The summer of 2017 has not been a smooth ride for The Boy Scouts of America. In July, the organization was embroiled in controversy after President Donald Trump delivered a highly politicized speech at The National Scout Jamboree.
Now the organization seems to have ticked off Girl Scouts of the USA. BuzzFeed obtained a letter that Girl Scouts national president, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, sent to the Boy Scouts’ national president, Randall Stephenson, and the entire board of the organization.
In the letter, Hannan accuses the Boy Scouts of conducting a “covert campaign to recruit girls into programs run by the Boy Scouts” and “surreptitiously testing the appeal of a girls’ offering to millennial parents.” She also said Boy Scout leaders had made “disparaging and untrue remarks about Girl Scout programming” and its long-term market strength.
“For more than 100 years, our organizations have worked in a respectful and complimentary manner, and we have been mutually supportive of one another’s mission to serve America’s youth. It is therefore unsettling that BSA would seek to upend a paradigm that has served both boys and girls so well through the years by moving forward with a plan that would result in fundamentally undercutting Girl Scouts of the USA.”
In the letter, Hannan also affirmed the Girl Scouts’ belief in the value of “single gender programming” and cited research that shows girls thrive and learn best in a safe, all-girl environment.
The responses to the report have been mixed. While many supported the Girl Scouts’ point about the value of single-sex scouting, others noted that the Boy Scouts has offered programs for both girls and boys for many years.
The Boy Scouts had a slightly different take on the situation. The organization’s director of national communications, Effie Delimarkos, told HuffPost that the Boy Scouts’ exploration into possible new programming for girls has not been covert and that no decisions have been made.
“After months of trying to engage leadership from the Girl Scouts organization about this matter, BSA leadership spoke with Girl Scout leadership earlier this month to identify potential areas of opportunities for alignment in the future,” said Delimarkos. “We are disheartened to see the Girl Scouts pull away from the possibility of cooperation to help address the needs of today’s busy families.”
Echoing what some others have pointed out, she also noted that the Boy Scouts has offered co-ed programs since the 1970s. Their current programs for both boys and girls include Exploring, STEM Scouts, Venturing and Sea Scouts.
“Offering programs to girls is not something that is novel for the Boy Scouts of America,” she said. “Scouting is a family activity. You do things as a family.”
Delimarkos said the organization has received feedback from families requesting that they offer more programs for girls to make their scouting activities more inclusive. She said the Boy Scouts is currently reaching out to community members and having discussions with families to gauge the level of interest in new ways to engage both boys and girls in scouting.
“The Boy Scouts of America believes in the benefit of single-gender programs. But in evaluating the possibility of serving the whole family (something that has been reported on since April), we’ve been having conversations with our members and volunteers to see how to make scouting accessible for families,” she said.
“Based on numerous requests from families, the Boy Scouts has been exploring the benefits of bringing scouting to every member of the family – boys and girls. No decisions have been made,” she added.
In response to an inquiry about the report, Girl Scouts of America issued the following statement to HuffPost.
“Girl Scouts of the USA, in our capacity as a youth serving organization dedicated to girls and their healthy development, believes in maintaining an open and honest dialogue with other organizations in the youth serving space. We regularly communicate with our peers and other affiliated groups about matters related to scouting and youth development. To that end, we sent a professional letter to the national board of the Boy Scouts of America. As our letter makes clear, we have the utmost respect for the Boy Scouts’ leadership and look forward to working out these issues with them in a mutually satisfactory manner.”
To read the full letter from the Girl Scouts of America, visit BuzzFeed.