Girl Scouts 'regret any hurt' after St. Louis troop disbands over conflict
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ST. LOUIS – The Girl Scouts of the USA organization says “we sincerely regret any hurt” in a letter addressing a situation that led to a St. Louis Girl Scouts troop disbanding last week.

Former Girl Scout Troop #149 disbanded after the Girl Scouts organization reportedly warned of legal action over a fundraiser to help Palestinian children.

The former troop intended to sell bracelets and donate money to a Palestinian children’s relief fund amid the months-long global struggle in Gaza. More than 29,000 people have died since Hamas, a militant group that controls Gaza, launched attacks against Israel in October, triggering a response by Israeli forces.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) Missouri branch says it received a response from a key Girl Scouts spokesperson after sending a letter that addressed the fundraiser and apparent warning.

According to a CAIR news release, Bonnie Barczykowski, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, replied with the following statement, in part:

“We are disappointed and disheartened by what recently transpired. We sincerely regret any hurt caused… We recognize that greater clarity and additional education is needed regarding our Girl Scout fundraising policies.

“This is a learning moment for our organization as we realize we can always do better. We know we should always lead with empathy and recognize the incredible need for kindness and compassion during this difficult time. We are also deeply committed to advancing belonging, inclusion, and anti-racism as an organization and within our membership, and we will continue to ensure that we address all communities, including the Muslim and Arab communities.

“GSUSA will be working alongside our council partners to review this incident and make the necessary adjustments to prevent it from happening in the future. We realize we missed an opportunity to champion our troops while they make a difference.”

CAIR considers this response a “positive first step” in addressing what happened.

“We welcome the Girl Scouts’ disavowal of the conduct of the state chapter, its expression of regret, and its commitment to ensure incidents like this do not happen again,” said CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell. 

Former Troop 149 disbanded from the Girl Scouts organization, and it’s unclear if the group plans to rejoin. For now, the group continues to offer the bracelet fundraiser independently of Girl Scout affiliation. CAIR says the group has raised around $10,000 for a Palestinian children’s relief fund.

According to previous reports from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and others, the troop’s adult leader, Nawal Abuhamdeh, shared information on the fundraiser through social media before pushback from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri. The local Girl Scouts branch asked her to remove any Girl Scouts branding associated with the bracelets, citing concerns that the fundraiser was political and partisan.

Abuhamdeh contended that the fundraiser wasn’t political and also cited previous Girl Scouts fundraisers in Ukraine. However, an email reply from Girl Scouts officials allegedly stated that her group’s efforts were a “direct violation” of the organization’s codes and that “legal counsel” could be activated if the fundraiser continued.

According to a Girl Scouts USA Blue Book of Documents from last year, Girl Scout troops and leaders are not allowed to “solicit financial contributions for purposes other than Girl Scouting,” a distinction that leaves the door open for many interpretations.

“The Girl Scouts should now restore the policy that allowed troops to raise money for children and others impacted by the ongoing Gaza genocide, just as they did for Ukraine,” said Mitchell in CAIR’s aforementioned news release.

Per reports, the group proceeding with the fundraiser consisted of former Girl Scout members from Palestinian and other backgrounds.

A spokesperson for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri shared a statement on the situation with FOX 2 on Wednesday afternoon, addressing the matter as such:

“We strongly support any of our scouts who are standing up for what they believe in. But before funds are raised and products sold in the name of Girl Scouts, there is a notice and approval process for those activities and then protocols that have to be followed for the fundraiser. That is why when other concerned members of our Scouting family and St. Louis community brought Nawal’s activities to our attention, we reached out to her and attempted to work with her through our approval process. 

There was never any legal action taken against the troop or their leader. Our staff emailed Nawal multiple times in hopes of reaching an agreement. Our goal was always to find a way to work with Nawal and her Scouts and stay within our fundraising rules.

While we appreciate and encourage passion and social engagement, all troop activities must be carried out in accordance with our governing policies and approval procedures.”

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