Yorktown Scout Leaders Mixed About Mixing Boys and Girls

Yorktown Boy Scouts lead the pledge of allegiance at this year’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony. Credits: File Photo/Brian Marschhauser
A Girl Scout walks in the 2014 Veterans Day parade. Credits: File Photo/Brian Marschhauser

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Beginning in 2018, the Boy Scouts of America will change its century-old bylaws and admit girls into its Cub Scout program for elementary school students, a decision that is being received in Yorktown with mixed reviews.

Elaine Griffiths, committee chair for Cub Scout Pack 164, said she “embraces” the change.

“The more, the merrier,” she said.

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Griffiths said the decision, announced Wednesday, Oct. 11, by the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors, will have many positive effects on Yorktown families.

For one, families with boys and girls no longer have to bounce between Scouting groups, Griffiths said. The change also offers girls more opportunities to participate in events that have a focus on outdoors, she said.

Griffiths said her Cub Scout pack has about 80 boys in it and many of their sisters already informally participate in events.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Griffiths said. “This is formalizing what we already do, getting them in a uniform and getting them the same badges as the boys. It makes things easier for families.”

Starting in 2018, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts. Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack. Cub Scout dens will be single-gender—all boys or all girls.

Though Kevin Byrnes, Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 174, supports the change on the Cub Scout level, he worries about what will happen when those girls “graduate” to the next level and pursue the Eagle Scout rank.

Boy Scouts of America is expected to announce the program for older girls next year. Though details are scarce, a statement from the organization indicates that older troops will be “single gender,” which Byrnes said he prefers.

In a “perfect world,” though, he would prefer to keep things the way they are.

“I’m kind of torn,” Byrnes said. “The way they’re pushing the program for the Cub Scouts, it’s not going to be much different than things are now. Cub Scouts are a lot more family friendly than the Girl Scouts. We always have meetings where the whole family is there and the sisters are always there playing with the brothers.”

Byrnes, who has a daughter, said he would like to see older boys and older girls remain separate. With girls around, he said, boys might be less likely to emerge from their shells and grow into leaders.

“I fear they are going to fade into the background,” Byrnes said. “Girls assert themselves a lot more than the young boys do and I think girls would take over leadership positions. I think if they keep them separate and allow girls to earn the badges, I’m all for it.”

Julia Ann Liucci, co-service unit manager for Yorktown Girl Scouts, shared a similar sentiment, saying the Boy Scouts are doing a “disservice” to its membership.

“Boys need to be in an environment where they can be themselves and learn without the distraction of girls,” said Liucci, who was also a den mother with the Boy Scouts. Her husband is a former Scoutmaster.

Liucci added, “I think girls need a place to be girls, and boys need a place to be boys.” There are many other places, she said, where they can interact.

“When girls are by themselves without the distraction of being concerned what the boys might think, I believe it allows them to be the best they can be without worrying,” Liucci said.

She also took exception to suggestions that Boy Scouts offer more “adventurous and better things” than the Girl Scouts.

“This is not true and only uttered by those who do not know the Girl Scout program,” Liucci said. “The Girl Scout program offers everything to the girls that they can get from the Boy Scout program.”

When it comes to Girl Scouting, she said, “the sky’s the limit—literally.” The first American woman to walk in space, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, was a Girl Scout.

“I believe in Girl Scouts, and I have seen the impact it has on the girls who are exposed to this environment,” she said.

In a press release, Michael Surbaugh, the Boy Scouts of America’s chief Scout executive, said the decision is true to its mission and core values.

“We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children,” Surbaugh said. “We strive to bring what our organization does best—developing character and leadership for young people—to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.”

Byrnes, however, said he believes another factor motivated the change—money.

On May 11, the Church of Latter Day Saints announced it was cutting off all ties to the Boy Scouts of America. About 330,000 Mormon youths participated in the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts programs, according to reports. The church said it would create its own activities program for older boys that would focus on the “spiritual, social, physical and intellectual goals outlined by the Church.” In the past, the church criticized the Boy Scouts’ decision to loosen restrictions on admitting gay Scouts and Scout leaders.

Byrnes said the organization is likely “looking for new revenue streams” following the loss of the Mormon church.

“I think it’s more out of concern for money than out of concern for girls and their families,” he said.

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