Irving, Texas: In a historic shift today, the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors unanimously approved to welcome girls into its Cub Scout program and to deliver a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout, the organization said on Wednesday.
The unanimous decision by the 100-year-old group’s board of directors came after years of requests from families and girls, it said, though the announcement prompted a largely negative reaction on social media.
“We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children,” Boy Scouts Chief Executive Michael Surbaugh said in a statement.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has lost about a third of its members since 2000, which now stands at 2.3 million. BSA insisted that allowing girls was in response to the needs of families, not related to declining membership.
The Girl Scouts of the USA said girls thrive in a girl-only environment, and that “we are girl experts.”
The Boy Scouts of America 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 will also 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 the 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.”
After the announcement, the Girl Scouts issued a statement that did not mention the Boy Scouts or its move to include girls.
“Girl Scouts remains committed to and believes strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a necessary safe space for girls to learn and thrive,” the organization said.
On social media, hundreds of people were critical of the news, with many posts echoing the sentiments of Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son.
“Strange, I thought that’s what the Girl Scouts was for???” he said on Twitter.
Sing Oldham, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, said the announcement continued a “reinvention” of the Boy Scouts his group does not support, including the decision in 2013 to allow openly gay members.
According to the Boy Scouts of America, this decision expands the programs that the Boy Scouts of America offers for both boys and girls. Although known for its iconic programs for boys, the BSA has offered co-ed programs since 1971 through Exploring and the Venturing program, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2018. The STEM Scout pilot program is also available for both boys and girls.