Boy Scouts to expand girls’ participation

Courtesy of the Boy Scouts of America

In its latest policy shift, the Boy Scouts of America will admit girls into the Cub Scouts starting next year, and establish a new program for older girls based on the Boy Scout curriculum that enables them to aspire to the coveted Eagle Scout rank.

“Starting in the 2018 program year, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts,” says Brad W Bodoh, Scout Executive and CEO for Boy Scouts of America Greater Wyoming Council. “Using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts program, the BSA also will deliver a program for older girls, which will be announced in 2018 and projected to be available in 2019, that will enable girls to earn the Eagle Scout rank.”

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Boyscouts of America was founded in 1910 and long considered a bastion of tradition, the Boy Scouts have undergone major changes in the past five years, agreeing to accept openly gay youth members and adult volunteers, as well as transgender boys.

The expansion of girls’ participation, announced Wednesday after unanimous approval by the organization’s board of directors, represents a significant change, potentially opening the way for hundreds of thousands of girls to join.

“This decision maintains the single gender aspect of our program so there will be little change for our current youth members. In the future we will be better enabled to serve the needs of families and bring the values of citizenship, character, and leadership to more youth.”

Under the new plan, Cub Scout dens — the smallest unit — will be single-gender, either all-boys or all-girls. The larger Cub Scout packs will have the option to remain single gender or welcome both genders. The program for older girls is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the same Eagle Scout rank that has been attained by astronauts, admirals, senators and other luminaries.

Many scouting organizations in other countries already allow both genders and use gender-free names such as Scouts Canada. But for now, the Boy Scout label will remain.

“There are no plans to change our name at this time,” BSA spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said in an email.

Boy Scout leaders said the change was needed to provide more options for parents.

“This change is the result of years of requests from families,” explains Bodoh. The BSA thoughtfully evaluated how to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible and adapt to the changing needs of today’s families — all while remaining true to our mission and core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.”

During the national outreach campaign, some parents expressed concern about possible problems related to overnight camping trips. Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive for BSA, told the Associated Press that there would continue to be a ban on mixed-gender overnight outings for scouts ages 11 to 14.

Cub Scout camping trips, he noted, were usually family affairs with less need for rigid polices.

The BSA recently increased its annual membership fee for youth members and adult volunteers from $24 to $33, but Surbaugh said the decision to expand programming for girls was not driven by financial factors. He expressed enthusiasm at the possibility that the changes could draw hundreds of thousands more girls into BSA ranks over the coming years.

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AP contributed to this report.