Fair and Unbalanced
Littwin: Adding “bullying a fifth grader” to the Boy Scout code
Let’s be clear what happened here. According to the facts as we know them, a bullying Cub Scout leader kicked an 11-year-old boy out of his den because the boy, Ames Mayfield, asked a tough question of state Sen. Vicki Marble at a Cub Scout event.
Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts of America, including its Denver Area Council, have basically stood silent, refusing to address the issue directly other than to say they’re looking for a new den for Ames that would “allow him to continue his Scouting experience in a way that fits his and his family’s needs.”
I have no idea what that means, other than that they’re looking for a den that doesn’t routinely expel a child for asking a question. I called the Denver Area Council to ask under what authority the den leader had acted and what the Boy Scouts’ responsibility was in dealing with this issue, but the group failed to return my call, which could be interpreted as a failure to do their duty.
So, what should we infer from that silence? That the Boy Scouts condones the scout leader’s bullying behavior? Or that, in the name of privacy — the go-to excuse for most groups practicing damage control — they’re willing to stand by as the leader humiliates a fifth grader while also making a mockery of everything the Boy Scouts are supposed to stand for?
From everything we know — and that we don’t know more is directly on the Boy Scouts — the situation required at most a conversation between leader and parent. And, as far as I can tell, the only situation worth discussing is Ames’ punishment and whether the den leader should be, in fact, the one removed.
Drumming a kid out of his den would seem to be an extreme punishment under any circumstances. But what makes this story especially egregious was that the educational assignment for the Broomfield scouts was to research an issue in the news and then put questions to Marble, the invited guest.
Which is exactly what Ames did.
Ames came fully prepared, asking several questions. One was about Marble’s more-than-controversial statements at a 2013 legislative hearing on poverty in which she blamed high mortality rates in the black community on eating too much barbecue and chicken. If you don’t remember Marble’s trip down racial-stereotype lane, here’s the money quote from 2013: “When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race. Sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up. Diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup, and you just can’t help it.”
And then she adds: “Although I’ve got to say, I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down South and you, I mean, I love it. Everybody loves it.”
We’ve come to expect odd statements from Marble, a Fort Collins senator, on a variety of issues — I’m surprised she didn’t mention the health benefits of watermelon — but let’s just say that barbecue comments usually come at the top, or bottom, of anyone’s list.
When Ames asked her about the barbecue/chicken comments, Marble blamed it all on so-called fake news. “That was made up by the media,” she said, telling Ames he could believe if it he wanted to.
It wasn’t made up, of course. The full quote from that hearing is available for everyone to see, including by Ames when he was doing his research. And upon hearing Marble tell a bunch of kids that the media took her comments out of context that day, The Denver Post editorial board slammed her for telling a “finger-lickin’ lie.”
But that apparently was not the question that got Ames into trouble. He also asked Marble about gun control, a story that, sadly, is once again all over the news following the Las Vegas massacre. Marble is a strong defender of gun rights, and so Ames asked a long and tough question about her positions. It wasn’t the only tough question she got. Others asked about the border wall, about fossil fuels.
Here’s the heart of Ames’ question: “I was shocked that you co-sponsored a bill to allow domestic violence offenders to continue to own a gun. Why on earth would you want someone who beats their wife to have access to a gun?”
Ames went on for two minutes before the facilitator cut him off so Marble could answer. And five days later, the Cub Scout Pack leader asked for a meeting with Ames’ mother, Lori Mayfield, who says she was told that the den leader thought Ames’ question had been disrespectful. And that he wanted him out.
It was Ames’ mother who put his exchange with Marble on YouTube and who gave the video to Colorado Pols, which helpfully provided a transcript. And that’s almost certainly why we’re having this discussion. If you look on social media, where the story is raging, you’ll find some people ready to blame all this on the mother, as if Ames, a smart kid, couldn’t have come up with the questions himself. But more than that, even if the scouts thought the mother encouraged Ames — as if getting help from your parents were somehow a bad thing — how would that excuse expelling a fifth grader?
Even Gabby Giffords added her support for Ames, tweeting: “This is exactly the kind of courage we need in Congress. Ames, call me in 14 years. I’ll campaign for you.”
Ames has been in the Cub Scouts for years. He is months from moving on to the Boy Scouts, who have recently liberalized their views on gays and are even now accepting girls as participants. But asking a state senator a tough question is, for at least one leader, a step too far.
Ames says he may or may not join another den, although other dens have offered membership. You can understand any ambivalence. His mother says he is “heartbroken.” And that is the real crime here.
Photo of Ames Mayfield, courtesy of Lori Mayfield
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