Education, West Virginia Legislature

Senate Education Committee does good deed for House bill to help Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts

MORGANTOWN – An appeal from a Boy Scouts leader led the Senate Education Committee to ease their planned restrictions on a House bill to allow the Scouts to recruit new members in schools.

HB 4863 creates the Patriotic Access to Students in Schools Act. It says that starting next school year, public school principals shall allow representatives of a patriotic society (defined in federal code) the opportunity to speak with and recruit students to participate in their organizations during school hours. The discussion would inform the students of how the patriotic society may further their educational interests and civic involvement to better their schools, communities and themselves.

A proposed Education amendment would have restricted the access to middle and high schools.

Larry Wonderly, a South Charleston Scout leader and assistant Scout executive for the Buckskin Council that covers 30 counties, explained why they need the bill. From the extensive list of patriotic societies in the code, only three to his knowledge recruit in the schools: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and maybe Big Brothers-Big Sisters.

He goes into a classroom and makes a two- to three-minute presentation and hands out flyers for the kids to take home. If he just brings a stack of flyers for distribution to the kids, maybe five families will come check out what Scouts do. If he does a presentation, 30 families will come take a look. But some principals and superintendents don’t allow them in.

Grady said that a two- to three-minute presentation actually takes up more instructional time than that – with preparation and getting the kids settled down after that – and instructional time is limited.

Wonderly responded that elementary schools are the main area of their recruiting because that age is resilient and most likely to benefit from the skills and resources Scouts helps the kids develop. And that character development helps Scouts be better learners. “Excluding elementary just kneecaps our youth-serving organizations.

So Grady agreed to modify the committee amendment. But the amended bill does add that student participation is voluntary and must not interfere with instructional learning.

It now goes to the full Senate.

Patriotic societies are listed in Title 36 of federal code. They include, for example, the American National Red Cross, Daughters of the American Revolution, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, FFA, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Big Brothers-Big Sisters and Little League Baseball.

HB 5553 tweaks a high school graduation requirement passed into law a couple years ago. High school students are currently required to take a half-credit course in personal finance before they graduate. The bill allows the option for the students to take either the finance course or a half-credit computer science course.

This would take effect in the 2026-27 school year. The bill also allows school boards to hire a computer science teacher for each high school.

This bill also goes to the full Senate.