A happy day is dawning for Logan Blythe, as the hard work he’s done towards gaining the rank of Eagle Scout looks like it’s paying off. On November 9, 2017, he gets word that his project has been given the green light by the Boy Scout officials, so the Blythe family gets set to celebrate.
But a mere day later, Logan is thrown into despair; the Boy Scouts seem to have changed their mind. And not only is he told not to do any more work on his project, it seems that his dream of being an Eagle Scout has been smashed. That was not to be the end of the story for Logan, however.
Logan’s dad Chad was furious about the Boy Scouts’ decision, and his ire was echoed across America as people found out about what had happened to Logan. Perhaps their anger was stoked by the idea that the organization might have discriminated against the boy. After all, he lives with Down syndrome, and he dreamed of becoming an Eagle Scout.
The Blythe family live in Payson, Utah, where like many people from the state, they attend the Mormon church. Fun-loving Logan enjoys nothing more than bringing a smile to his dad’s face, except perhaps his toy giraffe – named Giraffe – Curious George and horses. But Logan isn’t your typical teenager.
You see, Logan was born with Down syndrome, which had caused difficulties with development. In particular, the teen had not grown cognitive capacity beyond that of the typical four-year-old. He couldn’t write or have a serious conversation, and the lack of ability in the verbal sphere sometimes left him a bit lonesome.
A strong swimmer, Logan was physically very capable. But on a mental level, he did find some things challenging. He couldn’t remember or recite things, so preparing presentations was always hard. On top of that, had difficulty following instructions, because he struggled to understand them.
For instance, Logan’s father Chad explained to the Washington Post in 2018 that his son had trouble with guidance in the swimming pool. He said, “You can ask him to dive to the bottom of the pool or tread water, but he’s going to look at you and just wave and smile.”
But Logan did not let his disability stop him from joining up with the Boy Scouts. In the state of Utah, the organization has close ties to the Mormon church. Furthermore, a lot of youngsters’ social life comes through the Boy Scouts, and for a boy at risk of isolation like Logan, being part of it is essential.
Being a part of the Boy Scouts gave Logan a new lease of life – he now had a way to grow his abilities in social settings. And, importantly, it allowed him to set goals and work towards them. The youngster proved very successful at achieving his targets too, racking up more than 20 merit badges.
However, that was not enough for the keen teenager. Not satisfied with his sash full of badges, Logan had set his sights higher still. He’d decided to shoot for the highest level that the Boy Scouts have to offer: Eagle Scout. So he began work on the project that boys or girls need to do, and he approached the organization for approval.
But before we discover what happened with Logan’s project, let’s learn a bit about the Scouts. Inspired by a chance encounter with a helpful Scout in the streets of London, U.K., publisher W.D. Boyce brought the movement to the U.S. Now the Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s foremost organizations for young people. And since its 1910 founding, roughly 110 million Americans have been members.
Only the elite Boy Scouts can become Eagle Scouts, and they need a minimum of 21 merit badges to qualify. On top of that, candidates have to come up with a substantial project aimed at community service. It’s important for the youngsters to become leaders by managing their own projects, as part of the Boy Scouts’ aim to help them develop.
According to Logan’s dad Chad, getting to the level of Eagle Scout represented a massive honor. He explained to The Washington Post what it meant to him, saying, “It’s considered one of those things you do… to build a man, if you will. It’s a bit of a symbol of pride.”
Chad continued, “We viewed it as a way for Logan to be a leader, for [him] to help the people around him, which is one of things Logan loves to do the most.” But achieving the Eagle Scout award would not be without its difficulties. It’s tough enough for children without disabilities to meet the requirements for the merit badges, after all.
For instance, if you want to gain the cooking merit badge, you’ll need to do precise measurements of your ingredients. But as Chad noted, Logan operates at the “level of a four-year-old.” And, he said, “If you give a four-year-old a bag of flour, what’s going to happen? That’s exactly the way he thinks.”
There are alternate merit badges that Logan might have tried to gain, but even those have requirements that the teen would struggle to meet. His difficulties in comprehending and carrying out instructions made it hard for him to achieve what he needed for Eagle Scout, without being given a break.
However, his Scout leaders were prepared to make accommodations for Logan. And when he came up with a project to make kits to be used in hospitals for newborns, the teenager was hopeful that this would be the last step to his goal.
The state National Parks Council liked the sound of Logan’s project, which would see him volunteer at a local hospital, so they gave him the green light to go ahead. He was overjoyed, posing for pictures in his Scout uniform, adorned with his sash, which groaned with the weight of his many badges.
Of course, Logan’s family felt a tremendous amount of happiness when his project was accepted. His father Chad told The Washington Post, “We were all overjoyed. We were all happy that this was happening… not only for Logan but for his troop and for the Boy Scouts.” However, the family was set for a big disappointment.
The following day, Chad received an email from a Scout official, who incidentally was one of the same people who had posed for pictures with Logan just the day previous. And the news that the message contained knocked the Blythe family sideways, leaving the dad outraged.
The official had written to let Chad know that the Scouts had changed their mind about his son’s proposal. According to the Washington Post, they wrote, “I have been asked to suspend Logan’s Eagle Project approval. Please do not do any more work on his project.” But if that had not been bad enough, much worse was yet to follow.
