In their latest major policy shift, Boy Scouts of America opens their ranks to female members with some unique restructuring.
According to Associated Press News, the Boy Scouts of America, the United States’ largest scout organization plans to admit girls into the Cub Scout program beginning in 2018.
Plans are already in the works to allow older girls to aspire to the rank of Eagle Scout in 2019.
This policy change comes on the heels of the decision to allowed openly gay and transgender boys and troop leaders. For a century-old institution steeped in tradition to make such a monumental shift, BSA seems to be making a statement about where they stand on gender equality.
“The values of scouting—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example—are important for both young men and women,” Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh told Associated Press News.
While the Boy Scouts of America may have changed their policy on including all genders, they have stated that there are no plans to change the name at this point.
The New Structure
Under the new restructuring, each den (the smallest organizational unit of the scouts) will remain single-gendered. Either all boys or all girls. Larger packs will be allowed to choose whether to allow both genders or remain single-gendered.
Current families in the scouting community expressed concern over potential issues with overnight trips, as well as a loss of camaraderie from being in a single-sex troop.
“We’ll make sure those environments are protected.” Surbaugh responded.”What we’re presenting is a fairly unique hybrid model.”
Overnight outings for scouts aged 11-14 will remain single-gendered events. However, Cub Scout camping trips would likely be open to both genders. Surbaugh claimed these trips are typically done as a family and don’t require as stringent of a policy.
With this change, BSA hopes to offer more options for families. Those not currently connected to the scouts seem to favor this shift in policy according to recent surveys. Furthermore, the Hispanic and Asian communities whom BSA has been trying to attract also favor the change.
But, not everyone is happy about BSA’s policy shift.
The Girl Scouts of America have been outspoken in their disdain for the policy shift, stating the change is detrimental to the relationship between the two organizations. It has accused BSA of trying to poach members and undermine the Girl Scouts operation since August.
“The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire,” Latino civic leader and Girl Scouts’ national board member Charles Garcia wrote in an opinion piece for Huffington Post. “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.”
The Girl Scouts seem to have no intention of opening their ranks to boys. They maintain that an all-female environment best serves their core mission of girl empowerment.
The National Organization for Women, on the other hand, had initially urged this policy change for BSA back in February. The organization went as far as to ask the U.S. Government to disallow any federal support for the BSA they lefted their ban against girls.
NOW had supported girls inclusion in the BSA due to the efforts of 15-year-old Sydney Ireland. Sydney had hoped to follow in her older brother’s footsteps to become an Eagle Scout.
“I cannot change my gender to fit the Boy Scouts’ standards, but the Boy Scouts can change their standards to include me,” said Sydney Ireland via change.org. “I know I could rise through the ranks and become an Eagle Scout alongside the boy. All I need is the opportunity.”
Obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout offers great opportunities such as scholarships, college admissions preference, and admission into the National Eagle Scout Society. Additionally, many employers (including the military and NASA) show a preference for Eagle Scouts, so the shift in policy could open up some doors for young women.