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Boy Scouts face renewed push to let girls join the ranks

Posted February 9

— After many years of divisiveness, the Boy Scouts of America have opened their ranks to gay and transgender boys. Yet a different membership dispute persists: a long-shot campaign to let girls join the BSA so they have a chance to earn the prestigious status of Eagle Scout.

Just last week, after the BSA announced it would admit transgender boys, the National Organization for Women issued a statement urging the 106-year-old youth organization to allow girls to join as well. NOW said it was inspired by the efforts of a 15-year-old New York City girl to emulate her older brother, who is an Eagle Scout.

"Women can now hold all combat roles in the military, and women have broken many glass ceilings at the top levels of government, business, academia and entertainment," said NOW President Terry O'Neill. "It's long past due that girls have equal opportunities in Scouting."

For now, it appears the Boy Scouts will hold firm. Communications director Effie Delimarkos noted that the BSA already has some coed programs and might consider more of them, but views boys-only programs as a fundamental cornerstone of its mission.

"We're certainly committed to finding program options that work for the entire family — it's an area we continue to evaluate," Delimarkos said. "But we also feel that the benefit of a single-gender program is an important priority."

The goal of coeducating the Boy Scouts has a long history.

In 1995, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a California girl, Katrina Yeaw, accusing the BSA of discrimination for rejecting her application to join. The case reached the California Supreme Court, which upheld the BSA's right to set its own membership criteria. In 2015, a group of girls in Northern California formed an independent troop called the Unicorns and unsuccessfully applied to affiliate with the BSA.

More recently, New York City teen Sydney Ireland, supported by her father, attorney Gary Ireland, has been campaigning to join the Boy Scouts, which her brother, Bryan, has belonged to for a decade.

Among other initiatives, Sydney has posted a petition on Change.org and appeared in an online video that has attracted more than 2.6 million views. Via repeated road trips to London, Ontario, she's also become a member of Scouts Canada, which has been coed since 1998.

For several years, Sydney has been an unofficial member of her brother's troop in Manhattan, participating in many of its activities but unable to earn merit badges to start on the path to Eagle rank.

"Everybody in Troop 414 has been completely positive," Sydney said in an interview. "They've never questioned why I want to be part of it — they know how great an organization it is."

Sydney says her quest to join the Boy Scouts doesn't reflect any disrespect of the Girl Scouts, which is independent of the BSA and has remained girls-only since its founding in 1912.

"The Girl Scouts is great for some people," she said. "But the Boy Scouts should allow everyone in. I want that kind of experience."

In her Change.org petition, which has more than 6,400 supporters, Sydney alludes to the prestige of the Eagle Scout rank — literally a badge of honor for many astronauts, political leaders and business executives. The BSA, on its web site, says the rank "has represented a milestone of accomplishment — perhaps without equal — that is recognized across the country and even the world."

"I am determined to be an Eagle Scout," Sydney declares. "It isn't just a hobby, it's access to some of the best leadership training there is."

The Girl Scouts, unsurprisingly, contend their Gold Award is comparable to the Eagle Badge in terms of a young person's achievement and civic mindedness.

"Employers look for the Gold Award on women's resumes," said Andrea Bastiani Archibald, a psychologist who provides expertise on girls' development for the Girl Scouts' national programming.

While the Boy Scouts have established several coed programs, including Venturing and Sea Scouts, the Girl Scouts remain girls-only.

"We know that girls learn best in an all-girl, girl-led environment," Bastiani Archibald said. "It's unfortunate that some people still consider belonging to a male membership organization superior to belonging to a female one."

Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York City branch of NOW, has a different perspective on the push to make the Boy Scouts coed.

"We feel the timing is right to be talking about this," she said. "In the climate of disrespect for women that we're living in, there's a huge value in bringing boys and girls together to work in teams, to learn about respect and compassion and leadership, like only Scouting can do."

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Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

14 Comments

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  • Charles Turner Feb 9, 11:02 p.m.
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    The highest award achievable in Girl Scout's is the Gold Award.

  • Paul Gemborys Jr Feb 9, 8:41 p.m.
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    Ok then let the Girl;s Scouts have the same designation, but don't they have one now?

  • Charles Turner Feb 9, 6:18 p.m.
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    BSA has been allowing females in the organization since 1969 as part of the Explorer program and continuing today in Venturing/Sea Scouts BSA currently allows young men and women aged 14-21 to join Venture Crews, or Ships which are typically co-ed. There are advancement ranks in each of these programs just like in Boy Scouts, they are just different names. Either of these programs emphasize character and leadership development.

    The main complaint up to now is young women cannot participate in the BSA merit badge program and cannot earn 'Eagle Scout' as it is exclusive to Boy Scout Troops.

  • Scott Spaine Feb 9, 5:37 p.m.
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    Only if boys can join the GIRL scouts.

  • Jason Matthews Feb 9, 5:33 p.m.
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    Mr Autry, everything you said i was thinking

  • Ed Brown Feb 9, 4:39 p.m.
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    The problem is branding. Even though the Gold award is every bit as hard to earn as Eagle, the title of Eagle Scout carries more prestige. BSA owns the Eagle Scout "brand" and is not about to "license" it to Girl Scouts or any other program that BSA doesn't control. If the Girl Scouts were a healthier program, and there were more Gold award recipients in executive positions and public office, the branding inequity would go away and there wouldn't be so many girls wanting to be Boy Scouts.

  • Marshall Autry Feb 9, 4:26 p.m.
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    I would like to answer Jason's statement. Mr. Matthews it is because of the liberal mindset that everyone should win, everybody get a trophy, you can't even have your own sex because we want it, you can't have your President because mine is better, if you can't bake me a cake, you will not bake for anyone. Jason do you see where this is going? The minority PC, ACLU NASTY WOMEN get all of the news, all of the attention and if they don't you will see them on the six o'clock news whining, burning, destroying what somebody has built. Evidently unemployment is a lot higher than reported, because a lot of people have time on their hand to fuel all of this.

  • Mike Trekker Feb 9, 4:14 p.m.
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    This is a push by liberals to keep nibbling away at what they perceive to be the white male patriarchy. Boy Scouts is a shell of what it used to be, it is now a social engineering project. Because we all now the left leaning Girl Scouts will never allow boys.

    40% of white males are now arrested before the age of 25. Many commit stupid misdemeanors and are needlessly placed on the sex offender registry: killing their education and employment prospects over non-violent misdemeanors that did not involve children. Fraternities are under attack through false accusations on college campuses. This is not about teaching young ladies scouting values. It is about destroying anything male centric.

  • Marshall Autry Feb 9, 4:12 p.m.
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    Question, we have a Boy Scouts of America and we have a Girl Scouts of America, why not have a Queer Scouts of America for the ones that don't fit into the first two?

  • Norman Lewis Feb 9, 4:11 p.m.
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    NO,NO, NO. If the girls want to form a parallel organization with similar training and experiences, OK but mixing the sexes on hikes, camping out etc, raises huge problems. Large numbers of adolescents, at night,in close proximity? Problems with limited shower and restroom facilities, privacy concerns? That would be a sinkhole of a mess. No Thanks.

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