For the first time in the more than 100 years of its history, the Boy Scouts will accept girls to participate in its full program. The change, announced today, now allows girls to become Cub Scouts and earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in the organization. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) board of directors voted unanimously on the issue, which opens the door for anyone to participate in the full program from childhood to adulthood, regardless of gender.
“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 BSA.
The historic change also establishes a new program for older girls, available in 2019, so that they can earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Even with this change, the structure of the Boy Scout community will remain largely intact. Starting in 2018, girls will be able to join gender-separated dens, the smallest Cub Scout units, and each den will be composed of either all boys or all girls. Packs, larger community groups made up of several dens, can be either single- or mixed-gender, per the decisions of individual local scouting organizations.
The BSA noted that the change works to address the changing and busy nature of modern American family life. In a nationwide survey commissioned by the organization, parents indicated a desire to enroll multiple children in a single program regardless of gender, particularly indicating a high interest in signing their daughters up for both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
“Families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before, making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing,” the BSA said in a statement.
The move opens the door for a new generation of female leaders engaged in the Boy Scouts’ full program but puts the organization at odds with the Girl Scouts of America, which has opposed the BSA’s choice and accused it of attempting to undercut its own programming.
“Rather than seeking to fundamentally transform BSA into a co-ed program, we believe strongly that Boy Scouts should instead take steps to ensure that they are expanding the scope of their programming to all boys, including those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African American and Latino boys,” Girl Scouts president Kathy Hopinkah Hannan wrote in a letter.
The change will take effect starting next year.