Adding girls to Boy Scouts means 'more people, more fun,' local patrol leader says

CINCINNATI -- Roxie Parker was 8 years old when she realized she wanted to be a Boy Scout. Although her membership in the Girl Scouts helped her build community and emergency preparedness, she wanted adventures that simply weren't available to the girls' program.

"I couldn't do the high adventure stuff," she said. "Overnight horseback-riding trips, stuff like that -- stuff I really wanted to do."

Parker found a solution at 13 in the Venturing program, a co-educational wing of the Boy Scouts that allows both boys and girls to participate. By the time she was 18, she had earned the prestigious Ranger Award.

"I actually had someone tell me that it wasn't the same (as being an Eagle Scout), and I said, ‘Well, why not? I worked hard to achieve it. I wanted to be just like the boys,' " she said. 

If she had been born a few decades later, Parker wouldn't have had to seek out a sub-program of the Boy Scouts for her adventures. The Boy Scouts of America announced Wednesday that it would allow girls to enroll in Cub Scouts and rise to the rank of Eagle Scouts alongside boys.

Elijah Dean, a local Boy Scout, said his sister had, like Roxie, always wanted to join his patrol's outdoor-oriented activities.

"She loves outdoors and she was jealous when I went to summer camp and all the stuff that I learned," he said.

Now she has the chance.

The decision attracted ire from some social conservative commentators, some of whom have been unhappy with the organization's recent decisions to allow LGBTQ scouts and troop leaders, but local patrol leaders John Smith and Theo Schulte said Wednesday they were both excited.

"In general, it won't change too much," Schulte said. "Just more people, more fun. The more the merrier."

The Girl Scouts of the USA have also taken umbrage with the decision, claiming in a news release that fostering an all-girl environment empowers young women to turn to other women for leadership and support in ways a co-ed environment might not. Some studies show girls benefit more than boys from single-sex learning environments.

"It seems more like kind of a quick fix rather than something that is really in the best interest of girls, helping them actually develop and become leaders," Girl Scouts communications director Mike Lopes told Slate in an interview.

Girl Scouts president Kathy Hopkinah Hannan wrote earlier in 2017 to the Boy Scouts to oppose their expansion and accuse them of attempting to artificially shore up membership numbers.

"Rather than seeking to fundamentally transform BSA into a co-ed program, we believe strongly that Boy Scouts should instead take steps to ensure that they are expanding the scope of their programming to all boys, including those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African American and Latino boys," Hannan wrote in the letter.

BSA membership has been declining for years. In 2016, the organization reported 2.3 million youth members, a decrease from 2.8 million in 2012.

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