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Margo Mankes v. BSA

 

     In January 1991, Cub Scout Pack 350 (Miami, FL) got a new member. The problem was that this new 8-year-old member, Margot ("Margo") Mankes, was a girl.
     Margo completed and sent in her registration to be a Cub Scout. Margo's application was accepted by the BSA national council at first. Then the local scout council determined that Margo was a girl and said it had been a mistake. About a month later, Margo's money was returned with a letter saying Cub Scouts are for boys.
     Nevertheless, Margo continued attending meetings in uniform but in an unofficial capacity. Margo was not alone in her family when it came to Scouting. Her mother, Cecile, was an Assistant Scoutmaster for a troop. Her father, Barry, was the Cubmaster for Pack 350. Her brothers, David, 10, and Saul, 12, were both Boy Scouts. Margo was a Daisy Scout in kindergarten and a Brownie Scout after that.
     "Brownie Scouts did tie-dying and played on water slides," Margo said. "The Cub Scouts have cookouts, canoe, play sports, learn about tools, learn to make fires." Brownie Scouts learned how to safely open and close a knife; Cub Scouts had contests to see who was the fastest at carving toy cars out of wood, Margo's mother said. Brownies wrap meat and vegetables in foil and drop them into a fire; Cubs make fancy campfire stews in Dutch ovens.
     That is why Margo wanted to join the Cub Scouts. They just did more things she liked. So, as an unofficial member of the Pack, she did those thing through the Spring. Then Summer came along.

     In every BSA council across the country, Cub Scout day camps are usually held. Pack 350, with her father as Cubmaster, planned to attend. However, to attend, each Cub Scout had to register with the council's organized day camp. When Margo applied to attend the day camp with her father and Pack, the council rejected her application. The reason? She was not a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America.
     Upon hearing the news, Margo's mother asked Miami lawyer Mark Rubin for help. He filed a lawsuit in federal court. The suit asked that the Boy Scouts of America admit Margo as an equal member and to allow her to attend day camp, which began June 24th at North Miami Middle School. The federal court refused jurisdiction. Rubin took it to a state court, which declined to make an emergency ruling in time for Margo to go to camp.
     As a result, Margo did not attend Cub Scout day camp. Her attorney filed a complaint with the Dade County Human Rights Board. He also contacted the US House Judiciary Committee, which has power over the BSA because Congress granted a Congressional Charter to BSA. And he also asked the United Way chapter to stop funding the local BSA council because the UW charter bans sex discrimination.
     Margo's administrative appeal to the Human Rights Board was denied. According to the last information we have, the family reportedly planned to re-file it's suit in state court. Apparently, the state courts did not agree with Margo's arguments, as no further news reports are available.
     In the meantime, the South Florida Council decided that Margo's parents, Barry and Cecile, ignored BSA policies by allowing their daughter to participate in Barry's Cub Pack. So, the council terminated both Barry and Cecile's membership in the BSA.
     It is not known if Margo's two older brothers remained in Scouting, but at least 3/5's of the family were permanently barred from participating in the BSA.

GIRL, 8, CHALLENGES LAW OF (CUB) PACK
Miami Herald
June 1, 1991
By: ANGIE MUHS

Women are cops, jockeys, firefighters, and even combat soldiers. So why can't Margo Mankes be a Cub Scout?

Margo is 8 and she likes "knives and camping" more than Girl Scout cookies and brownies. As an Ojus third-grader, she signed up for Pack 350 last January and figured to go to summer camp.

But then the Boy Scouts of America found out -- and convulsed. Out she went, deemed "not a member in good standing."

"It's very openly laid out that it's a program for boys," said Caytie Daniell, the Scout spokesperson, a woman, no less.

So Margo's mom and dad filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. They accuse the Boy Scouts of discrimination and violation of the state Human Rights Act. And they want an "emergency" hearing.

All the boys go to camp June 24. Margo is not eligible. "It's not fair," she said.

U.S. DISTRICT COURT GIRL, 8, SUES OVER CUB SCOUT BAN
Miami Herald
June 19, 1991
Herald Staff

An 8-year-old girl who was told she could not longer be a Cub scout sued the Boy Scouts of America in federal court Tuesday.

Margo Mankes accused the Boy Scouts of discrimination and violating the Florida Human Rights Act, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Cub Scout Pack 350 admitted Margo in January. About a month later, Margo's money was returned with a letter saying Cub and Boy Scouts are for boys.

Nevertheless, Margo continued attending meetings in uniform but in an unofficial capacity. But when Margo asked to attend scout camp with her troop mates, the request was rejected.

The suit asks that the Boy Scouts of America admit her as an equal member and allow her to attend scout camp, which begins June 24 at North Miami Middle School.

A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday before District Judge James Lawrence King.

