Disability Law

Family Sues Over Disbanded Girl Scout Troop, Says Federal Law Mandates Interpreter for Deaf Member

The family of a suburban Chicago 12-year-old who has been deaf since birth is suing Megan Runnion’s former Girl Scout troop, contending that officials disbanded it rather than pay for the cost of an interpreter she needs to fully participate in its activities.

Although the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana had paid for an interpreter for Runnion, who has been a member of the Schaumburg troop since kindergarten, there was disagreement about the extent to which an interpreter was required, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A federal lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Illinois on the girl’s behalf alleges that the Girl Scouts violated federal disability law, and specifically the Rehabilitation Act, by failing to accommodate her. It also claims that the disbanding of the troop was done in retaliation after her mother pushed for more services. It appears that it was the cost of an interpreter that was at issue; one two-hour session can easily run $100, the article says.

Legal director Barry Taylor of Equip for Equality is one of the attorneys representing the Runnions. He says disabled individuals aren’t supposed to be required to pay for public accommodations.

A spokeswoman for the local council declined to comment on the suit but said that “Girl Scouts has a long history of adapting activities for girls who have special needs, including those who have physical or developmental disabilities.” Juliette Gordon Low, who founded Girl Scouts, was hearing-impaired, said Julie Somogyi in an email to the newspaper.

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