Boy Scouts Will Allow Girls To Join, But For Some It's Just A Step In Progress


The Stonewall Jackson Area Council in Virginia made history last Friday evening by welcoming the first group of girls to the local chapter of the Boy Scouts of America.

Jasmine Hester, Layla Phillips and Taylor Forbus, of Pendleton County, West Virginia, were officially recognized as Cub Scouts on Monday morning. This will be the first time in its 108-year history that girls will allowed into either the Cub Scouts or the Boy Scouts.

The Stonewall Jackson Area Council in Virginia rolled out its Cub Scouts program, for kids first through fifth grades, to girls starting on Feb. 12. The group is considered "early-adopters" of the national decision to allow girls to join last fall.

For over five decades, girls have been able to be a part of scouting co-ed programs including Exploring and Venture scouts, but never full members of the overall organizations.

Jim Battaglia, CEO of the Stonewall Jackson Area Council, described this moment as exciting. He said he looks forward to their participation in the group.

"The girls want to do the pinewood derby, they want to go camping and they want to do all the things that the boys have been doing for years and now they have the opportunity," said Battaglia.

By 2019, the Boy Scouts say they will also offer a program for older girls to earn the Eagle Scout award.

The council anticipates between 200 and 300 girls to join the chapter between now and Sept. 1.

Battaglia also considered this moment to be a long time coming, and he is happy to see it finally happen.

"Girls have been following their brothers on camping trips and activities week for years," said Battaglia.

This step towards co-ed programming is also a plus for busy families looking for activities for both sons and daughter, turning the organization into a "full family of scouting".

Many scouting organizations in other countries already allow both genders and use gender-free names such as Scouts Canada.

Battaglia said he's excited to see this plan come together.

"Finally, our organization came together," said Battaglia. "We studied this for four years and we said this is the right time to have the girls to join our program."

The girls could not contain their excitement for becoming scouts for the first time.

Arts and crafts, camping and visits to Disney World are among the activities that they are looking forward to doing.

Under the plan released by the Boy Scouts of America last fall, 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 same Eagle Scout rank that has been attained by astronauts, admirals, senators and other luminaries.

The Girl Scouts, founded in 1912, and the BSA, founded in 1910, are among several major youth organizations in the U.S. experiencing sharp drops in membership in recent years. Reasons include competition from sports leagues, a perception by some families that they are old-fashioned and busy family schedules.

As of last March, the Girl Scouts reported more than 1.5 million youth members and 749,000 adult members, down from just over 2 million youth members and about 800,000 adult members in 2014. The Boy Scouts say 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.

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