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GSNC bars Girl Scouts from participating in V.S. Camporee

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Lillian Alvarez was prepared to attend her second Village of Valley Stream Camporee in June — her mother had signed the permission slip and was ready to pay the $15 camping fee — when she discovered on April 16 that the Girl Scouts won’t be allowed to attend the annual event this year.

The day before, Randell Bynum, the CEO of Girl Scouts of Nassau County, told Valley Stream troop leaders that the council “does not support Girl Scouts participating in the Camporee,” and that it puts the council “at risk legally and fiscally.” As a result, she said, the Camporee, which usually attracts more than 400 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, could not use GSNC or Girl Scouts of the United States of America branding, have trip applications approved or be covered under the Girl Scouts’ insurance.

Speaking to the Herald, Bynum said that the GSNC administration decided to bar Girl Scouts this year to support its mission of only serving girls. In accordance with that policy, she said, GSNC is trying to create more Girl Scout-centric events and will work with the village to develop a Girl Scouts-only outdoor event.

The decision comes one year after the Boy Scouts of America rebranded to allow girls into the organization, updating its name to Scouts BSA. Soon after the change, the Girl Scouts of America began issuing statements telling Girl Scouts not to participate in joint events with Scouts BSA.

The Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, for example, sent out fliers listing Girl Scout dos and don’ts. The literature states that Girl Scouts should not be in any co-sponsored or co-branded events with the BSA, and that they are required to ask for their own space at parades, flag ceremonies or festivals. The flier also said that troop funds must be used exclusively for Girl Scout-only events.

But the Valley Stream Girl Scouts have attended the weekend-long camping event for the past 38 years, consistently beating local Boy Scouts in cooking and spirit competition, according to Patrick Burke, a member of the village’s Camporee Committee. “They’ve had such a great time for so long,” Burke said, adding that the Camporee would not represent the “true spirit of scouting” without the Girl Scouts.

Girl Scouts and their parents also said the council’s decision only hurts them. Brownie Troop 2066 Leader Kristina Genova said that for some girls, the Camporee is their only chance to camp, since the Girl Scouts’ Camp Blue Bay is about two and a half hours away, in East Hampton.

Genova added that without the Girl Scouts in attendance, the girls who joined Scouts BSA would not see an alternative scouting program at the Camporee. “They won’t be able to see what we do,” she said, adding that the decision makes her question whether the Girl Scouts would be allowed to participate in the village’s annual Memorial Day parade this year.

“It’s a community event,” Genova said of the Camporee. “It’s not a Boy Scouts event, and that’s what they think it is.”

Her daughter, Khloe, was also upset about the news, and sent a letter to Bynum expressing her disappointment with GSNC’s decision on April 18. “Girl Scouts needs to empower girls, not take more stuff away from them,” the letter read. “Girls are already excluded from enough stuff, now more of what we girls can do is being taken away. You don’t want that to happen, do you? You have the power to change that!”

The letter concluded with drawings of faces crying.

Gabriella Burke, Patrick’s daughter, created a Change.org petition asking the Girl Scouts to reverse its stance. “I just feel that if adults are having problems and disagreements, kids should not be affected,” Burke, a member of Troop 2033, wrote in the petition. “Scouting is not about adults, it’s about kids. That’s why I’m asking the Girl Scouts of Nassau County and the Girl Scouts of the USA to reconsider their decision in this matter.”

As of Monday, the petition had more than 1,000 signatures and more than 80 comments, including one from Laura Alvarez, Lillian’s mother, that the decision made her daughter cry. “What a disgrace to have planned this activity and then have it taken away from her troop,” Laura Alvarez wrote. “This is not the life lesson we thought we would learn in Girl Scouts.”

She also told the Herald that she thinks there was a better way for the GSNC to handle the announcement: let the Girl Scouts attend the Camporee this year, and tell them it would be their final one. “I believe this decision can be changed,” Alvarez said. “At least let them know if this is their last Camporee. Don’t dangle the carrot and take it away.”

To sign Gabriella Burke’s petition, go to https://bit.ly/2Zo7bGj.