Girls will be allowed to join Boy Scouts of America starting in fall 2018 and eventually will be able to earn scouting’s highest rank, Eagle Scout.
The board of directors of the Irving, Texas-based National Council unanimously approved welcoming girls into its Cub Scout program and offering a Scouting program that would allow girls to achieve Scouting’s highest rank.
“The decision is true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law,” said Michael Surbaugh, BSA’s chief scout executive. “The values of Scouting — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example — are important for both you men and women,” he said. “We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children. We strive to bring what our organization does best — developing character and leadership for young people — to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders,” Surbaugh said.
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 also will 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 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,” BSA said in making its announcement.
BSA has offered co-ed programs since 1971 through Exploring and the Venture program, which marks its 20th anniversary next year, and the STEM Scout pilot program also is available to both boys and girls.
The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls, the organization evaluated the result of numerous research efforts, gaining input from current members and leaders, as well as parents and girls who’ve never been involved in Scouting – to understand how to offer families an important addition choice in meeting the character development needs of all their children.
BSA cited research and surveys of parents not involved with Scouting that showed high interest in getting their daughters into programs like Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts but also making convenient programs for the whole family more appealing. Hispanic and Asian communities, in particular, prefer to participate in activities as a family, according to BSA.
“The BSA’s record of producing leaders with high character and integrity is amazing,” said Randall Stephenson, BSA’s national board chairman. “I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization. It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls,” he said.
This latest move comes as BSA has made a number of changes to membership policies in the last half-decade. In January, the organization announced it would accept members based on the gender identification provided in an individual’s application, opening the door to allowing transgender members. In 2013, the board voted to allow openly gay youth members and two years later removed a national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees.
Both Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA have struggled to keep membership from declining during the past decade. BSA has about 2.3 million youth members and 960,000 volunteers while Girl Scouts has 1.8 million girls and 800,000 adults.
Scouts for Equality, which has challenged BSA to change membership policies over the years, praised the decision. “This is yet another step forward for the Boy Scouts of America. Girls and their families all across the country have been asking the BSA to allow girls to participate as full members and earn the same ranks and awards as their brothers,” said Zach Wahls, co-founder of Scouts for Equality. “We look forward to them ending their long-standing ban on non-theists as well,” he said, calling on the organization to follow the path charted by the Girl Scouts to maintain its ‘Duty to God’ commitment while ending the outright ban on non-theists.
Buzzfeed reported in August that Girl Scouts of America had penned a letter to the Boy Scouts alleging an effort to test “the appeal of a girls’ offering to millennial parents,” and describing it as a “potentially dangerous and bad idea.” A message to Girl Scouts headquarters in New York City seeking comment was not immediately returned.