SCOUTING NEW TERRITORIES THEY DON'T WANT TO BE BOYS. THESE TWO GIRLS JUST WANT TO LEARN MORE THAN SUGAR AND SPICE.
Miami Herald
July 5, 1991
By: FRED TASKER

Margo Mankes and Jennifer Thomason have never met. But they have a lot in common.

Margo, 8, came in second in a wood-carving contest against seven young male friends. She says she's better at baseball than her 10- and 12-year-old brothers, and that her favorite things are swimming, bowling, soccer, canoeing and football.

Jennifer, 14, has the same first-aid training as her mother, the Metro police sergeant. She rides with Metro firefighters and is qualified to give CPR, help treat shock and assist in childbirth.

Oh, both still have their girlish passions. "I still play with my Barbies ," Margo says, "and I still sleep with my teddy bear, because I'm afraid of the dark."

Jennifer's favorite things, her mother says, are: "Talk on the phone, shop at the mall, go to movies with dates, hang around with her girlfriends."

But both also want to do things in the Boy Scouts that the Boy Scouts won't let them do.

Margo wants to be a Cub Scout. The Boy Scouts national leadership says Cub Scouts are only for boys.

Jennifer, already a member of the Explorers, a coed scouting organization, wants to become a counselor-in-training at a Boy Scout Camp. Local Boy Scout leaders rejected her application, saying they couldn't guarantee her safety.

Says Margo's mother: "At age 8 there is not a difference between boys and girls. Every child should be encouraged, regardless of gender, in whatever they need to be a whole being."

Says Jennifer's mother: "To deny Jennifer a position at Camp Lone Oak would be the same as saying the Boy Scouts do not consider girls the equal of boys."

Says the Boy Scouts' national spokesman: "If we were to try to accommodate both sexes in the same programs, it might cause us to not meet anybody's needs. The program has run well for the last 81 years, and we see no scientific reason we should change the policy."

The challenges come at a time when the Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, is changing and is under pressure to change faster. In 1969 the Scouts first let young women into its Explorer program, which had been all-male for 20 years. In 1988, it let adult women become Boy Scout troop leaders; previously they could be only Cub Scout den mothers. Today it is resisting pressure from youths who are atheists or homosexual to become Boy Scout members and leaders.

"Scouting has a very well-defined image and set of values," says Blake Lewis, national BSA spokesman. "We think it would be unfair to the people who have signed onto the organization (to make it) one where you can pick and choose what elements of the code you're going to follow. An organization that does that will soon become ill-defined and valueless."

What about the good old American value of nondiscrimination, counter Margo and Jennifer's families.

Still, the challenges for both families center on practical concerns. Margo Mankes' family, of North Dade, is seriously into scouting. Her mother, Cecile, is an assistant scout master in a Boy Scout troop. Her father, Barry, is a scout master in a Cub Scout pack. Her brothers, David, 10, and Saul, 12, are scouts. Margo was a Daisy Scout in kindergarten and a Brownie Scout after that.

Then she joined the Cub Scouts. They just did more things she liked.

Brownie Scouts did tie-dying and played on water slides, she says. "The Cub Scouts have cookouts, canoe, play sports, learn about tools, learn to make fires."

Brownie Scouts learned how to safely open and close a knife; Cub Scouts had contests to see who was the fastest at carving toy cars out of wood, Margo's mother says. Brownies wrap meat and vegetables in foil and drop them into a fire; Cubs make fancy campfire stews in Dutch ovens.

Margo's application to be a Cub Scout was accepted by the BSA national leadership at first. Then local scout council leaders said it had been a mistake, returned her fee and said she was out. It meant Margo couldn't go to Cub Scout summer camp, a week long, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. program at North Miami Middle School.

Margo's mother asked Miami lawyer Mark Rubin for help. He took the case to federal court, which refused jurisdiction. He took it to a state court, which declined to make an emergency ruling in time for Margo to go to camp.

Now Rubin has filed a complaint with the Dade County Human Relations Board. He is contacting the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, which has power over the BSA because Congress in 1916 approved the scouts' charter.

And Rubin is asking the national United Way, a major financial supporter of the Boy Scouts, to stop funding the scouts because the UW charter bans sex discrimination.

Jennifer Thomason's case arose over equally practical concerns. Her strong leadership traits started to show at 12, when she joined the Future Homemakers of America.

"At first I thought, 'Oh, boy -- baking cakes and cookies,' " says her mother, Bea Weaver, a sergeant in the Metro Police training bureau.

But times, and FHA chapters, have changed.

"They're into self-improvement, building self-esteem," Weaver says. "They do projects to stamp out teen-age pregnancy, drugs."

Adds Jennifer: "They have competitions for cooking, but I'm not really interested. I like parliamentary procedure." Her FHA parliamentary procedure team won first place in the Dade- Monroe district contest twice and third place once at the state level.

"I'm just the mother," Weaver says. "I just stand back and watch. At 12, she was elected chairperson of the district FHA. I didn't even know. She came home one night and borrowed my suit jacket. She said, 'I have to make a presentation.' She did her hair up so she looked older. She gave a presentation to an auditorium full of hundreds of kids and teachers. They elected her."

