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Widening The Tent: Boy Scouts In Ohio Will Allow Girls To Join

Boy Scouts Archery
Simon Kenton Council
When the Boy Scouts opens its doors to girls, the Simon Kenton Council in Ohio will begin offering coed as well as girl's programs.

The Boy Scouts of America announced Wednesday they will allow girls to join the organization. The rollout will be gradual, with Cub Scouts joining girls in the K-5 level next fall, and then integrated into all levels of the program by Fall 2019.

In Central Ohio, that will mean Boy Scout dens - which are the smallest group and broken up by grade-level - will be separated by gender. Packs, which are a collection of the smaller dens, will have the option of providing programming that’s gender-separated or coed. 

Jeff Moe serves as the Scout Executive of Simon Kenton Council, which covers central and southern Ohio. He says the decision is one of convenience and expanding opportunities.

“Our pack meetings are designed to be family affairs," Moe says. "So we’ve got girls and sisters participating right alongside their brothers, and they wanted the opportunity to kind of have a one-stop-shopping kind of experience.”

According to NPR, the emphasis on including entire families is aimed toward Hispanic and Asian communities, which are "currently underserved."

Tammy Wharton, CEO of Girl Scouts of the Heartland, sees the coeducation issue differently. She says it’s critical that girls have experiences that are tailor-made for them.

“If you want your daughter, niece, whomever you care about, to be having the most incredible opportunities, then they should look at Girl Scouts for those opportunities," Wharton says. "Because they were designed specifically for girls, and giving girls the opportunity to be girl-led, girl-centered, is important.”

Tammy Wharton, CEO of Girl Scouts of the Heartland, discusses the Boy Scouts decision to admit girls.

Wharton admits Girl Scouts have a "marketing problem" when it comes to programs for older kids, such as the Eagle Scouts for boys. Though Girl Scouts offer the Gold Award, Wharton says businesses don't pay it the same mind.

"The majority of business leaders of the past were men," Wharton says. "As women gain their stature and start moving to the higher ranks of leadership, what you'll find is, a lot of the female leaders have been Girl Scouts in the past."

Moe says both organizations provide important education to young people. But enrollment is top of mind for both organizations. Wharton says the Girl Scouts saw a decrease in membership several years ago, which spurred the organization to action.

“Girl Scouts chose to invest in technology, into our program and refresh our program, and into volunteer support," Wharton says. "And now as a result of these investments, we’re seeing a turnaround and our decline is slowing.”

Membership in the Boy Scouts has declined for several years, while the organization as a whole has taken steps to be more inclusive. Recently, Boy Scouts began admitting openly gay youths, ended its blanket ban on gay leaders, and begun to admit transgender boys.

He said that Boy Scout membership in Central and Southern Ohio has been relatively flat for the last five years, but that’s not the reason behind the move.

“This change is a direct result of our families asking for this change," he says. "I recognize that that’s not going to mean that everybody’s in favor of it or will accept it, but the majority of folks who have expressed opinions about this are supportive of the change.”

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.