Girl Scouts react as Boy Scouts decides to allow girls - Tucson News Now

Girl Scouts react as Boy Scouts decides to allow girls

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

In a landmark decision, after more than 100 years in existence, the Boy Scouts of America will allow girls in its programming.

The national change hits close to home inside the Catalina Council building, southern Arizona's governing body of troops, on East Broadway Boulevard in Tucson.

"I didn't know whether or not there was going to be a firm decision [Wednesday] or not, but I knew it was coming," said Ken Tucker, Boy Scouts Catalina Council Executive Director. "I don't think the Boy Scouts nationally were under a lot of pressure to do this. They were able to make the decision on our terms, and be able to create programs that would entice all families."

Announced Wednesday, Oct. 11, the organization plans to admit girls into the Cub Scouts starting Fall 2018 and to establish a new program for older girls using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts.

The Associated Press reports that under the plan, 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. The program for older girls is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.

The change didn't exactly catch Tucker by surprise. The national organization had already been doing its research and outreach. The AP reports that the organization distributed videos and held meetings with the Boy Scout community to discuss the possibility of expanding girls' participation beyond existing programs, such as Venturing and Sea Scouts.

It also comes as the Boy Scouts reports that current youth participation is about 2.35 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013 and more than 4 million in peak years of the past.

The Associated Press also reports that as of March, Girl Scouts of the USA reported 1,566,671 youth members and 749,008 adult members, down from just over 2 million youth members and about 800,000 adult members in 2014.

According to Tucker, in some local boys troops, girls were already unofficially involved. They would hang out with their brothers and fathers, who were already members.

"They're doing all the stuff that the Cub Scouts do. They're just not earning the advancements and not able to be officially registered. So it's been happening for quite a while, and now this gives girls the opportunity to actually participate," he said.

The Girl Scouts of the USA criticized the initiative, according to the AP. They said it strained the century-old bond between the two organizations. Girl Scouts officials have suggested the move was driven partly by financial problems and a need to boost revenue.

"I formally request that your organization stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts ... and not consider expanding to recruit girls," wrote GSUSA President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan in a letter to the Boy Scouts president in August, when the Girl Scouts accused the Boy Scouts of seeking to covertly recruit girls into their programs while disparaging the Girl Scouts' operations.

Local Girls Scouts leaders echoed their national organization's sentiment.

"A girl-only environment is where [girls] can thrive in that capacity," Debbie Rich, Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona CEO, told Tucson News Now.

She explained that she feels the same way about a boy-only environment.

"I feel that boys should have their own space. They develop differently, and they act differently in the presence of girls. Let's face it: Most of our kids' lives are co-ed. To take the one spot away from them, that's their safe space to get support from their peers and their gender, I think that it's just stronger to stay where we are, focused on our girl program and our girl movement."

That space will now become mixed on the boys' side. Rich was adamant there will be no changes on the girls' side.

"No. Absolutely not. Girl Scouts is a girl organization," she said. "It will always be a girl-serving organization."

Both local boys and girls organizations said they've played nice with the other prior to Wednesday's announced change.

"I think the working relationship has been very positive," Tucker said.

"Both programs were developed with our kids in mind. Our girls in mind. And they developed theirs for over 100 years with their boys. So we've worked well together," Rich said.

But now, only one side is praising the aftermath.

"I think it's a good thing for us," Tucker said. "I think any time we can serve more families, and families can participate together, I think that's a good thing."

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