LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Boy Scouts of America will now allow girls to be a part of its program. Local leaders said the change was a long time coming.
Girls between seven and ten years old will be allowed to join the Cub Scouts program starting January 2018. Girls 11 and older will then be allowed to join the Boy Scouts starting in 2019. This will allow them to get recognition for their achievement and earn the top rank of eagle scout.
Andrew Miller became an Eagle Scout in 1979 and went on to be an adult leader and scout master in 1986. During that time, he would bring his daughter along with him to learn the ropes.
"She was able to start fires with the boys and do the same things they did but didn't have any kind of recognition for that," Miller said. "I felt like girls would eventually become a part of Boy Scouts because scouting worldwide is co-ed."
There are over 160 Boy Scout organizations worldwide, but the United States is one of the very few countries that does not offer a co-ed program. Arkansas Boy Scouts of America Scout Executive John Carman said girls in boy scouts is not uncommon, however.
“There are Cub Scout packs with boys currently registered and involved that are actually involving their sisters,” Carman said.
Carman conducted four fireside chats in July for volunteers to give input about girls officially joining in. He said 200 volunteers attended the meetings.
“In each of them, the attitude was very much in favor of allowing girls to participate in our existing programs,” Carman said.
Carman also said families wanted a one-stop shop where their sons and daughters could go.
“[Families wanted something] at the same time, at the same place and not have to go to two different locations or go on two different nights of the week,” he said. “We’re simply responding to the needs and demands of today’s families. It’s an excellent program for boys or girls.”
Chief Strategy Officer for Girl Scouts – Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas Christy Sowell said girls can still achieve high honor without being a boy scout.
"What a lot of people don't realize is the Girl Scouts has a ‘Gold Award.’ It is very much suitable in the same attainment of that high skill," Sowell said.
Sowell also thinks Girl Scouts is still the best option for girls nationwide.
"Girls thrive better in a girl-led environment. Girls want STEM education, they want to pursue science and technology, engineering and math,” Sowell said. “Girl Scouts affords those opportunities, so our girls haven't really felt the need elsewhere to develop those skills."
But for families like Andrew Miller's, getting their daughters involved in Boy Scouts is the best option.
“I think the biggest things for girls is their going to get recognized for their advancements,” Miller said. “She’s a nurse. Came through scouting with me and I think part of what she did as a scout lead her to do her career in nursing.”
If you would like your child to join either organization, head over to Boys Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts – Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.