School For Children Alumna Sydney Ireland ’15, Breaks Gender Barriers in the Boy Scouts of America

On October 11, SFC ’15 alumna Sydney Ireland heard the news: her efforts to get the Boy Scouts to change its charter to admit girls had worked. After years of dedicated advocacy to this cause, Ireland can now officially join Boy Scout Troop 414 in New York, where she has participated as an unofficial member since Cub Scouts.

It was a unanimous decision by the organization to open the Cub Scouts to younger girls starting next year. They will begin in single-gender dens with the opportunity to move into coed dens as they progress. In 2019, older girls like Ireland will be able to join the Boy Scouts and work toward its highest rank of Eagle Scout—Ireland’s coveted goal.

Now a student at the Nightingale-Bamford School in Manhattan, Ireland fought hard for years to persuade the boys-only organization to evolve. In 2013 when she was 12, she had witnessed the Boy Scouts bend under pressure from LBGT rights groups and ultimately end its ban on gay and bisexual troop leaders and, in 2015, on gay and bisexual boys. In response, she started advocating for girls to join as well, writing letters and op-eds and lobbying with numerous other girls with the support of the National Organization for Women.

She started a change.org petition to “Tell the Boy Scouts to End Discrimination Against Young Women” and inspired over 9,000 signatures.

Ireland wrote, “According to the BSA, over half of all astronauts were involved in Scouting and 16.3% of West Point cadets are Eagle Scouts. Of the current Congress, 191 members were involved in Scouting, 18 current U.S. governors participated in Scouting, and many of them are Eagle Scouts. The facts say it all—high-level Scouting creates opportunity, and with opportunity comes a chance at success in the global community. Unfortunately for me and half the country’s population, we are excluded from most of these amazing opportunities for no reason other than that we are female.”

With the success of the petition, Ireland proved herself to be a big-time influencer and the major news outlets grabbed hold of her cause with interviews and stories published in NPR, Rolling StoneThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, and more. On the October day of the Boy Scouts’ big news this year, Ireland was again bombarded by the media; she gave interviews to a dozen organizations, including the BBC World Service and The Los Angeles Times.

Now that the Boy Scouts have changed their charter, the message she gave to the press was clear: She would join and pursue her own Holy Grail, the Eagle Scout award, the leadership training program she considered to be the best out there.

She told NBC News, “I just want to do what the Boy Scouts do—earn the merit badges and earn the Eagle Award. The Girl Scouts is a great organization, but it’s just not the program that I want to be part of. I think girls should just have the opportunity to be a member of any organization they want regardless of gender.”

When we contacted her, she said, “This historic change by the Boy Scouts will provide opportunities for unparalleled leadership training that is offered by the organization and important recognition, including the Eagle rank. It will also provide opportunities for young people to work together towards common goals in positive outdoor activities and service projects to benefit our communities. This is such exciting news, especially on International Day of the Girl!”

Her brother, Bryan (SFC’13), is her biggest fan. He said, “I am honored to be working with my sister Sydney and my family towards equality in the Boy Scouts.  Of course, I look forward to participating in her Eagle Court of Honor. Thank you to all the Bank Street teachers and the community for providing both of us the tools and drive to work towards social justice.”

Bank Street School for Children would like to congratulate Ireland for her successful advocacy. We know she worked with diligence, as all change-makers do, to make a better world for all children, regardless of gender.