Boy Scouts to allow girls into programs, local dens react to the news
SOUTH BEND —
The Boy Scouts of America announced plans to allow girls into its programs.
This is a historic shift for the century old organization.
Starting in 2018 girls will be allowed to join the Cub Scout program. A separate program for older girls will be announced next year and is expected to be available in 2019.
Dens will have the option of integrating girls into the already existing groups, create a separate all-girls pack, or remain all-boys.
Local leaders say this decision gives them the opportunity to serve more children.
They see this as a chance to shape the leaders of tomorrow and teach them the values like trustworthiness, kindness, and bravery.
A spokesperson for Boy Scouts of America LaSalle Council says those ideals are not gender specific.
"We work with organizations, churches, service clubs, schools where they will set up their scouting program, however, they feel is best to serve their kids,” said Scout Executive and CEO, Robert Hemmelgarn.
He says this conversation has been happening for a long time. The reason they finally arrived at this decision is because the family structure has changed.
"Families are stretched really thin on their time and so they're choosing for their sons and daughters to go one way or the other. They're getting stretched in a million different directions and so this gives them an opportunity to have a family program for the family to join,” he said.
In response, the Girl Scouts of America had this to say: "We are saddened that Boy Scouts of America have chosen to attempt to increase their declining membership numbers by recruiting girls into their program rather than focusing on the boys who need Boy Scouts, particularly underrepresented boys who would most benefit from Boy Scouts."
"We serve maybe 10-percent of the population, maybe a little bit more than that and I believe they serve less than that so we're just trying to serve the families,” said Hemmelgarn.
Hemmelgarn says there are those within the program that are not thrilled by this move because people are embedded in tradition. But he says the majority of families they hope to serve are overwhelmingly excited.
As for safety concerns, Hemmelgarn says it has youth protection policies.
Teen Girls have been allowed to participate in two different programs within the Boys Scouts of America.
The Exploring program since 1971, and the Venturing program starting in 1998.
This is not the first change the Boy Scouts made this year.
In January it made a path for transgender youth to join its ranks.