Boy Scout leaders in South Carolina say the national group’s announcement allowing girls to join at some levels starting next year has been coming for some time.
Doug Stone is executive director of the Indian Waters Council, which covers all Scout troops and packs in the Midlands, said support has been building among parents for additional options for girls. “We know that this is a good thing,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Those in our own Scouting family here in the Midlands have been in favor of the idea.”
Under the new guidelines announced by the Boy Scouts of America on Wednesday, girls can join the Cub Scouts which are historically for boys between 1st and 5th grades. Starting in the 2018 program year, families can sign up their daughters for Cub Scouts. Local groups and their sponsor organizations (usually a church) can decide if they want to create a new all-girl pack (the term given to describe a Cub Scout group), create a co-ed pack or remain an all-male group. The rules will still require separate “dens” (smaller groups within the pack that usually have kids around the same grade level) for boys and girls.
The organization will also deliver a program for older girls in the traditional Boy Scout ages of 11-17. The organization has not yet announced specifics for the older program, which will begin in 2019, beyond that girl scouts will eventually be able to earn Scouting’s highest rank Eagle Scout. The BSA also hinted the “single gender model” would be maintained under the program, possibly meaning separate troops for older girls.
Co-ed scouts are not unprecedented. Stone noted girls have been allowed to join the “Venture” and “Explorer” scout groups at the high-school level for years. “There’s already existing coeducational high school programs throughout the Boy Scouts of America already,” he said.
However, Girl Scouts USA is not as on-board with the idea. Earlier this year, the GCUSA’s national president Kathy Hopinkah Hannan wrote a letter to her BSA counterpart accusing the Boy Scouts of trying to lure girls away from their own organization. Hannan said research has shown girls perform better in single-gender organizations. She called the BSA “reckless” in “thinking that running a program specifically tailored to boys can simply be translated to girls,” according to Buzzfeed.