‘Scout Me In’ — Boy Scouts adopts gen­der-neu­tral name

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NEWS - By David Crary

NEW YORK >> For 108 years, the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica’s flag­ship pro­gram has been known sim­ply as the Boy Scouts. With girls soon en­ter­ing the ranks, the group says that iconic name will change.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion on Wed­nes­day an­nounced a new name for its Boy Scouts pro­gram: Scouts BSA. The change will take ef­fect in Fe­bru­ary.

Chief Scout Ex­ec­u­tive Mike Sur­baugh said many pos­si­bil­i­ties were con­sid­ered dur­ing lengthy and “in­cred­i­bly fun” de­lib­er­a­tions be­fore the new name was cho­sen.

“We wanted to land on some­thing that evokes the past but also con­veys the in­clu­sive na­ture of the pro­gram go­ing for­ward,” he said. “We’re try­ing to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.”

The par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion will re­main the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica, and the Cub Scouts — its pro­gram serv­ing chil­dren from kinder­garten through fifth grade — will keep its ti­tle as well.

But the Boy Scouts — the pro­gram for 11- to 17-yearolds — will now be Scouts BSA.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion al­ready has started ad­mit­ting girls into the Cub Scouts, and Scouts BSA be­gins ac­cept­ing girls next year.

Sur­baugh pre­dicted that both boys and girls in

Scouts BSA would re­fer to them­selves sim­ply as scouts, rather than adding “boy” or “girl.”

The pro­gram for the older boys and girls will largely be di­vided along gen­der-lines, with sin­gle-sex units pur­su­ing the same types of ac­tiv­i­ties, earn­ing the same ar­ray of merit badges and po­ten­tially hav­ing the same path­way to the cov­eted Ea­gle Scout award.

Sur­baugh said that hav­ing sep­a­rate units for boys and girls should al­le­vi­ate con­cerns that girls join­ing the BSA for the first time might be at a dis­ad­van­tage in seek­ing lead­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties. So far, more than 3,000 girls have joined

roughly 170 Cub Scout packs par­tic­i­pat­ing in the first phase of the new policy, and the pace will in­ten­sify this sum­mer un­der a na­tion­wide mul­ti­me­dia re­cruit­ment cam­paign ti­tled “Scout Me In.”

On so­cial me­dia, there was wide­spread crit­i­cism of the name change, gen­er­ally sug­gest­ing it’s a mis­guided dis­play of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness that un­der­cuts the Boy Scouts’ legacy. But many other peo­ple dis­missed such crit­i­cism as an over­re­ac­tion.

“Get over it,” Kevin Aldrich, a mem­ber-at-large with a Boy Scout coun­cil in cen­tral In­di­ana, told The In­di­anapo­lis Star. “There is ev­ery rea­son to be co-ed. The Fu­ture Farm­ers of Amer­ica is co-ed. 4-H is co-ed. Band in school is co-ed.”

The name change comes amid strained re­la­tions be­tween the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of Amer­ica.

Girl Scout lead­ers said they were blind­sided by the move, and they are gear­ing up an ag­gres­sive cam­paign to re­cruit and re­tain girls as mem­bers.

Among the ini­tia­tives is cre­ation of nu­mer­ous new badges that girls can earn, fo­cus­ing on out­door ac­tiv­i­ties and on science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is ex­pand­ing cor­po­rate part­ner­ships in both those ar­eas, and de­vel­op­ing a Girl Scout Net­work Page on LinkedIn to sup­port ca­reer ad­vance­ment for former Girl Scouts.

“Girl Scouts is the pre­mier lead­er­ship devel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion for girls,” said Sylvia Acevedo, the Girl Scouts’ CEO. “We are, and will re­main, the first choice for girls and par­ents who want to pro­vide their girls op­por­tu­ni­ties to build new skills … and grow into happy, suc­cess­ful, civi­cally en­gaged adults.”

The Girl Scouts and the BSA are among sev­eral ma­jor youth or­ga­ni­za­tions in the U.S. ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sharp drops in mem­ber­ship in re­cent years. Rea­sons in­clude com­pe­ti­tion from sports leagues, a per­cep­tion by some fam­i­lies that they are old-fash­ioned and busy fam­ily sched­ules.

Sur­baugh said BSA’s national lead­er­ship re­spected the Girl Scouts’ pro­gram and hoped both or­ga­ni­za­tions could gain strength.

“If the best fit for your girl is the Girl Scouts, that’s fan­tas­tic,” he said. “If it’s not them, it might be us.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS / MARCH 1

Ta­tum Weir, cen­ter, and her twin brother Ian, left, carry their hand­made tool boxes af­ter a Cub Scouts meet­ing in Mad­bury, N.H. Girls have been able to join Cub Scouts pro­grams since last year; they will be able to join Scouts BSA, the pro­gram for older chil­dren, start­ing next year.

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