ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It was the hottest topic at the Pinellas County School Board Tuesday - rejecting money associated with the Boy Scouts. It's all because several board members agree the Scouts discriminate against gays.
Nearly $55,000 would have gone to character education programs in seven Pinellas County schools. It would have been the 11th consecutive year Pinellas schools took the cash, but not anymore.
The "Learning for Life" grants provide a character development program, but that program is not controlled by the school system.
After fighting against the grant money for more than a decade, Linda Lerner finally got enough votes to reject the cash. Lerner points to the years the Boy Scouts spent fighting in court to be able to discriminate against homosexuals.
Lerner also quotes the Scout Oath where boys pledge to be morally straight. "Homosexuals do not meet the tenets of the Scouts, which is to be 'morally straight' and 'clean.' So, it is saying homosexuals are not morally straight and are unclean," Lerner told 10 News after the board meeting.
The West Central Florida Council of the Boy Scouts, covering Pinellas County, did not return calls from 10 News for comment about the grant money. However, the national organization, the Boy Scouts of America, stood by their stance on homosexuals, saying in part, the BSA "teaches its members to use courtesy and respect at all times. To disagree does not mean to disrespect."
The school board's vote happened to fall on National Coming Out Day, marked nationwide with vigils and marches. That coincidence surprised Lerner. "No, I did not know that, but that's wonderful news! That's great...good day for it to happen."
When we asked Lerner about people who may disagree with turning down the money, she responded, "When you stand up for human rights and you stand up against discrimination and prejudice, you're going to get more votes than you're going to lose, and I definitely believe that."
Even without the "Learning for Life" money, the Pinellas School Board says students will still receive character education. The difference being that those programs will come from the county and not from the Boy Scout-affiliated group.
Along with Pinellas, at least eight other Florida counties either have or currently receive Learning for Life grants including Polk, Manatee, Lee, Orange, Dade, Duval, Escambia, and Palm Beach counties.
Follow 10News Reporter Chase Cain on Twitter @chase_cain
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