Scout council accused of racial discrimination Burroughs' charges are called unfounded

June 15, 1993|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

A Scout leader yesterday charged the area council with racial discrimination because it has not filled a district executive position that includes duties recruiting and organizing Scouting activities in black Baltimore neighborhoods.

Leo W. Burroughs Jr., the Scout leader, also charged that the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America has been reluctant to publish articles about black Scouts in its local newspaper.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's racism. What else could it be," said Mr. Burroughs, who heads Roots of Scouting, a group of black Scouts in Baltimore. He founded Roots in 1979 and it is a member of the area council.

A council official said Mr. Burroughs' charges are unfounded.

The position of Trailblazer Scout district executive has been unfilled for the last 14 months. The job pays an annual salary of about $20,000 and its duties are mostly organizing Scouting activities and recruiting new members in the city. Baltimore City and parts of Baltimore County are divided into four Scouting districts, each headed by an executive, according to the council.

There are more than 35,000 Scouts in the metropolitan area, and about 6,000 in the city, according to the council.

By leaving the city position unfilled, Mr. Burroughs said, inner-city youths are deprived of opportunities to participate in Scouting activities that their counterparts in the other districts are afforded.

"The Roots of Scouting tries to protect the interests of African-American communities and make sure that they are recognized," said Mr. Burroughs, a volunteer who has been associated with Scouting for 29 years.

"We're trying to give everyone a chance. Without the leader, they don't have it," Mr. Burroughs said.

Dr. Calvin W. Burnett, the president of Coppin State College who is also president of the area Scouting council, said Mr. Burroughs' charges are unfounded.

"I would not be connected with any organization if there was any of the discrimination that he has accused the council of having," said Dr. Burnett, who is black.

Dr. Burnett, in his third year as president of the council, said the duties of the city district executive are being performed temporarily by a council member.

"It's covered, but not like Mr. Burroughs would want it covered," Dr. Burnett said. "I don't think he has the right to dictate the administration of Scouting."

Dr. Burnett said the Baltimore position hasn't been filled because "we've been tremendously underfunded."

According to its 1993 financial report, the Baltimore-area council received $602,000 -- or 22 percent of its operating budget -- from the United Way of Central Maryland. Most of the remainder of the $2,790,000 comes from contributions and fund-raisers.

In answering Mr. Burroughs' other charge, Dr. Burnett said the Area Scouter, the council's newspaper, prints articles that are submitted on time.

However, he admitted that on two occasions, articles submitted by Mr. Burroughs' group were not printed. He characterized the complaint as "petty."

"Once it was a slip-up on our part, and the other time it was a matter of them not getting the materials in on time," Dr. Burnett said.

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