Cub Scout meetings can soon include girls.
The Boy Scouts of America took a historic stride with the announcement Wednesday that the organization — for the first time — will allow girls to participate in Cub Scouts starting next year, and they plan a new program for older girls that uses the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts, according to the Associated Press.
The Boy Scouts board of directors unanimously approved the plan during a meeting in Texas, the AP reported. They said it 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 decision now allows the larger groups of Cub Scouts to have the option to remain single gender or welcome both genders. The smaller units, Cub Scout dens, will be either all-boys or all-girls, according to the AP.
A program expected to begin in 2019 for older girls will allow them to become Eagle Scouts.
“The values of Scouting — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example — are important for both young men and women,” Surbaugh said.
There are 32 Boy Scouts of America units in the Manatee District: 14 troops, 14 packs, two posts, one ship and one crew, according to the Manatee District Units list.
Local Girl Scouts of the USA officials are concerned about the co-ed experience.
“From our standpoint, I think the most important thing to get across is we’re not worried about future Girl Scouts, we’re worried about the future of girls ... Not just our girls, all girls,” said Mary Anne Servian, CEO of Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida.
Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, which is headquartered in Sarasota, represents 10 counties of Girl Scout organizations composed of 6,000 girls, according to Servian.
Servian said the Girl Scouts have been building experiences for girls for 105 years and that single-gender environments create a safe space for girls to reach their potential.
“This is the one time in a whole week girls get to be in a girl-only environment,” Servian said, adding the Girl Scouts have no intention of straying from the single-gender environment that is part of the U.S. Congress charter that the programs operate under.
“We know that girls learn best in an all-girl, girl-led environment,” said Andrea Bastiani Archibald, a psychologist who provides expertise on development for the Girl Scouts’ national programming.
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, according to the AP. GSUSA President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan wrote a letter to the BSA’s president, AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson requesting his organization to “stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts,” rather than recruit girls.
Surveys conducted by the Boy Scouts showed parents not already connected to the scout program strongly supported the change, the AP reported.
For those already engaged in Boy Scouts, the biggest concern of families was that the positive points of single-sex camaraderie could be jeopardized, Surbaugh told the Associated Press. However, he said that would not be an issue.
“We’ll make sure those environments are protected,” he said. “What we’re presenting is a fairly unique hybrid model.”
The Girl Scouts, which was founded in 1912, reported 1,566,671 youth members and 749,008 adult members as of March and the BSA, founded in 1910, say current youth participation is about 2.35 million, according to the AP.