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Local scout troops work together on Scouts BSA changes

 


Editor’s note: This corrects some errors in in a previous version.

The local Scouting community is coming together to implementi changes to Boy Scouts of America, a local Scout leader said Wednesday.

“A good scout is a good scout, a good leader is a good leader. You need the youth to be engaged, leaders who want to be leaders and we are going to get there,” said Bill Lanier, Boy Scouts of America’s Hi-Line District committee chairman, who has been involved with Scouting for 23 years and is an Eagle Scout himself.

The Boy Scouts of America made headlines May 2 when it announced it was dropping “Boy” from its official name for its program for 11- to 18-year-olds, changing to Scouts BSA.

That reflects its decision last fall to start allowing girls to join the formerly all-boy 11 to age 18 program, which has caused complaint from national and regional Girl Scout organizations including the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming.

Jody Corner, a Girl Scout leader, U.S. Navy veteran and mother of both boy and girl scouts, is being trained on becoming a leader in the Cub Scouts, receiving full support from the local BSA community.

“(We) want to assure that girls get the full experience of scouts,” Corner said.

Corner and Christi Marsh are currently leaders of a Girl Scout troop and have seen over the years a loss of participation from their own scouts, Corner said.

With sports and other programs affecting their numbers, she said, with both programs available they hope that more kids will want to be involved and that the community will see a rise in scouting, kids eager to for the opportunity. The BSA and the GSA here in Havre have always had a close relationship with each other and will continue to make both programs accessible, she said.

There are not yet any girls involved with the Cub Scouts, and once her training is completed she will work specifically with the girls who want to be involved with that program, she said.

The training that Corner is receiving is for becoming a Cub Scout leader, she said. She said the goal of local leaders is to have both options and traditions open to local girls.

She also said that she has no desire to change BSA and believes that it is a good program and that the goal is to make it possible for every kid to have the same experience in Scouts BSA.

Lanier said he is hopeful the change will create a new dynamic within BSA, making the program more family-oriented. For years siblings and family members have been welcomed to BSA meetings and were free to participate in the events, he said, with the only difference between the boys and the girls that “(The girls) don’t wear uniforms or receive rewards.”

Lanier said it appears that the overall mission and the programs are not changing, wanting to create strong independent young people who will contribute to their communities.

The change was not without backlash from some groups. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on May 8 that it is parting ways by Dec. 31, 2019, with the BSA after 105 years of partnership.

BSA has for years allowed inclusion of girls in many of their other programs, such as the Explorers and the Venturers. The Boy Scouts, for youngsters ages 11-18, is only the most recent addition.

Lanier said the change could help.

“The world needs more Eagle Scouts,” he said.

Over the past couple years the Hi-Line has seen a rise in performance from their Scouts, with consistently rising numbers of Scouts who have achieved the Eagle Scout rank, he said.

While he hopes that these numbers will only continue to rise with the addition of these new Scouts, it’s not all about rank said Lanier.

“It’s the experience of Scouting,” he said.

With this in mind, this experience should be shared in the community. With the future of Scouts, kids and families, the people in the troop will be given the option of setting an all-boy patrol, an all-girl patrol or family patrols, with the different patrols also doing projects and activities together, while still offering time to their respective patrols.

Lanier said he understands the concerns that some may have for the new program, but said children’s safety is always the BSA’s main concern.

One of the first training courses required by all leaders of each unit is Youth Protection Training, broken up into three sections and a mandatory test, he said. All leaders must score an 80 percent on this test before becoming a registered leader. These courses in the state of Montana are required to be taken every year if the leader wants to maintain their position. Each position held requires a specific training course and is carefully monitored by the BSA and before involving any girls in the program 100 percent of leaders must be fully trained.

Some of the Girl Scout leaders are becoming more involved, going through the training so they can help with Scouts BSA, he said.

This does not mean that Girl Scouts will necessarily see a decline in their chapters Lanier said, only that the young women who want to be involved in Scouting are given the opportunity. Some of the younger scouts, Cub Scouts and Brownies, are already beginning to participate in both programs, taking advantage of the opportunity and doing “whatever is best for them,” said Lanier.

Wanting the best for youth and the community appears to be the main goal of the BSA integrating their programs, with hopes that, “Overall scouting in Havre will be stronger,” Lanier said.

Geographically, Montana is one of the largest Councils of the BSA, with The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints making up 46 percent of the units and the loss of support, nationally, from LDS has its drawbacks for the program. But Lanier said he is staying positive. Havre’s Church of Latter-day Saints has been a great partner over the years to the BSA and although they will not renew their local chapters in BSA they have agreed to still cooperate with the local Scouts, he said.

 

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