Boy Scouts to be­come fully in­clu­sive for girls

The Mercury News - - News - By Eli Rosen­berg and Ellie Sil­ver­man

The Boy Scouts of Amer­ica will be fully in­clu­sive for girls for the first time in its nearly 100-year his­tory, its lead­ers an­nounced Wed­nes­day, the lat­est move to adapt the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s rules in an era of de­clin­ing mem­ber­ship.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion said that its board unan­i­mously ap­proved the de­ci­sion to al­low girls into the Cub Scouts pro­gram, which will even­tu­ally al­low them to earn the pres­ti­gious Ea­gle Scout rank­ing, af­ter years of re­quests from fam­i­lies and girls them­selves.

De­lib­er­a­tion over the plan had caused fric­tion between the or­ga­ni­za­tion and the Girl Scouts of the USA, which spilled into pub­lic in Au­gust when a let­ter from Girl Scouts Pres­i­dent Kathy Hopinkah Hannan that ac­cused the Boy Scouts of try­ing to bol­ster dwin­dling num­bers was re­leased. The Girl Scouts have also seen its mem­ber­ship fall in re­cent years.

The Boy Scouts of Amer­ica, which was the tar­get of pro­gres­sive ire over its decades­long re­sis­tance to chang­ing rules that pro­hib­ited gay Scouts and troop lead­ers, has made sig­nif­i­cant moves to open up its mem­ber­ship in re­cent years. The Boy Scouts ended the ban on openly gay scouts in 2013, and the pro­hi­bi­tion on gay troop lead­ers in 2015. Ear­lier this year, the or­ga­ni­za­tion an­nounced that it would al­low trans­gen­der boys in its ranks.

Girls have been al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in some scouting pro­grams at the Boy Scouts, but they have not been per­mit­ted to join the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s most pop­u­lar pro­grams, the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, or earn the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Ea­gle Scout rank­ing.

Chief Scout Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Sur­baugh de­scribed the de­ci­sion in part as an at­tempt to bring more fam­i­lies into the Boy Scouts, whose mem­ber­ship has de­clined by about a third since 2000.

“The val­ues of Scouting — trust­wor­thy, loyal, help­ful, kind, brave and rev­er­ent, for ex­am­ple — are im­por­tant for both young men and women,” he said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day. “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.”

The com­pany cited stud­ies show­ing that cul­tural and eco­nomic fac­tors made pro­grams that could serve both boys and girls more ap­peal­ing to mod­ern fam­i­lies. The changes will be­gin in 2018, when girls will be able to en­roll as Cub Scouts.

The Boy Scouts, founded in 1908 in Bri­tain and in the United States two years later, has for decades been one of the coun­try’s most prom­i­nent youth pro­grams fo­cused on char­ac­ter build­ing, team work and out­door skills.

Girls have been al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in the Ex­plor­ing pro­gram, which fo­cuses on teach­ing im­por­tant ca­reer skills, since 1971. The coed Ven­tur­ing pro­gram, about one-third of whose par­tic­i­pants are women, split off from Ex­plor­ing in 1998.

Some lo­cal troops have found ways around the na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion’s poli­cies.

In Chevy Chase, Mary­land, Boy Scout Troop 52 has been let­ting girls par­tic­i­pate since 1997 as part of the coed Ven­ture Scout crew. The women are un­able to earn the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s rank­ings, but are able to par­tic­i­pate in the same ac­tiv­i­ties, though they are tech­ni­cally part of a dif­fer­ent pro­gram.

Ilana Knab wishes the changes came sooner for her fam­ily. For years, she has watched her daugh­ters, now 14, 16, and 21, par­tic­i­pate in the lo­cal pro­gram, with her old­est earn­ing the “Ranger” award, the high­est rank­ing a wo­man can achieve. But the 21-year-old never re­ceived the same recog­ni­tion as her son, now 19, who earned the Ea­gle Scout ti­tle.

Ea­gle Scouts are con­sid­ered a badge of honor that is rec­og­nized beyond the or­ga­ni­za­tion: It can help par­tic­i­pants get into col­leges and open up the door to cer­tain schol­ar­ships.

Knab’s daugh­ter Cas­sidy, 16, who holds a lead­er­ship po­si­tion in the group, said that im­bal­ance mat­tered.

“Ea­gle Scout gets them some­where on their re­sume,” she said. “It will be amaz­ing to say you got Ea­gle and peo­ple know what you’re talk­ing about and know the work you put into it.”

JAKE MAY/THE FLINT JOUR­NAL — MLIVE.COM VIA AP

Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts salute dur­ing a Memo­rial Day cer­e­mony in Lin­den, Mich. On Wed­nes­day, the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica board of di­rec­tors unan­i­mously ap­proved al­low­ing girls into the Cub Scouts pro­gram start­ing in 2018.

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