The Boy Scouts of America announced Wednesday that its board of directors had unanimously approved a decision to begin admitting girls into its Cub Scout program and to develop a program that will allow girls to eventually attain the rank of Eagle Scout for the first time ever.
“This decision is true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. The values of Scouting – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women,” said Michael Surbaugh, the BSA’s Chief Scout Executive in a news release.
The organization has offered programs that include girls for decades, such as the Venturing high-adventure program and Explorers career-shadowing program. But this is the first time the organization has opened up its traditional programs to girls, including the option to reach Eagle Scout, a distinction only about 2 percent of scouts have ever achieved, according to the BSA.
A news release from the BSA said that high interest from parents and a desire to serve busy modern families contributed to the decision, as well as a more general desire to expand scouting programs to include as many people as possible.
“The BSA’s record of producing leaders with high character and integrity is amazing,” said Randall Stephenson, the BSA’s national president. “It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”
The release outlines an extended plan for rolling out the new programs. Girls will be allowed to join the Cub Scouting program, which covers first through fifth grade, starting in early 2018. After that, a new program will be announced that will allow girls to continue through the entire program up to age 18 and reach the rank of Eagle Scout.
Although girls will now be able to join the Cub Scouts, groups will still be separated by gender. “This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families,” the news release said.
The announcement comes weeks after the Girl Scouts accused the BSA of running a “covert campaign” to recruit girls, the Washington Post reported.
“We were disappointed in the lack of transparency as we learned that you are surreptitiously testing the appeal of a girls’ offering to millennial parents,” Girl Scouts President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan wrote in a letter to Boy Scouts President Randall Stephenson. “Furthermore, it is inherently dishonest to claim to be a single gender organization while simultaneously endeavoring upon a co-ed model.”
Wednesday’s decision was immediately met with online controversy as scouting alumni, parents and volunteers objected to what they saw as an attack on the program’s traditions.
There were also some who voiced their support for the decision, praising the organization for embracing inclusion and allowing girls to join the program.