Area Scout leaders welcome inclusivity

FLAG RESPECT — Troop 6 Boy Scouts from Vance Church in Wheeling salute the flag. Scout leaders in the Wheeling area say they welcome the decision to accept girls. -- Heather Ziegler

WHEELING — The Boy Scouts of America’s decision to accept girls has sparked a sense of kinship within the Ohio Valley.

The policy shift, announced Wednesday, has struck a chord with local troop leaders. Craig Kerr, leader of Cub Scout Pack 6 in Wheeling, believes the acceptance of girls is a positive step forward.

“I think it’s about time. The girls come with the parents to pack meetings, family campouts and now they can partake more formally,” said Kerr, who has led Pack 6 for three years and now has 91 boys registered.

Kerr said he is happy to take in young ladies to the organization when the change officially takes effect next year.

Girls “see what their brothers do in Boy Scouts and they want to do the same things we do and we are family-oriented, anyway. … And I can’t blame them (Girl Scouts of the USA) for not feeling great about the change,” Kerr said.

The Girl Scouts of the USA reportedly made an effort to dissuade the Boy Scouts of America from making the change, but Bob Drury, executive of the Ohio River Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America, wants to make it clear that the two associations are completely separate.

“What a lot of people don’t know is there is no connection between the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts. We are not connected in any way. I think the Girl Scouts have a very different program, but it’s not better or worse,” Drury said.

He is looking forward to the changes the Boy Scouts have made and has received feedback this week from local families.

“We’ve had a couple calls … of girls that would like to get in the program already, but they will have to wait until fall of 2018. We will be working diligently to obtain adequate adult leadership so that girls can fully participate,” he said.

Although Drury says there is much work to be done to prepare for the policy shift, he anticipates nothing but positivity.

“I’m pretty excited. It’s going to involve entire families. It will really benefit single-parent households and families that have a lot going on. With this program, it may be easier on them.”

Discussions about accepting girls officially began a year ago, according to Drury. Included in those discussions was separation between boys and girls when it comes to overnight events.

“Some separation will be involved when it comes to den meetings for younger kids, and both will have the same program. The younger boys and girls will still be part of the same pack,” Drury said.

There will also be separation guidelines for older pack members. There will be a continuation of the co-gender overnight ban between ages 11-14. Overnights with younger pack members are treated differently, because they are family events with parents in attendance.

The changes will go into full effect in the fall of next year.

Parents and their daughters are still welcome to attend Boy Scout events such as fundraisers, camping events and pack meetings as non-members.

Drury believes this is a step in the right direction for inclusion and equality.

“I think there are girls these days that want to do things boys do, especially in a society that strongly supports the fact that girls can do anything boys can do,” he said.

With the expected new members, the Ohio River Valley Council is seeking more pack leaders.

Anyone who would like to join the girls’ program should call the Ohio River Valley Council Service Center at (304) 277-2660 or contact the council via its Facebook page.