The National Scout Jamboree is going on right now, but obese kids — and adults — can’t participate. Is the exclusion necessary for the safety of participants, or is it just another case of fat-shaming?
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has said that if you have a BMI of 40 or above, you aren’t allowed to participate in the National Scout Jamboree, which is taking place right now in southern West Virginia.
Around 30,000 boy scouts and 7,000 adults have descended upon the mountainous terrain to participate in physically-demanding events such as hiking, zip lining and rock-climbing, but those over the BMI limit — kids and adults alike — were told they couldn’t come. Is the arbitrary limit a good idea for safety reasons, or is the BSA out of line?
Health and safety
This is the second year the Boy Scout organization has employed a BMI cutoff limit, and they stress that it’s mandated for health and safety reasons. Deron Smith, public relations director for the BSA, told CNN that there are thousands of other summer camp experiences that have no such limit in place, where everyone can participate.
Even if a participant has a BMI of less than 40, there are standards the organization has put into place to help ensure the safety of the boys and adults who participate in the jamboree. Citing the intense and physically-strenuous activities they will be participating in, the mountainous terrain and lack of bus routes or private vehicles on site, they made a decision to require medical screening to determine physical ability to participate, and to decline admission for those with a BMI over 40.
Exclusionary policy no good
One non-profit organization, The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, has demanded that the BSA reconsider their policy and admit participants based on their status as a scout instead of body size and physical fitness.
Diana, mom of two, felt that the BSA could have dealt with the issue by admitting scouts of all fitness levels. “Why not have different activities that would cater to all the participants’ fitness levels, like beginner, intermediate, advanced?” she wondered. “I mean, isn’t the whole point of joining scouts supposed to be a way for the kids to do group things together? I was an overweight child and I know that I would have been hurt by something like this. I was made fun of for my weight, so anything that singled me out would have made me feel that much worse.”
Talei, from New Zealand, agreed. “I don’t like that it excludes kids,” she explained. “Do they exclude kids with other disabilities? I doubt it. I understand they might need to make arrangements for activities where their weight or health status would make it dangerous for them to participate, but this is a bad way to do it.”
Others feel that the BSA is spot on with their concerns and their policies. Nate, an Eagle Scout commenting on CNN’s article, felt that this is less about the scouts hating overweight kids and more about the risks involved in these types of scouting adventures. “There are liability issues with allowing an extremely obese person on the trip,” he wrote. “People of higher BMI are more likely to suffer injuries under such conditions as these. [The BSA doesn’t] discriminate against ‘fat’ kids. As a matter of fact, they cater to all scouts’ needs when planning for a trip. Allergies, religious preferences, eating habits, financial situation, medications and emergency contacts — you name it, they plan for it. Five months’ planning can go into a two-week trip. They legitimately care about their scouts.”
Another commenter cited the policy as an excellent reason for those who wanted to attend to get in shape. “You know, a lot of boys and adults used the cutoff to make a goal for themselves to be more fit and healthy,” he said. “Meeting the BMI requirement to attend Jamboree was a powerful motivator.”
No matter where you stand on the issue, the BSA has said that it has no plans to change the policy and they hope that, like the commenter above said, it prompts more boys and adults to choose a healthy, active lifestyle so they can participate in the years to come.