By Kit Norton/VTDigger
As the Boy Scouts of America faces mounting legal battles, the organization has opened multiple scout programs to females and, since June, 95 girls have joined the Cub Scout program in Vermont.
The Green Mountain Council, the Vermont chapter of the national organization, has currently enrolled 95 girls in the program that serves children from kindergarten to fifth grade and is planning to open up further programming in February.
Edward McCollin, executive director of the Green Mountain Council, said girls have been part of the Boy Scouts of America since the 1970s, when the organization started a coeducation program for girls 14-20 years of age, and this is another stage of inclusivity for the organization.
However, this comes after the Girl Scouts of America filed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts for dropping the word “boy” from its flagship program.
The Girl Scouts filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in November against the Boy Scouts, who now called their program Scouts of America.
In the complaint filed in New York federal court, the Girl Scouts claim the program does not have the right to use terms like “scouts” or “scouting” by themselves in connection with services offered to girls, or to rebrand itself as “the Scouts.”
“Such misconduct will not only cause confusion among the public, damage the goodwill of GSUSA’s Girl Scouts trademarks, and erode its core brand identity, but it will also marginalize the Girl Scouts Movement by causing the public to believe that GSUSA’s extraordinarily successful services are not true or official ‘Scouting’ programs, but niche services with limited utility and appeal,” the complaint said, according to CBS News.
But in Vermont, the two organizations said the Boy Scouts decision to open up to female participation is a chance for families and girls to choose what organization and program is best for them.
McCollin said Green Mountain Council supports the Girl Scouts and has partnered with it in the past and plans on doing so in the future.
“My daughter was a Girl Scout. It’s a great organization,” McCollin said, “We’ll see how it all shakes out. This is uncharted waters for the Boy Scouts of America. The program will evolve and we’re hoping for good things from both organizations.”
Carrie Green, director of marketing and communications for the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, said it is unclear at this point whether the Vermont chapter has lost membership to the Boy Scouts as a result of the policy change, but said the Girl Scouts remain committed to giving the best options for leadership and education for females.
Green also said there is little concern the Boy Scouts’ female programming will have an impact on enrollment in the Girl Scouts, saying that membership over the last three years has seen a steady increase and there is no evidence the change in policy from the Boy Scouts will affect that moving forward.
“It’s about understanding that they are two separate organizations that provide unique programming. We feel the Girl Scouts provides the best leadership opportunities for girls,” Green said, “We’re continuing to focus on what works best for girls and adding more opportunities for girls to go outside, travel, and give back to their communities.”
McCollin said beginning in February the Green Mountain Council will start all female scouting troops for girls aged 11 to 17 years of age, in which they will do all the same activities as the male groups and have the chance to become eagle scouts — the highest scouting rank in the Boy Scouts.
Currently The Green Mountain Council has 1,900 children in its Cub Scout program and has just over 3,000 people enrolled overall in the organization in Vermont.
But as the Boy Scouts begins to incorporate females into its core programming, the organization faces legal uncertainties.
In addition to the trademark infringement lawsuit, the national organization is facing mounting legal fees and payout settlements to almost a dozen men who claim they were sexually assaulted as boys by a now disgraced scoutmaster, Thomas Hacker, since the 1970s, and is considering filing for bankruptcy.
In the lawsuit against the Boy Scouts, the victims allege the organization was aware of Hacker’s arrest for sexual assault in Indiana back in February 1970. But because of inadequate background checks, Hacker was able to resurface as a scoutmaster in the Chicago area, where he continued to assault boys through the 1990s.
In a statement to NBC News, the Boy Scouts said it now runs criminal background checks on scoutmasters and maintains a database “to prevent individuals from re-registering in Scouting who were removed because they do not meet the Boy Scouts of America’s standards because of known or suspected abuse or other misconduct either inside or outside the organization.”