Boy Scouts, in his­toric move, will ac­cept girls

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ELI ROSEN­BERG AND EL­LIE SIL­VER­MAN

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

The or­ga­ni­za­tion said 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 in a let­ter from the Girl Scouts national pres­i­dent, Kathy Hopinkah Han­nan, that ac­cused the Boy Scouts of try­ing to bol­ster dwin­dling num­bers. The Girl Scouts has also seen its mem­ber- ship fall in re­cent years.

In a state­ment posted on­line Wednesday that doesn’t men­tion the Boy Scouts, the or­ga­ni­za­tion said “Girl Scouts is the best girl lead­er­ship or­ga­ni­za­tion in the world, cre­ated with and for girls,” adding that they are “here to stay.”

The Boy Scouts of Amer­ica, which was the tar­get of pro­gres­sive ire over its decades-long 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 or­ga­ni­za­tion 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 young women, split off from Ex­plor­ing in 1998.

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

In Chevy Chase, Md., Boy Scout Troop 52 has been let­ting girls par­tic­i­pate since 1997 as part of the coed Ven­ture Scout crew. The girls are un­able to earn the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s high­est 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 el­dest never re­ceived the same recog­ni­tion as her son, now 19, who earned the Ea­gle Scout rank.

Be­ing an Ea­gle Scout is 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 16-year-old daugh­ter Cas­sidy, who holds a lead­er­ship po­si­tion in the group, said at­tain­ing that distinc­tion mat­tered.

“Ea­gle Scout gets them some­where on their ré­sumé,” 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.”

A ju­nior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Cas­sidy is “ex­tremely happy” that girls will have the op­por­tu­nity to join the pro­gram at a younger age and work their way up to achiev­ing Ea­gle Scout.

Will Stone, the Scout­mas­ter of Troop 52, said that hav­ing a coed pro­gram ben­e­fits both the girls and boys in his ap­prox­i­mately 70-mem­ber troop, about 16 of whom are girls. Stone said they’ve been push­ing for full in­clu­sion.

“The young women who are part of the troop do all the hikes, they are de­serv­ing of the chance to earn the same rank ad­vance­ments and de­serv­ing of a chance to stand in front of ev­ery­one and re­ceive the Ea­gle,” Stone said. “They’re up for the chal­lenge and they’re ready to do this.”

The Boy Scouts was long the tar­get of pro­gres­sive ire for re­fus- ing to change rules it fol­lowed for decades that pre­vented gay youths and lead­ers from join­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion. On the other side, its re­la­tion­ship with its largest part­ner, the Mor­mon Church — about 20 per­cent of Scouts are Mor­mon — has grown in­creas­ingly fraught in the wake of these changes. Ear­lier this year, the church an­nounced that it would stop par­tic­i­pat­ing in two Boy Scouts pro­grams for teenagers.

In July, a speech Pres­i­dent Trump de­liv­ered to thou­sands of Scouts — in which he flouted the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s tra­di­tions by crit­i­ciz­ing his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, gloat­ing about his elec­tion vic­tory and shar­ing sto­ries about yacht par­ties — prompted Sur­baugh, the chief scout ex­ec­u­tive, to is­sue an apol­ogy.

“The val­ues of Scout­ing — trust­wor­thy, loyal, help­ful, kind, brave and rev­er­ent, for ex­am­ple — are im­por­tant for both young men and women.” Boy Scouts Chief Scout Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Sur­baugh

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