Boy Scouts are feeling new heat to let girls join their troops
NEW YORK, N.Y. — After many years of pressure and discussions, the Boy Scouts of America are accepting gay and transgender boys as members. However, a different membership protest continues. There is pressure to let girls join the BSA so they have a chance to reach the highest level in scouting, Eagle Scout.
Recently, the National Organization for Women (NOW) asked the 106-year-old youth organization to allow girls to join. NOW said it supports the efforts of a 15-year-old New York City girl who wants to be an Eagle scout like her older brother.
NOW President Terry O'Neill said that women now have combat roles in the military, and important positions in the government, universities, business and entertainment. "It's long past due that girls have equal opportunities in Scouting," she said.
Girls Have Made Attempts To Join
For now, it appears the Boy Scouts are not changing. A BSA leader pointed out that they already have some co-ed programs, such as Venturing and Sea Scouts. But they feel the boys-only programs are a most important part of the organization.
In 1995, a California girl, Katrina Yeaw, sued the BSA for discrimination. They had rejected her application to join. The case reached the California Supreme Court, which said the Boy Scouts could set its own membership rules. In 2015, a group of girls in Northern California formed their own scout troop called the Unicorns. They tried to become part of the BSA but failed.
More recently, New York City teen Sydney Ireland has been trying to join the Boy Scouts, where her brother, Bryan, has been a scout for 10 years.
Sydney has posted a petition on Change.org. and has appeared in an online video that has had more than 2.6 million views. After making many 400-mile road trips to London, Ontario, she has become a member of Scouts Canada, which has allowed girls since 1998.
Boy Scouts Versus Girl Scouts
For several years, Sydney has been an unofficial member of her brother's troop in Manhattan. She has been part of many of its activities. These include camping, first aid, helping people in need, cooking and learning how to save and spend money. These activities earn merit badges for the scouts. Having more than 21 badges is a big part of becoming an Eagle Scout. However, Sydney cannot earn these badges.
"Everybody in Troop 414 has been completely positive," Sydney said in an interview. "They've never questioned why I want to be part of it — they know how great an organization it is."
Sydney says she does not want to be a Girl Scout. The Girl Scouts began in 1912 and is a girls-only organization. "The Girl Scouts is great for some people," she said. "But the Boy Scouts should allow everyone in. I want that kind of experience."
Her Change.org petition has more than 6,400 supporters. Sydney notes that being an Eagle Scout is a badge of honor for many astronauts, political leaders and business executives. The BSA proudly states that being an Eagle Scout is "recognized across the country and even the world."
"I am determined to be an Eagle Scout," Sydney said. "It isn't just a hobby."
NOW's View Of Teamwork
The Girl Scouts believe their Gold Award is equal to the Eagle Scout badge in terms of a young person's achievement.
"We know that girls learn best in an all-girl, girl-led environment," said a leader of the Girl Scouts. "It's unfortunate that some people still consider belonging to a male membership organization superior to belonging to a female one."
Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York City branch of NOW, takes a different approach.
"We feel the timing is right to be talking about this," she said. "There's a huge value in bringing boys and girls together to work in teams, to learn about respect and compassion and leadership like only Scouting can do."