Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, just Scouts?

Published 6:03 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

So far, girls have not expressed an interest in joining an Isle of Wight Cub Scout Den or Boy Scout troop, according to several troop leaders.  

Admitting girls, which was recently announced as a new policy by the Boy Scouts of America, is not a requirement, according to Clinton Hammett, CEO of the Colonial Virginia Council, which includes Isle of Wight County. 

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“Chartered organizations can decide which programs best serve the needs of their community, which means that the chartered organization can continue to offer scouting for boys, or they may choose to add a unit for older girls,” said Hammett.

Those chartering organizations that plan to admit girls, which rolls out in earnest later this year, can participate in the Scout Me In program this summer, said Hammett. 

Cub Scout packs can create an all-girls den or remain all boys. 

Next year, the older Boy Scout ranks will be called Scouts BSA to reflect the inclusion of girls, while the overall organization will remain Boy Scouts of America.

So far, the question hasn’t come up with the Carrollton Ruritan Club, which sponsors Troop 36 in Carrollton, said spokesman Jim Henderson.

“It’s a non-issue for Carrollton,” he said. 

Jim O’Briant, who works with the Boy Scouts in Windsor, said the option of admitting girls there hasn’t been an issue yet either. 

Carson Cox, who works with Troop 3 in Smithfield, said his troop doesn’t have a problem with it, but it would require women to step forward as leaders. 

Everyone is hung up on whether the girls are tough enough, and they are, said Cox, who also leads the Sea Scouts and Venture Crew, which has long been co-ed.

There are more than 300 youth enrolled in scouting programs in Isle of Wight County, said Hammett. 

The Boy Scouts said one reason it decided to allow girls in its Cub Scout and Boy Scout ranks is to make scouting more convenient for busy families with both boys and girls.

Others see it as an attempt to undercut the Girl Scouts to increase the membership of Boy Scouts. 

The Girl Scouts are as challenged as the Boy Scouts in competing with other activities available to girls and boys, said Tracy Keller, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Colonial Coast in Newport News. 

Letting girls join the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts will just be one more entity to compete with, she said. 

Keller said the Girl Scouts offer a program tailored exclusively for girls and is based on research on how girls learn best — as well as providing female role models.

“We believe we are unrivaled in the ability to deliver relevant and modern programming to girls that no one else can,” she said. 

Keller said the Girl Scouts also offer outdoor activities, which is a hallmark of the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

Keller said there are about 20 Girl Scout troops in Isle of Wight County, and while membership fluctuates from one year to the next, the Girl Scouts have made it easier to lead a troop by putting resources online.

Bob Rutherford has three children, two of whom have earned an Eagle Scout Badge and Gold Award — the highest honors in Boy and Girl Scouts, respectively. 

He also has another daughter that wanted to be in the Boy Scouts many years ago, and it wasn’t an option. The daughter wasn’t attracted to Girl Scouts, so she passed on that option, Rutherford said.

If Boy Scouts were available to his daughter at the time, he would have supported her, said Rutherford, who is also an assistant scout leader for Troop 36.  

Otherwise, there’s been mixed reactions to the change, Rutherford said.

Cox, who has been involved in Scouts for decades, thinks it all boils down to the leader, anyway.

Some Girl Scout troops are outdoorsy and some are not, he said.

“It’s all back on the leader and what does she plan on doing,” said Cox, adding that the girls that seem interested in Boy Scouts tend to have a brother in a troop or den. 

Meanwhile, the Eagle Scout badge and the Gold Award, are treated equally as a way to earn rank when joining a military service. 

Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were founded in the early 20th century. The Boy Scouts indicated that it had about 2.6 million youth involved in the program in its 2016 annual report, while the Girl Scouts had about 1.8 million girls, according to its 2015 report.