ST girl recognized as Boy Scout after 11 years of Scouting

Sydney Ireland speaks at the National Organization for Women convention in 2015. (Photos courtesy of Gary Ireland)

By Sabina Mollot

Since the age of four, Sydney Ireland knew that she wanted to be a Boy Scout. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t a boy. Her older brother Bryan was a Scout — later an Eagle Scout — and she wanted to be doing the things he was doing, from earning merit badges to ice climbing in Lake Placid.

Now 15, Sydney has been active in the Boy Scouts — albeit unofficially — for over a decade, and has been along with her family, pushing for the national organization to formally accept and recognize the contributions made by female members like herself. She first reached out to the organization via an op-ed in this newspaper. She’s since done a handful of interviews on the subject and recently even got the backing of NOW.

After years of making this request — all the while participating in a local troop as well as a Canadian one — the teenage resident of Stuyvesant Town has been vindicated. In October, the Boy Scouts of America said that beginning in 2019, female members would be accepted. This follows other steps taken in recent years by the organization to become more inclusive. Gay and transgender boys as well as gay Scout leaders are now also accepted following pressure from LGBT advocates.

While Sydney told Town & Village this week she would like to see the BSA do away with the holdup on accepting girls, she said she is now satisfied with how things turned out. Last Tuesday night, she was even recognized with a proclamation by Council Member Dan Garodnick at the Stuyvesant Town ice rink. Bryan, now a Scout leader, was recognized too for his own advocacy for his sister and other girls.

Council Member Dan Garodnick presented proclamations to Sydney and Bryan Ireland for their contributions to the BSA.

Meanwhile, Sydney explained why she was adamant about joining BSA as opposed to the Girl Scouts. Along with the emphasis on outdoor activities — a passion of hers — the mission and the requirements for membership are different. In particular, Sydney said she’s found her training in first aid and lifesaving to be standout, meaningful experiences.

“It was challenging, but I learned a lot,” she said.

She’s also enjoyed SCUBA diving with her Canadian troop and her favorite activity is ice climbing.

After initially just tagging along with her brother to Boy Scouts meetings, she later joined on her own, with the blessing of her family and full acceptance of boys in the troop.

“I was treated respectfully by the boys and their parents,” said Sydney, who’s a member of Troop 414, sponsored by Immaculate Conception Church, and working on achieving the coveted Eagle Scout rank. Her experiences in the local troop and the Canadian one are somewhat different in that the latter one is co-ed. But Ireland said she isn’t too concerned about minor differences. One news story in Atlanta news outlet WSB-TV noted that a concern expressed by some parents regarding the inclusion of girls in BSA is having mixed sleepovers during camping trips and that this would be banned for Scouts aged 11-14. But Sydney isn’t losing any sleep over details.

Her primary concern is trying to get the BSA to speed up the inclusion date from 2019. Unless admitted very soon, she’ll be unable to participate in certain activities like the 2019 International Jamboree, to be held in West Virginia.

Her father, corporate attorney Gary Ireland, slammed the BSA for this.

“It is outrageous and embarrassing that the Scouts will ban local young women from participating, particularly as we are the host country,” he said. “Scouts need to be a certain age and rank to attend a Jamboree. With the Boy Scouts allowing girls into the program very soon, it is unclear why they continue to refuse admission to Sydney.”

Sydney and Bryan have contacted the Scout leaders, AT&T CEO and Boy Scouts President Randall Stephenson and Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh, to ask if Sydney can be included in the program, but have yet to hear back.

Meanwhile, Sydney said she doesn’t know if, once admitted, her past credits and accomplishments will be recognized. And while there’s been no acknowledgment of this, she does suspect her own relentless effort to be formally recognized as a Scout is what helped eventually tip the scale in her favor. “I believe it was partly due to my efforts and my family’s efforts,” she said, “but they said it was for the benefit of the families and the future of Scouting and I do believe in that as well.”

The BSA has said it was due to the request of some families, and a desire to make things more convenient for families by having activities siblings can participate in together.

Fortunately for Sydney, over the years, she has only been surrounded by people encouraging her participation in Boy Scouting. The only people scoffing at her desire for formally recognized status that she’s aware of are doing so anonymously on the internet. Sydney said she hasn’t read too much of it, though.

Instead, she’s got her eyes on the future of the BSA. “I think it’s important to include everybody for the success of the program,” she said.

Sydney is an 11th grader at the Nightingale-Bamford prep school for girls on the Upper East Side and a lifelong resident of Stuyvesant Town. She lives with her parents, brother and a dog and cat.

Town & Village reached out to the BSA for comment, but did not hear back.

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3 thoughts on “ST girl recognized as Boy Scout after 11 years of Scouting

  1. Thank you Council Member Dan Garodnick for your ongoing support for equality in the Boy Scouts and to Town & Village and Sabina Mollot for covering the story for nearly 7 years. We hope to have positive news soon but need your help. Please send a respectful email to Boy Scout President Randall Stephenson and Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh, asking them to give Sydney and other girls the opportunity to join the Boy Scout now! Here are the email addresses: Randall.Stephenson@scouting.org; pr@scouting.org; myscouting@scouting.org;
    rs2982@att.com; michael.surbaugh@scouting.org.

    All the best in the New Year!

    Sincerely,
    Gary Ireland
    Stuyvesant Town, NY

  2. What she has done is amazing and is welcomed. However continuing in trying to get early admission for just herself when BSA has stipulated a start point is not living up to the ideals of the oath and law. Why should only she get early admission and not the other young girls simply because she will age out shortly after the start date for girls to join in 2019?

    BSA is still getting everything organized and prepared for this date. Trying to start it early does a disservice to the organization she is wanting to be a part of. Loyalty means following what someone or something has in place as well as being a good friend to all. If bsa needs the program to start in 2019 that’s when it should start.

    On a side note I do feel she should petition to have an extension to earning rank to allow her to make eagle. Likewise she could join a venturing crew or her brothers unit could start one to allow her to work on merit badge requirements so when she is able to join she can officially get those signed off especially the ones with time requirements in completing activities for so long.

    • Dear James:
      Thank you for your comments. To be clear, Sydney is working on behalf of all girls who may need to be admitted soon so that they can also work towards earning the Eagle Rank before their 18th birthdays when they age out of the program. Regarding your concerns that moving girls into the Boy Scout program at this time may somehow inconvenience the organization, the Boy Scouts already has coed programs – Explorers, Sea Scouts, Venturers, Learning for Life – and the structure of the Troops and Cub Packs will not change as girls are registered. In fact, the increased membership is generally welcome.

      Moreover, your questioning of Sydney’s “Loyalty” to Scouting, is misplaced. Being “Loyal”, one of the tenets of the Scout Law, does not require blind adherence to blatantly discriminatory, sexist practices and policies. The Boy Scout leadership understood that a change was necessary and its membership policies now include younger girls and will soon include all girls. Through Sydney’s work and the work of other young pioneers, future generations of girls will have the opportunity to receive the excellent Boy Scout training. Rather than questioning her “Loyalty”, perhaps you should consider following her lead.
      Sincerely,
      Gary Ireland

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