Boy Scouts plan to admit girls; Girl Scouts fire back

EMBED </>More Videos

The Boy Scouts' decision to allow in girls doesn't sit well with all, including Girl Scouts leaders.

In its latest momentous policy shift, the Boy Scouts of America will admit girls into the Cub Scouts starting next year and establish a new program for older girls based on the Boy Scout curriculum that enables them to aspire to the coveted Eagle Scout rank.

Stay on top of breaking news stories with the ABC11 News App

Founded in 1910 and long considered a bastion of tradition, the Boy Scouts have undergone major changes in the past five years, agreeing to accept openly gay youth members and adult volunteers, as well as transgender boys.

The expansion of girls' participation, announced Wednesday after unanimous approval by the organization's board of directors, is arguably the biggest change yet, potentially opening the way for hundreds of thousands of girls to join.

Many scouting organizations in other countries already allow both genders and use gender-free names such as Scouts Canada. But for now, the Boy Scout label will remain.

"There are no plans to change our name at this time," spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said in an email.

Under the new plan, Cub Scout dens - the smallest unit - will be single-gender, either all-boys or all-girls. The larger Cub Scout packs will have the option to remain single gender or welcome both genders. The program for older girls is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the same Eagle Scout rank that has been attained by astronauts, admirals, senators and other luminaries.

CHANGE WAS NEEDED, BSA SAYS

Boy Scout leaders said the change was needed to provide more options for parents.

"The values of scouting - trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example - are important for both young men and women," said Michael Surbaugh, chief scout executive.

The announcement follows many months of outreach by the BSA, which distributed videos and held meetings to discuss possibility expanding girls' participation beyond existing programs, such as Venturing, Exploring and Sea Scouts.

Surveys conducted by the Boy Scouts showed strong support for the change among parents not currently connected to the scouts, including Hispanic and Asian families that the BSA has been trying to attract. Among families already in the scouting community, the biggest worry, according to Surbaugh, was that the positive aspects of single-sex comradeship might be jeopardized.

"We'll make sure those environments are protected," he said. "What we're presenting is a fairly unique hybrid model."

During the outreach, some parents expressed concern about possible problems related to overnight camping trips. Surbaugh said there would continue to be a ban on mixed-gender overnight outings for scouts ages 11 to 14. Cub Scout camping trips, he noted, were usually family affairs with less need for rigid polices.

GIRLS SCOUTS CRITICAL OF MOVE

The Girl Scouts of the USA have criticized the initiative, saying it strains the century-old bond between the two organizations. Girl Scout officials have suggested the BSA's move was driven partly by a need to boost revenue, and they contended there is fiscal stress in part because of past settlements paid by the BSA in sex-abuse cases.

In August, the president of the Girl Scouts, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, accused the Boy Scouts of seeking to covertly recruit girls into their programs while disparaging the Girl Scouts' operations. On Monday, Latino civic leader Charles Garcia, just days after being named to the Girl Scouts' national board, wrote an opinion piece for the Huffington Post calling the BSA's overture to girls "a terrible idea."

"The Boy Scouts' house is on fire," Garcia wrote. "Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA's senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls."

Instead of recruiting girls, Garcia said the BSA should focus on attracting more black, Latino and Asian boys - particularly those from low-income households.
Girl Scouts leaders in North Carolina also reacted to the move Wednesday.

"Research shows that girls learn best in an all-girl, girl-led environment, which is why Girl Scouts - North Carolina Coastal Pines is committed to providing a safe, inclusive space in which girls are free to explore their potential and take the lead with programs designed for and with girls," said Meghan Gargan Bredahl, Marketing and Communications Executive for Girl Scouts NC Coastal Pines. "From learning to engineer robots to outdoor adventuring to earning the highest award our program offers, the Girl Scout Gold Award, where girls make a sustainable impact locally and globally, only Girl Scouts offers the time-tested, researched backed programs that empower girls to raise their hands, make their voices heard, and change the world. Girl Scouts is, and will remain, the best youth leadership development program for girls in the world."

Deanna Welker lives in Wake County and has been a scout mom for years. She has two daughters in Girl Scouts and a son in Boy Scouts. She was a troop leader and even worked for the local Girl Scout's council.

"I see the value in both programs and I see the difference in both programs," said Welker. "I question what the motive was."

Welker agrees with the Girl Scouts of the USA that this might have something to do with boosting membership and revenue. As far as being exposed to a worthwhile program, she said she believes Girl Scouts offer just as much as Boy Scouts.

"Girl scouts learn knife skills, they do archery, they do climbing, they do water sport," Welker said.

Welker said that one of her daughters participated in one of the mixed-gender programs offered between the scout groups but said overall her children benefited from the same-gender setting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related Topics:
societyboy scoutsboy scouts of americanationalgirl scoutsu.s. & worldNC
(Copyright ©2017 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

Load Comments