November 22, 2008

Girl Scouts Reject Autistic Girl.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Magi Klages’ parents only want what most of us want for our children.  Inclusion.  Fair treatment.  Acceptance.  RESPECT.

Unfortunately, the Girls Scouts of the USA know nothing about any of these.  After all, they claim to care so much about girls with special needs, but didn’t hesitate to reject an autistic child from the party.

Columnist, Lauren Walker of the Milwaukee – Wisconsin Journal Sentinel writes,

Michele and Kevin Klages think the Girl Scouts ought to practice what they preach.

The Girl Scouts’ Web site says the organization has “a long history of adapting activities to girls who have disabilities, special needs and chronic illnesses.”

Tell that to Magi, their 8-year-old daughter, who has autism. When her parents brought her to a Girl Scout Brownie troop for girls with special needs in Oconomowoc last week – thinking it would be a good fit – the leaders told them not to bring her back after the first visit.

They were stunned, disappointed, frustrated. Now they’re looking for answers from local and national headquarters. They’d like an apology, for starters.

Magi is no stranger to Girl Scouts. She was a Daisy – a beginner – with others at Park Lawn Elementary School two years ago. She graduated into the Brownie troop under the same leader last year.

Dina Johnston, her troop leader both years, said the other girls would initially stare and show concern when Magi acted out.

“After a couple of meetings they knew, oh, that’s just Magi,” Johnston said. “They were very comfortable with her.” And Magi, who communicates primarily with sign language, grew comfortable with them.

“I think it was good to have her,” Johnston said.

When Magi’s troop grew to large, her parents were told of a special needs troop within their community.    Unfortunately, this troop would prove to be unwelcoming.

After all only their first visit, the Klages received a phone call stating the troops desire to not have Magi return.  Apparently, they were concerned about behavior and the safety issues for the other scouts.

I don’t see Magi’s behavior that day as being cause for alarm.  After all, she was visiting with a new troop for the first time.

What?  No adjustment time?

For shame!

Situations like this one are difficult and touchy, but Magi’s parents have every right to be angry.  After all, their daughter was discriminated against.

Like any other parent of a child with special needs, they want answers, and they want an apology.

Doesn’t seem like they’re asking for too much.

It sad they’re not receiving either.

The Klageses spent the week trying to communicate with both local and national headquarters without satisfaction. Michele said they were told the Girl Scouts would try to find another troop for Magi, but they do not want to transport Magi distances beyond her own community for the activity and away from girls she knows. I can’t say I blame them.

Magi’s mom, Michele, is seeking for the termination of the troop leaders, and frankly, I can’t say I blame her one bit.

If anything, these leaders should’ve been more empathetic because they, themselves, are parents to special needs children.

I guess the old adage is right.  One shouldn’t assume.

I truly hope the Girl Scouts rethink this thoughtless decision, and I hope they do so quickly.

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