In fact, the Boy Scouts had decided that Logan had not earned his merit badges. Chad explained to ABC News that the email said, “Although Logan had done his best in completing the required ‘merit badges,’ in the eyes of the Boy Scouts he had not achieved” a single one of them. For Logan, that was like he had seen the badges ripped from his sash.
The official explained in the email that when the local Boy Scouts had approached the national organization, it had told them that there was only one way to gain Eagle Scout rank. They had been adamant that nothing could be done for Logan – he had to meet the requirements as they were written, with no accommodation for his disability.
For reference, the Boy Scouts’ own website lay down the law very strictly. It stated, “It is important to remember that the advancement program is meant to challenge our members; however, not all of them can achieve everything they might want to – with or without a disability. It is for this reason all Scouts are required to meet the requirements as they are written, with no exceptions.”
The email to Chad did proffer the writer’s sincere apologies and regrets, but those were cold comfort for his son Logan. Having previously loved to wear his sash, he now didn’t want to don his uniform at all. And although he seemed a little confused by what had gone on, the teen was left heartbroken.
For his part, Chad was furious at what he saw as discrimination. Without allowances, he said, there would be no chance for Logan to ever achieve Eagle Scout rank. For instance, he noted to the Washington Post, Logan is a strong swimmer, good enough to take out gold in the regional Special Olympics’ 25-meter freestyle race. However, at the same time he couldn’t do the simple tasks needed for the swimming merit badge.
But when word got out about the Boy Scouts closing down Logan’s project, support came flooding in. Several Eagle Scouts even said they would give their own honors to Logan. And Jim Dabakis, who serves in the State Senate in Utah, sent an invitation to Logan to come up to Salt Lake City to act as an “honorary Senator for a day.”
Logan’s father Chad wasn’t going to just let it lie though, no matter how much positivity the story was raking in. He told the Washington Post that he felt it was important for him to help the organization “expand [its] vision.” That way, the next child with a disability would not face the disappointment that Logan had experienced. And he found an interesting route to a positive outcome.
Chad decided to file a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts, alleging discrimination against Logan. He asked in the suit for the group to make accommodations for his son to be able to achieve his dream. But this wasn’t a money grab – Chad asked for damages in the princely sum of a single dollar.
The suit argued that saying yes and then no to the project had “caused Logan and the Blythes significant mental and emotional distress.” It had also led to a whole lot of bad press for the Boy Scouts, as the story rapidly went viral. And it seemed that the organization’s attitude had seen an equally rapid change.
The Boy Scouts then issued a statement, saying that Logan could after all gain the level of Eagle Scout. It said, “We remain inspired by his dedication… and we hope to continue working with Logan and his family to support him in the effort to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.”
Furthermore, the group was quick to confirm that Logan’s badges had not been stripped at all. On top of that, the Boy Scouts promised to help him get over the line to become an Eagle Scout. Chad told ABC News that Commissioner Charles Dahlquist had contacted him to say, “Logan’s merit badges do count, and his Eagle [Scout] project has been approved.”
It seems that the pair had enjoyed a productive phone call, where Chad had outlined to Charles some of the problems that the family had run into with the organization. And it turned out that since then, the Boy Scouts have begun to make changes to how they do things.
Now it’s possible to fill in a form on the Boy Scouts’ website to ask for different ways to gain merit badges. So for someone like Logan, who would find diving to the pool’s bottom to earn his badge for swimming difficult, perhaps he might be offered another hard task, such as holding his breath underwater for a certain period.
Ultimately, the Boy Scouts said that it was happy that Logan would stay with the group. And it took a positive approach to the future, stating, according to ABC News, that it “[looks] forward to working with the family toward our shared goal of ensuring Logan can receive his Eagle Scout rank in a way that is empowering for him.”
And the Boy Scouts went a step further, making a firm commitment to the kind of positive change that Chad had wanted to see. It added, “Moving forward, we are committed to avoiding this type of misunderstanding and will take appropriate steps to ensure it is known that Scouts with disabilities are welcome, celebrated and empowered through Scouting.”
As for Logan, he couldn’t get straight back into his Eagle Scout hunt. He was too busy focusing on his special athletic prowess, having taken a silver in basketball at the Utah Special Olympics. However, Chad told ABC News, “We’ll probably take a look at it again and ask him if he wants to do it and see if he’s willing to participate.”
Nevertheless, Logan had managed to complete his project. His family hadn’t wanted the money and the time that they’d poured into it to go to waste, so he’d gone ahead with it. And doing it had turned out to be a good way to get through the disappointment that he’d previously felt.
Logan then finished up with the project by December 2017, and all that remained to get his promotion to Eagle Scout would be a bit of paperwork. In the end, Chad knew who was responsible for the outcome. He told ABC News, “It’s the public’s attention that got the Boy Scouts’ attention.”
With that, Chad withdrew the lawsuit – no settlement was needed since Chad had achieved what he set out to do. Logan’s merit badges gained recognition and his case would create a precedent, so that other kids living with disabilities would get a fair chance to be an Eagle Scout.