The PTO decided to break its ties to the Boy Scouts of America and refused to continue its sponsorship of Cub Scout Pack 776 and Boy Scout Troop 776. Both units are comprised of current and former Uthoff Valley students and their parents.
Four other Fenton school parent-teacher organizations already have agreed to continue sponsoring scout groups: Kellison, Bowles, Stanton and Rockwood South Middle. A Boy Scout council representative said seven of 19 Rockwood School District PTOs have ended their partnerships with the scouts.
According to BSA materials, sponsors only have a few important responsibilities: providing a meeting place for scouts and approving leadership. The sponsoring organization can also appoint a liaison between the two groups who is a voting member of the leadership committee and can attend district level meetings.
A special town hall meeting was Dec. 8 to hear from concerned parents and representatives of the Greater St. Louis Area Boy Scout Council. The executive board of the PTO went behind closed doors to cast its votes privately.
PTO co-president Loralee Mondl said the vote tally was not revealed and that non-board members counted the votes and placed them back into a sealed envelope. It is only known that the board voted against rechartering Cub Scout Pack 776 and Boy Scout Troop 776.
Mondl said they had been debating the PTO's relationship with the Boy Scouts for some time, causing heated discussions at several meetings. She said the decision was very difficult, and had she known that she would serve on the board that needed to make the vote she may not have volunteered this year.
Mindy Rubelmann, co-vice president of events, stepped down from the board after the meeting.
"I was very upset with how this was handled and did not want to be connected to the PTO anymore," she said.
PTO co-president Carmen Garcia did not wish to speak to a Patch reporter the day after the vote, but said she would post a formal statement on the Uthoff Valley PTO website. The statement did not give a reason for the group's actions, only saying it was "completely a business decision."
"There have been many meetings and e-mails going around about this subject and a lot of negative statements have come from it," Rubelmann said. "The conversations were focused on liability insurance, religion, and the Boy Scout organization being discriminatory against gays and atheists."
Several members of the PTO board have children in Boy Scouts. Mondl said the board doesn't have anything against the scouts and that they can still meet at Uthoff Valley.
"It's not our intent to kick the scouts out," she said. She said the board was assured by the Boy Scout council that they would help the Uthoff scouts find another chartering organization.
"For a hundred years we have partnered with schools, churches and community groups," said Boy Scout council representative Joe Mueller. "For a century schools have trusted us." He said that PTOs usually decide to continue sponsoring scout units once they have all the facts and understand that PTO volunteers are also Cub Scout parents.
Mueller said that there's a lot of misinformation about lawsuits against the Boy Scouts and who can be a member. He said that too often people rely on media reports instead of seeking the truth from their council staff. "A $25 million lawsuit in Oregon caused hysteria," he said. That lawsuit was directed at the Boy Scout national council, not any one individual.
He said the Boy Scouts have primary general liability insurance that covers the PTO, its members and registered Boy Scouts volunteers. Individuals are protected under the law from losing assets.
Several Uthoff Valley parents have taken to Facebook to make their opinions known. Cathy Driver, the mom of both a Troop 776 Boy Scout and Pack 776 Cub Scout posted, "Our school has been promoting "character" over the last few years and I wonder . . . What builds more character in children than scouting?"