Boy Scouts to let girls in some pro­grams

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By David Crary

NEW YORK » Em­brac­ing a his­toric change, the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica an­nounced Wednesday plans to ad­mit girls into the Cub Scouts start­ing next year and to es­tab­lish a new pro­gram for older girls us­ing the same cur­ricu­lum as the Boy Scouts.

Un­der the plan, Cub Scout dens — the small­est unit — will be sin­gle-gen­der, ei­ther all-boys or all­girls. The larger Cub Scout packs will have the op­tion to re­main sin­gle gen­der or welcome both gen­ders. The pro­gram for older girls is ex­pected to start in 2019 and will en­able girls to earn the cov­eted rank of Ea­gle Scout.

The Boy Scouts board of direc­tors, which ap­proved the plan unan­i­mously in a meet­ing at BSA head­quar­ters in Texas, said the change was needed to pro­vide more op­tions for par­ents.

“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, the BSA’s chief scout ex­ec­u­tive.

“The val­ues of Scout­ing — trust­wor­thy, loyal, help­ful, kind, brave and rev­er­ent, for ex­am­ple — are im­por­tant for both young men and women,” Sur­baugh added.

The an­nounce­ment fol­lows many months of out­reach by the BSA, which dis­trib­uted videos and held meet­ings with the Boy Scout com­mu­nity to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­pand­ing girls’ par­tic­i­pa­tion be­yond ex­ist­ing pro­grams, such as Ven­tur­ing and Sea Scouts.

The Girl Scouts of the USA crit­i­cized the ini­tia­tive, say­ing it strained the cen­tury-old bond be­tween the two or­ga­ni­za­tions. Girl Scout of­fi­cials have sug­gested the BSA’s move was driven partly by

fi­nan­cial prob­lems and a need to boost rev­enue.

In Au­gust, the pres­i­dent of the Girl Scouts ac­cused the Boy Scouts of seek­ing to covertly re­cruit girls into their pro­grams while dis­parag­ing the Girl Scouts’ op­er­a­tions.

“I for­mally re­quest that your or­ga­ni­za­tion stay fo­cused on serv­ing the 90 per­cent of Amer­i­can boys not cur­rently par­tic­i­pat­ing in Boy Scouts ... and not con­sider ex­pand­ing to re­cruit girls,” wrote GSUSA Pres­i­dent Kathy Hopinkah Han­nan in a let­ter to the BSA’s pres­i­dent, AT&T Chair­man Ran­dall Stephen­son.

The Girl Scouts, founded in 1912, and the BSA, founded in 1910, are among

sev­eral ma­jor youth or­ga­ni­za­tions in the U.S. ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sharp drops in mem­ber­ship in re­cent years. Rea­sons in­clude com­pe­ti­tion from youth sports leagues, a per­cep­tion by some fam­i­lies that they are old-fash­ioned and busy sched­ules that prompt some par­ents to de­spair of meet­ing all their chil­dren’s obli­ga­tions. For some fam­i­lies, scout­ing pro­grams that welcome both boys and girls could be a welcome con­ve­nience.

As of March, GSUSA re­ported 1,566,671 youth mem­bers and 749,008 adult mem­bers, down from just over 2 mil­lion youth mem­bers and about 800,000 adult mem­bers in 2014. The Boy Scouts say cur­rent youth par­tic­i­pa­tion is about 2.35 mil­lion, down from 2.6 mil­lion in 2013 and more than 4 mil­lion in peak years of the past.

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