Local scouting community reacts to Boy Scouts changes

Eagle Scout Nigel Bailey of Troop 962 St. Andrews Methodist Church has earned all 137 merit badges

Girl Scouts plan to remain Girl Scouts, even as Boy Scouts have chose to accept girls.

In what many are calling a historic decision, leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have voted to allow girls to join the Cub Scouts.

"This decision is true to the BSA's mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law".

"Competition is nothing new for the Girl Scouts", said Kim Fraites-Dow, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania. "Girls in Boy Scouting is not a new concept".

We already use what boys achieve in Boy Scouts as our point of reference for what girls accomplish in Girl Scouts because the former is more familiar to the broader public than the latter. They say the all-girl environment of the Girl Scouts helps girls grow up with more confidence and independence than in a co-ed environment.

"The values of Scouting - trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, fearless and reverent, for example - are important for both young men and women", Surbaugh added.

But not everyone is thrilled - namely, Girl Scouts of the USA. The larger Cub Scout packs will have the option to remain single gender or welcome both genders.

The Boy Scouts of America will start admitting girls as Cub Scouts next year and then open up a program for older girls in 2019.

"When you're the father of a young woman who's going to be going off to college, you kind of wish they had the opportunity to make the rank of Eagle", Lewis said. The Troop 2251 committee has discussed the issue and will be making a recommendation for the church council, he said. The Girl Scouts have also seen its membership fall in recent years.

Will Stone, the Scoutmaster of Troop 52, said that having a co-ed program benefits both the girls and boys in his 70-person troop, 16 of whom are girls.

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I recognize that there are girls and families for whom the Girl Scouting programs in their communities don't meet their needs. She questioned whether that was an issue of concern to boys in the Boy Scouts.

As of March, the Girl Scouts reported more than 1.5 million youth members and 749,000 adult members, down from just more than 2 million youth members and about 800,000 adult members in 2014.

Tom Smotherman with the Sioux Council Boy Scouts says the national organization is seeing that trend across the country.

Knab's 16-year-old daughter Cassidy, who holds a leadership position in the group, said that imbalance mattered.

Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh described the decision in part as an attempt to bring more families into the Boy Scouts, whose membership has declined by about a third since 2000. "It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls".

The Girl Scouts of the U.S. have criticized the initiative, saying it strains the century-old bond between the two organizations.

Joni Kinsey, an art history professor at the University of Iowa, has been both a youth member and a troop leader in the Girl Scouts and fought against the possible sale of camps in her region. For older girls, existing coed Boy Scout programs can and do help address those shortfalls. As a result, she has mixed feelings about the Boy Scouts' new overture to girls.

Marjanna Hulet is a Scout leader for a Pocatello-based Venturing program of the Boy Scouts, which is a co-ed program. "It is a high honor, and a lot of people put a lot of stock in becoming an Eagle Scout".

Girls have been participating in the high school level of the organization since 1971.

The bad news is that there are fewer and fewer young people discovering what fun they can have in the Scouting program - and that is a shame. Most of it was positive.