Teen launches petition to get Boy Scouts to open up to girls

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Michelle Charlesworth has the story of one teen's petition drive to have the Boy Scouts open to girls.

Should girls be able to join the Boy Scouts program? A local girl is looking to make history by doing just that.

Troop 414 in the East Village has welcomed her with open arms as an unofficial participant, but she can't join because it's only meant for boys.

Sydney Ireland is 15, and has been an unofficial member of the Cub Scouts, then Boy Scouts with her big brother since she was 4.

Again, unofficial, without the same recognition or badges. Her big brother Bryan is an Eagle Scout.

"He has his Eagle rank now, which is the highest award in the Boy Scouts and I wasn't allowed to earn that same award or any of the merit badges he won and really be recognized by the Boy Scouts at all," said Sydney.

She went as high as she could in the Cub Scouts, but because she was not permitted to continue, joined the South African scouts and then climbed all the way up the Canadian scouts, achieving their highest rank.

But she points out there are great things that come with the Eagle Scout honor in her own country.

"Girls can't earn Eagle Scout rank, which has tremendous opportunities attached to it and job opportunities, scholarships that wouldn't be available otherwise," said Sydney.

So she started an online petition to get the Boy Scouts to open up to girls in troops that want them.

It is at Change.org, and so far it has thousands of signatures from current and former Eagle Scouts, one of whom sent Sydney his 1978 badge and a letter of firm support.

"We know there are troops that want to allow in girls just as there are troops that want to allow in boys regardless of sexual orientation. All we want to do is facilitate that," said Sydney's father Gary.

He wonders about all the co-ed troops from other nations coming here for the upcoming International Jamboree hosted by the Boy Scouts.

"Are they going to exclude girls and young women from other nations or are they going to just to exclude our young women? It just doesn't make any sense," said Gary Ireland.

Sydney says she just wants the same training and chances to excel, but is blocked only by her gender and the Boy Scouts 1916 charter.

"In 1916 women weren't even allowed to vote. We've come so far," she said.

Boy Scouts of America director of communications Effie Delimarkos released the following statement:
"We understand and appreciate that the values and the lessons of Scouting are attractive to the entire family. However, the Boy Scouts of America has worked carefully and diligently to design and deliver programs that meet the specific needs of a variety of young audiences. We serve boys and young men across the nation through the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programs, which are year-round programs specifically for males in the first grade through age 18. We have since developed alternative programs that are co-ed, serving young men and young women, such as Venturing and Exploring which include activities and programs designed for broader groups."
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