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Scout wars: Boys accused of recruiting girls

| Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Long plagued by declining membership, the Boy Scouts are considering a campaign to recruit in a previously ignored market: girls. The Girl Scouts aren’t having it.
Long plagued by declining membership, the Boy Scouts are considering a campaign to recruit in a previously ignored market: girls. The Girl Scouts aren’t having it.

Long plagued by declining membership, the Boy Scouts are considering a campaign to recruit in a previously ignored market: girls.

The Girl Scouts aren't having it.

A feud between the two largest Scouting organizations broke into the open Tuesday when the president of Girl Scouts of the USA called the Boy Scouts' “covert campaign” to recruit girls “reckless” and “unsettling” in a letter obtained by BuzzFeed News. A Girl Scouts spokesman confirmed the letter in an email to The Washington Post.

“We were disappointed in the lack of transparency as we learned that you are surreptitiously testing the appeal of a girls' offering to millennial parents,” Girl Scouts President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan wrote in her letter to Boy Scouts President Randall Stephenson. “Furthermore, it is inherently dishonest to claim to be a single-gender organization while simultaneously endeavoring upon a co-ed model.”

She said the Boy Scouts' “well documented” declining membership — its numbers have dwindled by a third since 2000, to just more than 2 million as of 2016 — is behind its push to include girls.

The Boy Scouts said in a statement to The Washington Post that they are considering including girls in their ranks not to boost their numbers but in response to requests from families who want their daughters to be a part of the same organization as their sons.

“The Boy Scouts of America believes in the benefit of single-gender programs,” said the statement from the Boy Scouts' director of national communications, Effie Delimarkos. “But in evaluating the possibility of serving the whole family, we've been having conversations with our members and volunteers to see how to make Scouting accessible for families.”

No decision on whether to include girls has been made, she said.

The ongoing discussion about girls' programs hasn't yet had much of an impact in Western Pennsylvania, said Daniel Sullivan, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America Laurel Highlands Council, which represents troops in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.

“Our national organization is having this conversation, and engaging with local councils and engaging with local folks on this decision, but so far those conversations have been mostly internal,” he said.

Declining membership hasn't been a recent problem for the Laurel Highlands region, according to Sullivan. The council serves about 17,000 scouts, and is expecting an uptick this year.

The Girl Scouts spokesman, explaining the letter, said the organization “believes in maintaining an open and honest dialogue with other organizations in the youth serving space. ... To that end we sent a professional letter” to the Boy Scouts, and look forward to “working out those issues with them in a mutually satisfactory manner.”

Girl Scouts' membership has also taken a hit in recent years, falling from its peak of more than 3.8 million in 2003 to 2.8 million in 2014.

“Girl Scouts is a proven, one-of-a-kind leadership experience for girls. Our program and methods are time-tested, well-researched and focused 100 percent on girls and their healthy development,” officials with Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania wrote in a statement. “We have respect for the Boy Scouts' leadership, and look forward to GSUSA and Boy Scouts working out these issues in a mutually beneficial way.”

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