Girl Scouts balk at Boy Scout announcement to admit girls

Charles Flowers, executive director of the Boy Scouts of America Connecticut Yankee Council, said he has heard positive feedback about plans to open the Cub Scouting program to girls starting in the fall of 2018.

“But there have been dissenting voices as well,” he said.

Perhaps the loudest objection so far has come from the Girl Scouts, whose leaders say that their program is the right one for girls.

“Girl Scouts is, and will remain, the scouting program that truly benefits U.S. girls by providing a safe space for them to learn and lead,” said Mary Barneby, CEO of Girl Scouts of Connecticut.

Flowers, who is based at the Yankee Council in Milford, said the national organization has been discussing for years the idea of opening the program to girls. Last week the Boy Scouts of America board of directors unanimously approved the change, announcing the program expansion on its website.

The announcement states that families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households, making programs that serve the whole family more appealing.

“The BSA’s record of producing leaders with high character and integrity is amazing,” said Randall Stephenson, BSA’s national board chairman. “I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization. It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”

In her letter to the media, Barneby agrees that leadership is a vital characteristic, but argues that Girl Scouts is the place for young women to learn it.

“The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today — and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success,” she wrote.

She also argued that girls need a place of their own to develop leadership skills.

“There is still a critical need for single-gender learning experiences for girls in America today,” she wrote. “What single-gender learning offers girls is the opportunity to try and fail in fields they might not feel comfortable experiencing in the presence of boys, whom the girls might view as the natural ‘leaders’ in those fields. Single-gender girl experiences require that a girl (or girls) step up and be the editor of the school paper, the student council president, the chair of the science or mathematics club, and so on. In doing so, the girls realize that they are able to have a seat at the table, or even at the head of the table, and are thereby more confident, self-assured, and ready to compete in the real world.”

But based on the BSA announcement, girls and boys will be grouped separately within the organization.

“Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack,” the BSA announcement states.

“Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls,” the statement reads.

The BSA said its program for older girls will be announced next year, projected to be available in 2019, allowing girls to earn the Eagle Scout rank.

Remembering Kay Pollard

This isn’t the first time the the Boy Scout organization has opened once-shut doors to women. In the 1970s a Milford woman made Scout history when she became the first female troop leader.

According to the Milford Hall of Fame organization, Kay Pollard waged a legal fight to be recognized as the scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 13 in Milford, a fight that made national news and ultimately paved the way for female scoutmasters.

“When no male leader was available to head up Troop 13, Pollard stepped in,” states a Hall of Fame publication. “She led the troop from 1973 until 1976, and when the national Boy Scouts of America refused to recognize her as a scoutmaster, she filed a complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.”

Troop 13 was later disbanded when no male leader could be found, but the BSA officially recognized Pollard as its first female scoutmaster when the policy was changed in 1988.

When she died at age 88 in 2006, Pollard’s obituary noted that she “will be remembered for being the first woman Boy Scout master in the U.S. and changing the participation of women in scouting.”