The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced Oct. 11 that it will now permit girls to join the program. However, nothing has changed for these female students, who have been in coed Scouting troops for nearly their whole life.
Compared to international scouting programs, Boy Scouts of America has been late to include girls. Homenetmen, an international Scouting organization, has been coed for over a decade.
Junior Talar Sarkissian has participated in Homenetmen for 11 years, a program that integrates Armenian traditions with traditional Scouting activities.
“Being in Scouts has taught me so much and helped me grow in all aspects of my life,” Sarkissian said. “I have learned valuable skills such as leadership, how to deal with conflict and politics, and I gained a really well-rounded knowledge of survival and adventure skills.”
Sarkissian said she believes that the BSA’s decision to allow girls to join troops is “an amazing step in the right direction.”
“I know that one of the key values I have learned in all my years of Scouting is inclusivity,” Sarkissian said. “By taking gender out of the equation, it really shows the true principles of being a Scout. I am excited to see the positive impact it is going to make and the new generation of girls it is going to inspire and educate.”
Girls were previously permitted to participate in several Boy Scout-affiliated organizations, but excluded from the flagship BSA program.
Junior Emerson Domke currently participates in Venturing, a BSA-affiliated program focused on high-thrill outdoor adventure.
Domke emphasized the benefits that Boy Scout programs can bring to a girl.
“Boy Scout programs can offer learning in the outdoors for girls, such as how to tie knots and how to camp,” Domke said. “It’s a great environment, and it’s not a place where girls are treated differently than boys.”
Boy Scout Ben Tice met many coed Scout troops at the 2015 World Scout Jamboree in Japan, which tens of thousands of Scouts attended from around the world. He said he was surprised to see so many coed Scout groups, because he was unaccustomed to it.
Tice said he believes that prior to this change, there were disadvantages for girls who participated in Boy Scouts and were not able to become Eagle Scouts.
“If a girl said she was the highest rank of Girl Scouts, it doesn’t get as much appreciation as saying you’re an Eagle Scout for a boy,” Tice said. “It seems like it’s more fair now for the option to be open for girls when they are applying to jobs or to college.
In terms of future female participation, Cub Scouts, the division of the Boy Scouts for scouts from seven to 10 years old, will begin accepting girls in 2017. The BSA will also create a new program for girls progressing beyond Cub Scouts that will allow them to attain the top rank of Eagle Scout in 2018.
Individual Cub Scout dens, regularly-meeting small groups of Scouts, will remain separated by gender. However, Cub Scout packs comprising multiple associated dens will now have the option to include new all-girl dens.
National opinion on the BSA decision varies; The Girl Scouts of America claims that the BSA is courting girls to boost failing enrollment numbers and others believe that The Girl Scouts of America offers more for a girl than BSA does.
Local Boy Scout troop leaders were contacted but were unavailable for an interview before our publication’s deadline.