An Ii-year-old boy in the United Kingdom has been awarded a little under $60,000 (£42,000) stemming from a lawsuit against a cub scout group. His family sued the organization for discriminating against the boy due to his autism.
Ben Gleeson joined 10th Harpenden Scout Group in January 2015 in Hertfordshire, but was then told that he was not allowed to join camps or attend athletic activities without supervision, the BBC reports. Gleeson’s family took the matter to court, saying the scout group basically banned Ben, and the matter was settled out of court.
For its part, the Scout Association has issued an apology and said that it started an inquiry into the incident.
Ben joined the scout group, previously having been a member of the beavers. According to his parents, Ben’s condition was explained to the scout leaders, and informed them of strategies that would help calm and distract their son in case he got upset. Ben’s autism manifested as anxiety when changes happen, the parents said, so the boy needs to know what will happen in advance.
In March 2016, Ben had a short episode of autism at a cub scout camp wherein he got distressed. He ran a short distance away from the group at an indoor location when he was asked to change into a pair of shoes that he could not find. Later, he refused to join an egg-and-spoon relay because he said he had a fear of spoons.
After that, scout leaders prohibited Ben from traveling with the rest of the group on a bus to various events, or to participate in athletics. They also mandated that he have constant, one-on-one supervision at events, justifying the decision by claiming the health and safety of the whole cub scout pack.
Ben’s parents, both lawyers, decided to take legal action under the Equality Act. Beverly, Ben’s mother, admitted that her son needs extra support but called the scout leaders’ decisions a “complete overreaction.” She said,
Pretty much every event had to be supervised on a one-to-one basis, which I felt wasn’t inclusive.
She added, “I felt he didn’t need it. He didn’t have this level of supervision at school. He’d made one mistake and then that was it, they wanted to make the rules and regulations. It was supposed to be a dialogue.”
Insurers for the Scout Association opted to settle out of court, paying the Gleeson family. In turn, the Gleesons have donated some of the money to a local autism charity, while the rest is in a trust for Ben.