For over 20 years, a Lions Club chapter has provided scholarships to local young men and women to help them pursue trade school and community college degrees and certificates. This year, the service organization’s $500 award has been rejected by the school district over a requirement that recipients must be American citizens.
As reported by Fox News, the Wisconsin Dell School District told the Lake Mason Lions Club that the scholarship “violated federal law and state law,” according to Ralph Jacobsen, the Lions Club’s spokesman.
“We were really blindsided. We’re just asking for the student who receives the scholarship to be a US citizen. That isn’t okay with them, apparently.”
Hugh Gaston, the Wisconsin Dells High School principal, claimed the scholarship was flagged as concerning because the citizenship requirement was not fair to the entire student body.
“Regardless if they were born in Baraboo and grew up a block from the school or if they were born in another country and they came here legally or illegally, I still think it’s our mission to serve and connect with all students regardless of their background,” said Gaston.
Jacobsen said the citizenship requirement was added about five years ago as club members wanted to make sure the award benefited legal residents.
“We, as a charitable organization, we felt that we should be serving the citizens of the United States,” said Jacobsen.
The Lions Club was reportedly told by the school district that they would have to remove the requirement or that they would not be allowed to offer the scholarship. Members of the club voted and decided not to remove the mandate, leading them to no longer provide the scholarship opportunity to students.
According to the report, several attorneys stated that there is no federal law that prevents the Lions Club from limiting the scholarship to US citizens.
“Some scholarships require US citizenship, some don’t,” said one attorney during an interview. “I have never heard of a law requiring either.”
Andrew Napolitano, a senior judicial analyst with Fox News, asserted that the Lions Club was operating within its legal rights “providing no state or federal funds form any part of the scholarship.”