KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 17-year-old staff member at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation has sued the local Boy Scouts of America council, claiming to have endured multiple demeaning experiences while serving as part of the first group of female staff members at the 91-year-old camp near Osceola, Missouri.
Lawyers representing the girl and her mother, neither of whom are named because she is a minor, filed the petition for damages against the Heart of America Council, which is based in Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court, seeking punitive damages among other relief.
She attended camp on the Bartle Reservation for the first time last summer.
Earlier this summer, she joined the Bartle camp staff as one of the first six female staff members in the camp’s history.
According to the lawsuit, camp leadership “never once went over the rules and regulations with their staff members” about appropriate conduct, “which was especially strange because this was the first year that females were on the staff.”
The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff endured gender discrimination, sexual harassment and a sexually hostile work environment, workplace retaliation and breach of contract.
The Heart of America Council said it was "unable to comment" because it had not yet been served by the court.
During her time on camp staff, the plaintiff said she was repeatedly asked questions or told stories related to the size of fellow male staff members’ genitalia.
One male staff member was known to carry around a book called “How to Live with a Huge Penis,” which was graphic in nature and included a measuring tape inside the front cover that staff members would use then discuss in front of female staff.
During a ritual for the Piercing Arrow camp staff’s Phi Alpha Sigma brotherhood, first-year staff members were escorted into the woods and paired up for interviews with senior staff members known as “older brothers.”
Many of the questions senior staff asked were sexually explicit or graphic in nature.
The conversations also violated the Boy Scouts’ Youth Protection Training policies, which require “two-deep” leadership and the presence of an adult male and female leader for such encounters.
All adult and youth scouters are required to undergo Youth Protection Training every two years. It’s also a requirement for camp staff employment.
The plaintiff was later fired after leaving camp, with permission, with her boyfriend for leaving the premises with a male despite having written permission to do so from her mother, who signed a release.
Staff members who worked at the pool would change in shifts at the pool office — with the men going first then boys under 18 years old and, finally, the plaintiff, who was the only female on the staff.
The office lacked proper window coverings to allow for privacy.
On one occasion, an adult male staff member walked in on the plaintiff, who was completely naked, then left the door open while other male staff members laughed, according to the court filing.
After reporting the incident, the 17-year-old girl was told it was “no big deal.”
The plaintiff repeatedly felt singled out as a female.
A supervisor threatened to write her up once for “accidentally dropping her sports bra” after changing before mandatory pool staff training, but male staff members were allowed to walk to the showers in their underwear or only a towel without consequence.
One of the program directors at Piercing Arrow, which is the campsite where the plaintiff worked, asked her to wear shorts over her one-piece swimsuit, which she had worn as a camper the previous summer and for swim competitions without incident.
No other staff members, including males who wore thong swimsuits in front of female staff, were asked to cover up.
Another Piercing Arrow program director forbade the plaintiff and another underage staff member from leaving the staff area after 10 p.m., citing policy, but male staff members were allowed to leave without reprimand.
The lawsuit also alleges widespread drinking and drug use among staff members, another violation of Youth Protection Training.
After the girl was fired, she provided a list of camp staff members who had drugs and alcohol in violation of camp policy, which camp leadership shared with staff before allowing them to place any contraband in a community box during a 24-hour grace period before conducting a search of cabins.
Other staff members have subsequently harassed the plaintiff as a result, according to the lawsuit.
She also was denied admittance into the Bartle Reservation’s Mic-O-Say honors camping program, which has been under fire for appropriation of Native American imagery and ceremony. All male staff members were part of the Mic-O-Say program.
The lawsuit seeks damages for lost pay and lost future earnings, punitive damages, damages for emotional pain and suffering and attorneys’ fees.