Girls in Boy Scouts? Here’s what local leaders are saying about change

Girls have long been involved in Cub Scouts and should continue, a scouting parent and a local leader said Thursday, a day after the Boy Scouts of America announced they will admit girls to programs starting next year.

On Wednesday, the national BSA’s board of directors unanimously approved welcoming girls into its Cub Scout program, creating a path for girls to Boy Scout’s famed highest rank of Eagle Scout.

Both young girls and mothers already have been participating for years in the boys’ side of scouting, said Holly Vadnais, a mother of two boys who participate in Kettering’s Cub Scouts Pack 236. Sisters have always been present as “tag-alongs” in situations where parents have to bring them along — or simply want to bring them along — to scouting events, Vadnais said.

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And mothers have always helped with leadership, fundraising and other duties.

“They’re right there with us all the time,” said Vadnais, who shares pack leadership duties with her husband.

The decision came after years of “receiving requests from families and girls,” the organization said, with both detractors and supporters reacting to it over the past two days.

“This decision is true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law,” Michael Surbaugh, the BSA’s chief scout executive, said in a statement. “The values of scouting – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women.”

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Boy Scouts have no desire to draw girls away from Girl Scouts, said Jeff Schiavone, scout executive and CEO of the Boy Scouts Miami Valley Council.

“It’s a family program,” Schiavone said. “So siblings of Scouts have always sort of been participating as a tag-along. They haven’t really earned the (Cub Scout rank) advancement, but they have been there.”

But for some girls, the boys’ side of scouting is a better fit.

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“I grew up as a tomboy,” Vadnais said. “I would have fit in much better as a Boy Scout.”

Beginning in the 2018 program year, parents will be able to register sons and daughters for Cub Scouts packs and dens, the BSA said.

Existing packs may choose to create a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack.

In Cub Scouting, dens are smaller groups within larger packs.

“Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls,” the national organization said.

After the BSA announcement, the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio released a statement saying they remain “committed to and believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a necessary safe space for girls to learn and thrive.

The national Girl Scouts organization reacted as well Thursday, emphasizing their top award or rank.

“The #gsGoldAward is the most prestigious award for girls — and it’s only available to Girl Scouts,” the organization tweeted (@girlscouts) Thursday.

Katelyn Scott, marketing manager for Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, declined to directly address the BSA decision, but she said research shows that all-girl environments are nurturing for girls, and that girls want those kinds of environments.

“We stand firm that Girl Scouts are all about girls,” she said.

The organization’s Western Ohio service area, stretching from Cincinnati to Toledo, has 42,000 active members, Scott said.

Schiavone’s council — which celebrates its 100th anniversary next year — includes five counties, in which about 5,000 boys take part in Scouting, from first grade to 12th grade — as well as girls who take part in high school-level Boy Scouting co-ed programs that existed well before Wednesday’s announcement.

Girls who participate in the co-ed programs don’t earn Boy Scout ranks or merit badges, Schiavone said. But they learn skills and participate in character-formation programs.

“Girls really have been part of scouting programs for a long time, with our co-ed high school programs,” he said. “This is really just an earlier entry point” for girls.

He agreed there’s no desire by the BSA to dip into Girl Scout programs. Any time a youth can be involved in a character-forming programs, there’s value in that, he said.

“We’re not in competition,” Schiavone said.

“They are one of a number of many competitors that we have,” Scott said, referring to Boy Scouts. “It doesn’t really change our focus.”


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