The Boy Scouts of America announced on Wednesday, October 11 that it will open its ranks to girls starting in 2018. The announcement was met with mixed support and criticism.
Starting in the 2018 program year, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts. Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack. Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls. Using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts program, the organization will also deliver a program for older girls, which will be announced in 2018 and projected to be available in 2019, that will enable them to earn the Eagle Scout rank. This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families.
“We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children,” said Michael Surbaugh, chief executive of the Boy Scouts, to NBC News.
Until now the BSA has been exclusively open to boys. The unprecedented change was decided by a unanimous vote among the scouting board of directors. Starting next year only the youngest “Cub Scout” troops will admit girls. “Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls,” the BSA announced. In 2019 a separate program will be opened for older girls, who will be allowed to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
The BSA said the controversial decision was not made lightly. It came after two separate nation-wide surveys showed parents currently uninvolved in Girl Scouts or similar programs showed an interest in having their daughters join the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
The Girl Scouts of the United States of America seemed less than pleased at the idea and sent a scathing letter to the BSA board in August, 2017. The letter written by GSUSA’s national president Kathy Hopinkah Hannan accused the BSA of conspiring to create a “covert campaign to recruit girls” aimed at Millenial parents.
Hannan opens her letter with the following concern,
For more than 100 years, our organizations have worked in a respectful and complimentary manner, and we have been mutually supportive of one another’s mission to serve America’s youth.
It is therefore unsettling that BSA would seek to upend a paradigm that has served both boys and girls so well through the years by moving forward with a plan that would result in fundamentally undercutting Girl Scouts of the USA.
Despite our repeated efforts to engage you in open and honest dialogue about this matter, you delayed conversing with us until, seemingly, a decision was already made.
Despite the GSUSA’s objections, the National Organization for Women encouraged the BSA to open its program to girls. Their request came as direct support of a New York teenager’s dream of becoming an Eagle Scout like her brother. “I just want to do what the Boy Scouts do — earn the merit badges and earn the Eagle Award,” Sydney Ireland told NBC News. “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.”
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