Local Groups React To Boy Scouts’ Decision To Integrate Girls

The decision to integrate girls into Boy Scouts’ programs has been met locally with an unenthusiastic response.

The Boy Scouts of America announced the change on Wednesday after a meeting at their headquarters in Texas where the measure was unanimously approved. An official with the Allegheny Highlands Council said the group will adhere to the guidelines.

According to The Associated Press, 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. A program for older girls — mirroring the Boy Scout curriculum — is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

However, this is not the first time the Boy Scouts of America has offered a co-ed program. In 1998, the BSA created the Venturing program for boys and girls aged 14-20 which offers programming for older scouts.

According to the Boy Scouts of America 2016 Annual Report, there were 1,262,311 boys in Cub Scouts across the country. In 2016, 822,999 boys were in Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts and 136,629 young men and women were in Venturing and Sea Scouts.

A press release from the Girl Scouts of Western New York states the organization is against the idea.

“While we support girls and their families having a variety of options and activities, we vehemently oppose this decision and stand firm knowing that Girl Scouts is the best leadership experience for girls in the world and will remain a separate organization from (the Boy Scouts of America),” the release reads. “This is not the first time Boy Scouts has pursued the girl market in an attempt to bolster its membership. BSA’s declining membership has been well-documented, as well as other significant challenges it faces.”

The two scouting organizations have worked “in a respectful and complementary manner” for more than 100 years, the release states. Yet, Boy Scouts has been historically slow to adapt to changing cultural mores which has hurt its standing across the nation, the release points out.

“From coast to coast and inner city to rural plain, there are millions of boys in need of motivation, guidance and leadership skills,” the release states. “Rather than fundamentally transform BSA into a coed program, Boy Scouts should work to ensure that it expands the scope of its program to all boys, including those whom BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African American and Latino boys.”

Girl Scouts of Western New York Chief Operating Officer Alison Wilcox said in a recent interview that the Girl Scouts were aware the idea was on the table but the Boy Scouts council has not yet reached out to them. When it comes to scouting, Wilcox said Girl Scouts is the best positioned girls leadership program nationally and in Western New York.

When it comes to programming, she said, “You can’t just have girls be an afterthought.” Girls have different environmental and developmental needs, Wilcox said.

As for the Girl Scouts, they will continue doing what they’re doing, she said.

“We’re still going to focus on our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place,” Wilcox said.

In Western New York, the Girl Scouts serve about 15,000 girls and there are 21,000 total members including adults, she said. Over the years, the programming has also been reimagined to fit scouts’ needs. Troops are girl-led and girl-focused, from troop meetings, cookie sales and camping to STEM programming and more.

Wilcox said Girl Scouts is positioned for continued growth. She added that girls do better in a single-gender environment such as Girl Scouts than in co-ed environments. Girl Scouts provides a safe and inclusive environment that has been proven over the years, she said.

According to statistics, in the United States, 90 percent of female astronauts, 80 percent of female tech leaders, 76 percent of current senators and 50 percent of female business owners are former Girl Scouts. Likewise, Girl Scout Gold Award recipients rate their general success significantly higher than that of their peers.

Wilcox said this is their membership season which makes it easier for girls to join during this time. For more information, visit www.gswny.org.