By Sally Voth -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- Two young Boy Scouts who participated in a Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors' public hearing have nothing to apologize for, according to their scout leader.
Stuart Williams, the scout executive and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America's Shenandoah Area Council, apologized on behalf of the boys at Tuesday's supervisors' meeting.
French and another scout in uniform spoke up toward the end of the public hearing, Williams said. He said the council had gotten complaints that the boys were disrespectful and seemed to be speaking on behalf of the BSA since they were in uniform.
"Unfortunately, their mannerisms were disrespectful, and I'm here to apologize for that and discuss that a little bit further," he said.
Boy Scout Jacob French was one of the boys who addressed the Board of Supervisors during an April 17 public hearing on the proposed fiscal 2013 budget at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School. That meeting featured many speakers who called on supervisors to support additional school funding, while others talked about their disdain for the regional jail project.
"If it takes a 12-year-old kid to come up here and tell you we don't need a new jail and we need better education, then that's pretty sad. Here I am, an A, B student in my school, and I have to come up to," he said, pausing to count aloud, "nine people just to say we don't need this new jail. Bye."
Williams told the supervisors the boys didn't mean to offend the supervisors or any other elected officials.
Lisa Currie is the scout master for Boy Scout Troop 575, based in Woodstock.
"I don't think that it needed an apology," she said this week. "It was at the end of the meeting. They had been sitting there for 2 1/2 hours. They were champing at the bit to make a comment."
Currie said the Scouts were at the meeting to work towards their Citizenship in the Community merit badges. She said the badge is to help the boys understand how their community operates, how their tax dollars work, and what their role is as citizens.
"Picking on little boys, that's my question," Currie said of the fallout surrounding the boys' comments. "Don't they want our children to learn to be involved in their communities and to understand their role as they mature? Do we chastise them when they feel like they have a role? [Jacob] didn't steal anything, he didn't break anything, he didn't do anything wrong, except voice his 12-year-old opinion."
Currie said she'd counseled the scouts to be respectful and quiet during the meeting, but for the boys to sit there so long without leaving was surprising.
"Jacob always has a question," she said.
He's also brave, one of the 12 Boy Scout's Laws, she said.
Another Scout leader, Steve Snarr, was at the meeting on April 17.
"I think the youngest one got a little bit off track as far as the jail was not a budget issue this year to my understanding," he said Thursday. "Only problem I had was I thought that Mr. French probably wasn't quite as respectful as he should've been, and I had that discussion with him afterwards."
Currie, who is the mother of two grown Eagle Scouts, said she didn't think either boy was being disrespectful.
"I think they were both boys," she said. "I didn't think they said anything disrespectful. The supervisors asked if anyone [else] wanted to speak. That's like waving a red flag in front of a bull with Jacob French. He was dying to speak at that point."
Jacob didn't say he was speaking on behalf of the Scouts, said Currie, who has been involved with BSA for 17 years. She said the incident has left Jacob feeling as though he's done something wrong.
"My boys are good boys," Currie said. "They're good boys, and Jacob French is a brave boy. He is precocious. There's nothing wrong with that. He's curious and he's eager and he's personable. Those are all traits that we all want in adults."
She said she'd take responsibility for her troop's actions.
"I always accept full responsibility for my boys because I'm their leader, and I want them to grow up to know that they have a real role to play in the community," Currie said. "Scouts is a wonderful organization to make young boys into great men."