Sonoma girls to join Boys Scouts
Over the course of the past decade, progressive change has swept over the Boy Scouts of America. After ending bans on gay scouts in 2013 and transgender boys in 2017, as of Feb. 1, the program has rebranded itself as Scouts BSA and is officially allowing girls to join, including girls in Sonoma.
Though Cub Scouts became coed in 2018, boys over 10 who aged out were able to move straight to Boy Scouts while girls over 10 went to Girl Scouts.
The difference between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts is “pretty subjective,” says Charlie Howard-Gibbon. Howard-Gibbon is the council scout executive for Redwood Empire Council and is responsible for all scouting programs in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. “The largest differences are the badge program, and that Boy Scout units are operated under the offices of local organizations,” said Howard-Gibbon. “There are some things that Boy Scouts allow that Girl Scouts don’t do, but I imagine there’s probably a 95 percent overlap.”
Despite the overlap between the two organizations, the differences between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are still significant enough that many girls want to be part of Boy Scouts, both nationally and in Sonoma.
“The national organization made the decision after thousands of people were surveyed, and there was a pretty strong response,” Howard-Gibbon said.
Sonoma has many scouting options, including Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Venturing, but the new Scouts BSA troop will be the first of its kind here.
“I thought it was great,” Shauna Aubin said of the decision. “My daughter has watched her older brothers go through the scouting program, and her dad and I have been involved in scouting for years.” Shauna Aubin is the committee chair for Troop 222 of Boy Scouts and the Cub Scout Pack 16, and is now the new committee chair for the new Scouts BSA in Sonoma. Following the decision to allow girls to join, Aubin’s daughter was excited for the opportunity to sign up.
“She wants to be one of the first girls to get her Gold Award and her Eagle Scout award,” said Aubin. “They’re (now) labeling it the Golden Eagle.” The Gold Award and the Eagle Scout award are the highest honors in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, respectively.
Despite widespread acceptance and excitement surrounding BSA’s decision, not everyone locally shares the same sentiment.
“Coed groups change the nature of the program, and I’m not in favor of changing the nature of the program,” said Bill Hammett, committee chair for Troop 16 of Boy Scouts.
“Scouting is a terrific program for girls and boys,” Hammett added. “Just not both at the same time.”
Other local scouting leaders have slightly different perspectives on Scouts BSA. Sara Craig is the committee president for Venturing Crew 16. Venturing is a subdivision of Boy Scouts that has always allowed female membership. Craig’s daughter started Crew 16, an all-female Venturing Crew, in 2014 when she aged out of Girl Scouts and wanted to continue scouting.
“I’m conflicted. Both my brothers are Eagle Scouts and my son is on track to be an Eagle Scout, so I think there’s a lot to be said for boys and young men doing outdoor activities together,” said Craig. “Not to say that women shouldn’t, but I think there’s a lot of value added that might not be there if it’s coeducational.”