Angela Frankland always looked forward to Cub Scout camping. But she wasn’t a Cub Scout.
“I used to love camping with (my brother) when he was in Cubs,” says Angela, 11, who lives in West Palm Beach. “Since he crossed over into Boy Scouts, I haven’t been able. And I miss it.”
Now, in the wake of the announcement that Boy Scouts of America will admit girls as soon as August 2018 and let them acheive the rank of Eagle Scout, it looks like she’ll get that chance. While some nationally and locally applaud the move as an encouraging sign of inclusion, others question why it’s necessary when Girl Scouts of America exists.
“I would challenge you that there is very little that a girl can do in Boy Scouts that she can’t do in Girl Scouts,” says Lisa Johnson, CEO of Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, which includes more than 15,000 girl members and adult volunteers in six counties from Indian River to Broward.
Boy Scouts of America currently has four co-ed programs, including Venture Scouting, which focuses on outdoor activities like zip-lining, rock climbing and more. And families like the Franklands can participate in camping on the Cub Scout level.
So to some, the decision to admit girls as proper members is part of the evolution of BSA, which only recently reversed its ban on scouts and leaders from the LGBTQ community.
“How were they going to keep including other kids without giving girls the opportunity?” says John Krayeski, a Boy Scout parent who was until last year the Scout Master of Cub Scout Pack 141 in downtown West Palm Beach.
Both organizations say their ultimate goal is to create future leaders and to instill confidence and life skills in their members. Sarah Pardue of West Palm Beach, recently took the Girl Scout troop she leads, whose membership includes her daughter Layla, 6, on a beach clean-up with Cub Scout Pack 141 at MacArthur State Park.
“It was an excellent way of us all being together, because we all showed up and did our part for something good,” says Pardue, whose husband Rob owns a business affiliated with Eagle Scouts.
One of the main advantages of the Boy Scouts’ new policy, supporters say, is that it opens programs not available through Girl Scouts, like some of the more involved outdoor and adventure activities.
“We’re not trying to take anything away from GSA’s programs. But there are girls who want to join a troop,” says Tim Murphy, Scout Master of Cub Scouts Pack 141, which meets at Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach.
While the goals of leadership are the same, some involved with Girl Scouts say its programs, which center on decision-making, leadership, financial literacy and even STEM education, are “girl-centric,” Johnson says, and are skeptical that girls would be better served by programming retro-fitted to them, rather than designed for them.
“We’ve done a lot of research,” she says. “I don’t know what kind of resources (Boy Scouts) has in curriculum development but I wouldn’t think it was specifically to the benefit of girls.”
“Initially, I couldn’t understand what the purpose was,” says Samantha White, 12, of West Palm Beach, who has been involved in Girl Scouts since she was five years old. “There’s a misconception that we’re about baking patches and selling cookies. But there are things we learn, like business skills and even camping. I can’t think of one thing it would give me I can’t already do now.”
However, Dave Frankland, Angela’s father, says that this decision merely gives families “more choices. We tried Girl Scouts and it wasn’t for Angela, but this decision simply provides additional opportunities for families to find the group that’s best for them.”
Many interviewed in either organization mentioned the possible effects of losing a safe, single-gender space, perhaps the only one in a child’s life. Krayeski, whose young daughter has expressed interest in being a Boy Scout, admits to being “a little torn. I do see the benefit of boys having their own space, and girls having theirs, but they can still do that,” because it will be up to each pack’s charter whether girls will be admitted in single-sex or coed packs, or at all. As of now, he says no decision has been made about the local charter.
“Being with your same gender, you can open up more and connect to people more when you’re with other girls,” says White, currently an 8th grader at Bak Middle School. “It’s the one place I know I can be myself.”
Carolyn Croft, who lives in Wellington and was both a Girl Scout as a kid as well as a co-leader, remembers it “as a real bonding time. I can’t imagine mixing the girls and boys on (activities like) sleepovers. At that age I don’t know if they would feel comfortable. It’s a time where you form really close friendships.”
Mat Forrest, 44, admits to initially having some of the same reservations. Having started as a Cub Scout, achieving Eagle Scout and working at a Boy Scout camp for five summers, “my first thought was ‘I do believe a little in single-sex organizations, including fraternities and sororities.’ But a few seconds later I thought ‘I have daughters now, and this is something good for girls.’ Girls and females are already involved in scouting, as staff members and Scout Masters. It’s really ridiculous to say ‘You can be here, but you can’t earn the rank. It would make me proud for any of my kids to earn an Eagle Scout badge.”
Even though the Eagle Scout rank is more well known than the Gold Award, Girl Scout’s highest rank, Johnson says that the process to earn one is “every bit as stringent. There is no comparison. I think that it’s more that Eagle Scouts are very vocal about getting (that rank.) We want to bring women who have earned the Gold Award out of the woodwork and be loud and proud about it.”
Organization-wide, Johnson says, there has been an effort in Girl Scouting to introduce more outdoor activities and badges. “We have horseback-riding patches and even plumbing!” Samantha White confirms.
In the end, Johnson says she’s “not concerned at all” that Girl Scouts’ membership numbers will be threatened by an integrated Boy Scouts.
“In our organization, girls are not an afterthought. My concern is that we continue to make it available for thousands of girls who haven’t had the opportunity. I talk to women all the time who have careers now, whose first sales experience was in cookie sales, where they were five years old and are making change. It’s really impressive to see this in action, to just see them learning life skills and what it takes to be a successful woman in society.”
Those are the kinds of skills that young Angela Frankland wants. She’s just glad she has the opportunity to choose where they might come from.
“I’m excited to participate in all of the cool activities that (my brother Sean Luca) does - the camping, hiking, canoeing, scuba diving, and outdoor cooking. I can’t wait! I’m also excited that I can become an Eagle Scout,” she says. “Sean Luca has too much of a head start for me to be able to earn my Eagle first, but I bet I can get their faster! Girls can do anything boys can; just better!”