Boy Scouts will now allow girls to join. Elizabeth Keatinge (@elizkeatinge) has more.
The Wednesday announcement by the Boy Scouts of America that it would soon allow girls into its organization raised questions among area Scout leaders on what the change would entail and the impact on Girl Scouts.
The plan, adopted unanimously by the BSA board, would allow for all-boy or all-girl Cub Scout dens and for co-ed Cub Scout packs beginning next year. It also would create a program in 2019 through which older girls could pursue the Eagle Scout.
Kerri Fischer, leader for Girl Scout Troop 2337 and Popcorn Kernel for Cub Scout Pack 601, both in the Greenwood area, said she initially had mixed emotions about the announcement.
“It might be easier for families who have both boys and girls; they can go to one organization,” Fischer said. “But on the other hand, I feel it’s very important for, let’s say, my girls to be involved in a girl organization with other girls.”
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Fischer, who has two daughters in Girl Scouts and a son in Cub Scouts, said the girls-only environment is more likely to increase self-confidence among girls than a co-ed setting. She also expressed concern that the change could affect troop membership.
“Another concern is that the Boy Scouts may pull girls that would’ve joined a Girl Scout troop into the Boy Scout troops, and Girl Scouts may suffer in that way,” Fischer said.
Matt Anspach, den leader for Cub Scout Pack 601 in the Greenwood area, said girl siblings sometimes tag along for den meetings, which has never caused a problem.
“It doesn’t really impact a whole lot whether or not it’s a boy or a girl sitting there in the classroom or in the meeting with me,” Anspach said. “It’s going to be pretty much the same meeting that I’m going to run.”
Anspach said the changes would be less complicated to implement among younger Scouts. But it comes with challenges. For instance, a camping trip with older Scouts would now require more adult volunteers to supervise — both men and women — and additional facilities.
“I think it presents some challenges that would take some getting used to, and obviously you would need more volunteers and more infrastructure just to handle it,” he said.
Jared Wade, a former Boy Scout and troop leader, said adding girls to troops would alter the scouting experience for both boys and girls and not adequately address each group’s developmental needs.
“It was a very male-focused organization and for a specific purpose: to nurture and promote the education of boys into men,” he said. “Adding a female dynamic into that atmosphere, being forced or not, takes away from some of the core of what Boy Scouting is.”
Messages left with representatives of the the Boy Scouts Crossroads of America Council, which represents Central Indiana, were not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.
The Girl Scouts of Central Indiana said in a written statement Wednesday that the Girl Scouts will stay committed to the current girls-only environment.
“Offering safe, hands-on, girl-led, girl-centered learning in STEM, the outdoors, and entrepreneurship, and abundant opportunities to develop invaluable life skills, Girl Scouts helps all girls take the lead early and often,” the organization said. “And we’re backed by more than 100 years of experience and expertise in the field.”
The national Boy Scouts organization said the move was made in an effort to expand its programs to better meet the needs of its 2.3 million members.
“The values of Scouting — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example — are important for both young men and women,” said Michael Surbaugh, BSA’s chief Scout executive. “We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children.”
Girl Scouts President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan has publicly cautioned BSA against recruiting girls since August. The organization claims the expansion would strain the bond between the two groups.
The Boy Scouts was founded in 1910 and the Girl Scouts in 1912.
USA TODAY contributed to this story.
Call IndyStar reporter Holly Hays at (317) 444-6156. Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.