida office, they ignored my complaints and just said ‘we’d be happy to put her in another troop.’ But then they would say ‘oh we don’t have room for her,’ or ‘we don’t have enough volunteers.’”
Mary Anne Jacobs, the CEO of Girl Scouts – Gateway Council, where LoSauro would have enrolled, told Yahoo Parenting that she wasn’t yet at the Girl Scouts when LoSauro first tried to enroll Vanessa. In a statement provided to Yahoo Parenting, Jacobs wrote: “I don’t know the specifics of what occurred over the course of two years, but I am very disappointed Vanessa had this experience. Every girl regardless of her situation is entitled to be a Girl Scout and we work to ensure resources needed to deliver the program are available. In fact, two years ago a troop was already established at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Today that troop serves about 20 girls who are active and get the full Girl Scout experience. Just recently they went overnight camping for the first time and received instruction in archery. As for other troops in the area, because we are a girl-led program, troops decide their meeting schedule and locations based on the interests and convenience of their girls. We do our best to match interested girls to a troop that closely meets her needs. We strive to live by Girl Scout values, one of which is inclusion, and serve all girls in our service area.”
LoSauro says she hopes the troop for day students will soon be established at Vanessa’s school, and also that her experience will shed light on the treatment of some would-be Girl Scouts. “Maybe if that troop leader had taken the time to get to know my daughter she would have seen that she would be a great asset to her troop,” LoSauro says. “I would like some troop leaders to open their eyes and see that you have to give kids a chance.”