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Jul 19, 2016 3:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Teen Petitions Boys Scouts To Let Girls Join

Sydney and Gary Ireland. COURTESY OF GARY IRELAND
Jul 19, 2016 4:35 PM

Sydney Ireland was 4 years old when she saw her older brother, Bryan, join the Cub Scouts, and she quickly wanted to follow suit.When she was 6, she became a Tiger Cub, and she continued to rise through the Cub Scouting program, eventually earned the Arrow of Light Award, which typically marks the transition from Cub Scout to Boy Scout.

But there was a difference from her brother’s experience.

“It was unofficial—because I’m a girl,” Sydney explained during an interview this week.

Now 15 years old, the Bridgehampton teenager has been working for the last five years to become officially recognized as a Boy Scout. Her end goal is to officially become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts—and one her brother, who is 17 years old, achieved last year.

“I wanted to get recognition, because getting the Eagle Scout is a really big honor, and I want to be part of all of things that Boy Scouts do,” she said.

The Petition

To get there, Sydney is petitioning the heads of the Boy Scouts of America to officially include girls.

“I cannot change my gender to fit the Boy Scouts’ standards, but the Boy Scouts can change their standards to include me,” reads the first line of her petition on change.org, under the tag line: “Tell The Boy Scouts To End Discrimination Against Young Women.”

Becoming an Eagle Scout would give her access to leadership training and a chance at success in the global community, according to the petition. For now, she participates in a troop, which she says is supportive of her goal.

“I don’t think they see me as different than anybody else,” she said. She has gone on camping trips, attended meetings and worked on service projects with the troop.

“Unfortunately for me and half the country’s population, we are excluded from most of these amazing opportunities for no reason other than that we are female,” the petition reads. “That’s why I’m calling on the BSA to end the discriminatory ban against young women and girls, and allow all children to participate in the Boy Scouts and earn the Eagle Rank.”

To date, the online petition, which has been circulated via social media and a Facebook page called “Scouting Let Me In,” is about 200 signatures shy of its goal of 5,000. Once that number is hit, Sydney and her father, Gary, an employment lawyer, will send it to Boy Scouting’s leadership along with a letter they are drafting.

An Old Fight With A New Twist

Sydney—her family splits their time between Manhattan and Bridgehampton, where Sydney’s grandmother, Cynthia, grew up—is not the first girl to try to become a Boy Scout officially. Just last year, five girls from California made their cases to Scout leaders, and other girls have tried, decades before them.

But Sydney said the difference between her and the other girls is that she is already a recognized member of Scouts Canada, which is a co-ed program. As a member of Troop 80 in London, Ontario, she participates in the troop’s activities when she visits Canada in the summer, and she received Scouts Canada’s Chief Scout’s Award, announced by a letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in April.

“In most countries, Scouting is co-ed,” her petition states. “International Scouting appreciates that separating children by gender is an artifact from a bygone era.”

Comments left on the petition’s page show support from Scouts and Scoutmasters from Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, where Scouting is co-ed. Sydney also has support from the National Organization for Women, which helped circulate her petition.

The Boy Scouts of America recently saw change in its membership policies through a resolution that would lift a ban on gay adults as Scout leaders. Based on that shift, Sydney argues that the Scouts should also get rid of discriminatory policies based on gender to give girls the chance to attain the Eagle rank.

“We’re hoping that the leadership of the Scouts will take recognition of this and really change their policies just like they did with the LGBT community and welcoming them in,” Mr. Ireland said.

Sydney and her father said they are hoping to see girls fully recognized by the Boy Scouts by the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, a 10-day celebration of Scouting held every four years.

Why Not Become

A Girl Scout?

The Girls Scouts offer leadership opportunities as well, and their equivalent of Eagle Scout: the Gold Award. But Sydney and her father said that’s not the point—that it is about having the option to do either.

“It really is about a choice. They have the same last name,” Mr. Ireland said of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, “but that’s where the similarities end.”

They stressed that they do not intend to diminish the Girl Scouts.

“We certainly don’t want to insult anyone,” Mr. Ireland said. “We hold the Girl Scouts in high regard. It’s a different program.”

The Boy Scouts have programs that are open to girls, but do not give girls eligibility to pursue the Eagle Scout rank. Sydney is part of one such program, Venturing, which focuses on providing young men and women with experiences to help them become responsible adults.

Sydney said that the Scouting experience has already opened opportunities for her, but that becoming an Eagle Scout would allow for even more.

Last year she participated in National Youth Leadership Training, a program offered by the Boy Scouts.

“Since I was in a Venturing troop and the Canada troop, I was allowed to do that,” she said. “There were only two girls of probably 40 people in total. There would probably be a lot more participants if they let girls in.”

Sydney had moved on to other leadership opportunities, such as the Bella Abzug Institute, which encourages young women to be confident leaders and to participate in civic, political, corporate, and community life. Through that program she was able to participate in the Millie King Entrepreneurship Program in August, which is offered by Kathleen King, founder of Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton.

While Sydney said she is unsure of exactly what she would like to do in the future, she is clear that it will involve Scouting.

“Definitely something with Scouting, especially when they let in girls,” she said, “Maybe be a Scout leader.”

