Local scout leaders weigh in on plan to include girls in Boy Scouts

FILE - June 25, 2016 (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Some see the Boy Scouts’ decision to start including girls as a progressive move in the right direction while others are questioning the policy change in the organization that has targeted boys for more than 100 years.

The Boy Scouts organization announced Wednesday that younger girls would be allowed to join Cub Scouts, and older girls will have the opportunity to work toward the Scout’s highest honor of Eagle Scout. The new policy takes effect next year.

Scoutmaster Tom Ferguson, with Troop 184 out of Austintown, said obtaining the designation of Eagle Scout is a great honor and one that girls would want, too.

“For these boys to go through the program and achieve that is a great sense of accomplishment. I could see girls wanting to be part of that. I could totally understand that part,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson does think there needs to be some separation. He said the Boy Scouts became the organization it is because it is single gender.

“I don’t have a problem with it overall, but I think the boys need to be separate, though, if they are going to have the girls as part of the troop,” Ferguson said.

Laura Watson with Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio said they are sticking with the same-gender model. She said research shows there are many benefits to girls being in the same gender environment.

“Giving them the confidence to try new things like STEM or experiences in the out of doors,” Watson said.

Watson said she is not worried about the Boy Scouts shift to include girls, and says it creates an opportunity for them market what they do.

“This just gives us another opportunity to go out and talk to parents and you know, the world at large, about the great things that our girls are doing and have been doing for more than 100 years in Girl Scouting,” Watson said.

Ferguson doubts many girls would want to join Boy Scout troops in the first place and doesn’t expect many to sign up.

“I don’t know how many girls would actually want to be involved in this. I think it would be something along the lines of girls and football right now where you see one or two. I just don’t know how many girls would want to be part of Boy Scouts either,” Ferguson said.

According to a report from the Associated Press, many scouting organizations in other countries already allow both genders and use gender-free names such as Scouts Canada. But for now, the Boy Scout label will remain.