As a Girl Scout, Jennifer was secretary, vice president and president of her troop. Then she joined the Explorers, a coed group for 14-to-21-year-olds that is run by the Boy Scouts of America. Her group is the Fire Explorers, specializing in studying the work of firefighters, learning their techniques and riding with them as volunteers.

"She's not a tomboy," says her mother. "When she's dressed up, she looks like a 24-year-old. She has so much poise for a 14-year-old, it's amazing."

This summer Jennifer applied to become a counselor-in- training at a Boy Scout summer program at Camp Lone Oak, near Orlando. It's an unpaid, learning position to prepare youths for later jobs as camp counselors. She would have worked, under supervision, with Boy Scouts from 11 to 17.

She was turned down by Ross McGill, executive director of the Boy Scouts' South Florida Council.

"There is no way we could guarantee her safety," he said. "This is a safety issue, not a gender issue."

"We're just not prepared for a 14-year-old young lady with about 250 males." added Tim Rose of the scout council. "We're not prepared to handle that type of arrangement." He said the camp does have several adult women staffers. "There's obviously a difference between adults and minors."

Weaver scoffs at that, saying Jennifer has no trouble working with young men the same age as president of her Explorer Post.

Both of the families fighting the Boy Scouts say they were pulled into the fight reluctantly. Both mothers worried about upsetting their daughters.

"Margo doesn't understand a lot of this," Cecile Mankes says. "She only knows she wants to be a Cub Scout."

Asked if the situation is fun for her, Margo scrunches up her face and gives a thumbs-down signal.

"Boring," she says. "How much longer is this going to take?"

Bea Weaver, who has had to fight for her rights as a woman in a police department, is particularly sensitive to any idea of pushing her daughter into something.

"I didn't want to push her into something if it was just my feelings. I could see her wrestling with it. She was the one who said, 'I'd like to go ahead and fight this.' "

Jennifer agrees: "I said, 'Wow, they're not letting me in because I'm a girl. It's not fair. I want to do something about it."

So Jennifer's mother is filing complaints with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. Jennifer has gathered 200 signatures from her classmates at Braddock Senior High School on a letter to the Boy Scout Council complaining about its policy.

Says Rubin, the Mankes' attorney: "The Boy Scouts are slowly moving toward change, and fighting it every step of the way. Eventually they will have to conform to the norms of society."

Says Lewis, the national BSA spokesman: "Our program has been very successful over its 81-year history. We're not going to sacrifice our long-standing values."

CUB SCOUTS ISN'T SUITABLE FOR GIRL
Miami Herald
July 7, 1991
By: JOHN ROSEMOND

Margo Mankes wants to be a Cub Scout. I'm not surprised. The Miami 8-year-old has two older brothers who are Scouts, her father leads the pack she wants to join (was, in fact, allowed to join by . . . guess who?), and her mother is an assistant troop leader. Margo likes outdoor activities and says the Girl Scouts are too tame.

The Boy Scouts of America says she can't join because she's a girl. Apparently not ones to take no for an answer, much less say it to their daughter, her parents have hired an attorney who, in turn, has filed a sex discrimination suit in Margo's behalf.

So far, both a federal judge and a circuit judge have ruled against her, saying they could not force the Boy Scouts to let Margo attend a Cub Scout summer day camp. Margo's father says when she learned she wasn't going to camp, she cried and locked herself in her room.

I feel for Margo. If I were an 8-year-old girl whose entire family was involved in Boy Scouting, I'd want to be a Boy Scout, too. I mean, who'd want to be the only Girl Scout in a Boy Scout family? But mostly I feel for her because her parents didn't tell her what they should have told her in the first place: "We're sorry, Margo, but the Cub Scouts are for boys and we can't break the rules for you. If you want to go on nature hikes and camp and learn to tie knots and stuff, we'll make time to do those things as a family."

As it stands, the outcome of all this brouhaha just may be an 8-year-old who thinks she can have just about anything her way if she makes enough noise.

A Boy Scout spokesperson, defending their decision to bar Margo from participation, said the Boy Scouts was created to meet the needs of boys. Do boys and girls have different needs?

Personal (I helped raise one of each) and professional experience moves me to conclude they do. One of these needs is opportunity for a certain amount of exclusive association with members of their own gender. Boys need to spend some time together with no girls allowed, just as girls need some time together with no boys allowed. It's known as same-sex bonding. Without adult supervision, which scouting provides, gender- exclusive associations often take on chauvinistic or cliquish overtones. Scouting gives boys and girls separate opportunities to develop healthy self-images and a healthy sense of gender identity.

*John Rosemond is a family psychologist in private practice in North Carolina. Questions of general interest may be sent to him at The Charlotte Observer, P.O. Box 32188, Charlotte, N.C. 28232.
 

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