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Good for you! No reason why we shouldn't have a co-ed Scouts program like in Canada. This would be beneficial in many ways.
By SH_Res (342), Southampton on Jul 22, 16 8:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
This is a horrible idea. There is already a coed program in Boy Scouting called Venturing which has in it several ranks the highest of which is equivalent to the Eagle Rank. This is more of a comment of what Girl Scouting lacks. Our girls left Girl Scouting because they didnt do things the Boy Scouts do. My sons are also in Boy Scouting and the youngest will hopefully reach Eagle in a few weeks. I am also a Scout and Venture leader. There are many differences between girls and boys and how ...more
By Baymen87 (135), Lugoff, SC on Jul 22, 16 9:14 AM
The last time a child was used this badly, an Apple factory in China was shuttered.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Jul 22, 16 11:55 AM
1 member liked this comment
Next co-ed Girl Scouts???
By knitter (1940), Southampton on Jul 22, 16 2:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
Yes, do the Girls Scouts let boys join?
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Jul 22, 16 3:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
knitter and Funbeer - Why not? There's no reason boys can't take part in the activities Girl Scouts do. And why do we even need two different Scout programs? Or why not have multiple Scout programs assigned by theme rather than gender? When I was young I used to be upset when I was told I had to do certain things just because of my gender. Now that I'm an adult, I still see how women and men are treated differently in certain ways but I at least understand how wrong it is and try to live according ...more
By SH_Res (342), Southampton on Jul 22, 16 5:00 PM
Boy Scouts are for Boys. Girl scouts are for Girls. Enough said
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jul 22, 16 6:15 PM
Oops, I did not mean to like your comment. I don't think your completely dismissive response is appropriate or fair. We should be encouraging each other, and especially young people, to think critically about the status quo and question it if they want to. That's what's being done here, and for important reasons.
By SH_Res (342), Southampton on Jul 23, 16 11:12 AM
Why can't males have something all to themselves. Why can't she make girl scouts more like boy scouts rather than horn in on male bonding.
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Jul 22, 16 7:07 PM
Thats just it; you see the point its not even right anymore; they barge their way in to EVERY damn male space there ever is! D< its depressing
By JerryNapper (1), on Sep 7, 16 3:42 PM
I MO, I think the gender aspect does play a part and girls thrive better as far as leadership skills, etc when not in the company of boys. However, that being said, I can see how the girls scouts can work on revamping some of their programming that meets the needs and interests of the girls who may find GS lacking.
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Jul 23, 16 8:06 AM
My daughter earned her Gold award in the Girl Scouts which is the equivalent of the Eagle badge and received very nice honors along with it. Why does this poor girl feel that she needs to attain something only boys can to feel worthy, sad.
By 11953guest (48), southampton on Jul 24, 16 3:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
This is really offensive. This young girl is being led down a very disillusioned path by some highly manipulative adults.
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on Jul 24, 16 8:23 PM
2 members liked this comment
(Ahem.) I know nothing about scouting but could not this problem be solved by redesignating "Girl Scout" achievements/awards to be identical to Boy Scout awards and offering girls the same opportunities as boys who achieve those distinctions?

I can see the advantage of separating adolescent sexes. It prevents the confusion of ethical objectives by intra/inter-sexual competition - - - and - - - it is a lot less complicated to administer.

Is it sexist to want to eliminate this ...more
By highhatsize (4216), East Quogue on Jul 24, 16 8:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
I was never in the Boy Scouts (or Girl Scouts) but isn't it time to create a single "Scout" organization with no gender specification? I think the best way to get rid of gender bias is to start young and this is a great opportunity. Similarly, sports is another place. Let boys and girls compete together on teams in whatever sport they want to play.
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on Jul 25, 16 12:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
You can do whatever you want, and everyone gets a trophy. This is another example of someone throwing their kid out there to show how strong willed their child is. Nonsense political correctness
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 25, 16 8:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
This is what she has wanted to do since she was a little girl. Did you not even read the [expletive deleted] article?
By Mr. Z (11830), North Sea on Jul 28, 16 6:58 AM
1 member liked this comment
Chief, unless you know this young woman or her family personally, I don't think it's fair to say such things. She's 15 and surely capable of forming her own thoughts. It's entirely possible that she simply witnessed her brother's experience in Boy Scouts and wanted to do the same activities. Her family is clearly supporting her (and who says that's a bad thing?) but your insinuation that she's just a pawn in this whole situation does not give her enough credit and is pretty insulting.
By SH_Res (342), Southampton on Jul 27, 16 8:55 AM
1 member liked this comment
That's normal for "chief".
By Mr. Z (11830), North Sea on Jul 28, 16 6:59 AM
1 member liked this comment
how stupid, when your little eagle scout comes home pregnant from the upstate jamboree it will be your fault
By Erin 27 E (1278), hampton bays on Jul 29, 16 1:03 PM
Haha! That's hilarious. Did you go to high school out here? I did, and I know those who wanted to take part in activities that might result in pregnancy found opportunities to do so. They didn't need jamborees.
By SH_Res (342), Southampton on Jul 29, 16 2:23 PM
they did not need them but just think how convenient they would be
Jul 30, 16 5:40 PM appended by They call me
"This is what she has wanted to do since she was a little girl. Did you not even read the [expletive deleted] article? " and ? what if I wanted to be Miss America since I was a little boy ? guess I would have to be allowed in the competition ? How asinine!
By They call me (2824), southampton on Jul 30, 16 5:40 PM