The Boy Scouts of America announced on Wednesday that they will allow girls into its program in 2018 following years of requests from families who have wanted their children, regardless of gender, to be able to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
BSA’s Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said in a statement: “The values of Scouting – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women. 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.”
According to BSA, this decision will make it easier for busy families, including single parents, because it will provide activities for everyone to enjoy. The organization surveyed parents and discovered that 90 percent were interested in having their daughters join a program like Cub Scouts and 87 percent were interested in programs such as Boy Scouts.
Beginning in 2018, families will be able to sign their children of both genders up for Cub Scouts, which is for kids aged 7 to 10. The packs will be sorted by gender—all boys or all girls—and everyone will follow the same curriculum. Older girls (those who are 11 or have completed fifth grade) will be eligible to join a program that will enable them to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. This program will be announced next year and is expected to be available in 2019.
The BSA noted in its press release: “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 was founded in 1910. It has offered co-ed programs since 1971, and its Venturing program is open to both boys and girls ages 14 (or those who have completed the 8th grade) through 21.
Response to BSA’s announcement has been mixed. Many are thrilled that girls will be able to join the iconic group, while others fear that it will change the environment that fosters strong bonds between boys, their dads, and other male mentors.
One parent and Scout Master from Connecticut commented: “I’m conflicted as I watch my daughter squeal with delight and jump for joy as she hears the news that she too will be accepted into a program she has only heard tales of after tremendous events….and to watch my son’s disappointment as he realizes one of the very few things in this world that he gets to enjoy exclusively with Dad without his little sister present slipping away. I’m conflicted and emotional, knowing I love this program and I want to share it with all youth of all types and ages and creeds and genders and backgrounds…”
Girl Scout leaders are not happy with the announcement. They believe BSA should be focusing on significant problems it has been battling in recent years. They told ABC News: “The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire. Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA’s senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls.”