The Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors has unanimously approved admitting girls.
The change will be gradual, starting with the Cub Scouts program, which is the first step in scouting.
Starting in the 2018 program year, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts.
Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack, according to a news release from The Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
Under the current setup, Cub Scouts is for boys in the first through fifth grades. Many Cub Scouts then transition into a Boy Scout troop, which is broken into patrols.
Using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts program, the organization will also deliver a program for older girls, which will be announced in 2018. Currently that program is projected to be available in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the Eagle Scout rank.
Details on the future program for older girls and any changes it might mean for the existing Boy Scouts program haven’t been announced yet.
"The BSA's record of producing leaders with high character and integrity is amazing," said Randall Stephenson, BSA's national board chairman. "I've seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization. It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls."
The Girl Scouts of the USA criticized the initiative, according to The Associated Press, 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, AP reported.
Girl Scouts of Gateway Council CEO Mary Ann Jacobs sees a silver lining in the Boy Scouts announcement. “I think it will build more interest in the Girl Scouts, if you want to know the truth,” said Jacobs, who oversees Girl Scouting on the First Coast. And no, she says, just because the Boy Scouts have decided to accept girls, that doesn’t mean they get to sell Girl Scout cookies.
Jacobs also sent a formal statement to WJCT News in response to the Boy Scouts announcement, which appears at the bottom of this story.
On the First Coast, Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops fall under the umbrella of the North Florida Council, which operates programs at Camp Shands near Keystone Heights and St. Johns River Base at Echockotee in Orange Park.
"While these are great days of historic change for the Boy Scouts of America the Scout Oath and Law remains unchanged as it has for over 106 years," said Jack Sears in an email to the North Florida scouting community. Sears is the Scout Executive/CEO of the North Florida Council.
Although known for its boys programs, the BSA has offered co-ed programs since 1971 through Exploring and the Venturing program, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2018. The STEM Scout pilot program is also available for both boys and girls.
Response Sent To WJCT News By Girl Scouts Of Gateway Council CEO Mary Anne Jacobs
Girl Scouts remains committed to and believes strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a necessary safe space for girls to learn and thrive. We hear from girls and their families every day about the value of the incredible experiences we offer them, including in STEM, outdoor, entrepreneurship, and life-skills programming. And thousands of exceptional Girl Scouts earn their Gold Award each year, Girl Scout’s highest award, becoming Gold Award Girl Scouts by transforming an idea and vision for change into an actionable plan with measurable, sustainable, and far-reaching impact at the local, national, and global levels.
The benefit of this type of girl-centered environment has been well-documented by educators, scholars, and other girl- and youth-serving organizations, as well as Girl Scouts themselves. We are dedicated to ensuring that girls are able to take advantage of a program tailored specifically to their unique developmental needs. Only Girl Scouts has more than 100 years of experience helping girls tap into their leadership potential by reinforcing and extending the skills they learn in school in a supportive, encouraging environment in which they feel safe to just be themselves. At Girl Scouts, we are girl experts, and we work every day to help girls develop the courage, confidence, and character necessary to make the world a better place.
Girl Scouts is, and will remain, the scouting program that truly benefits U.S. girls by providing a safe space for them to learn and lead. And, around the world, the vast majority of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides are in single-gender organizations. Last week during our G.I.R.L. 2017 convention, nearly 8,000 girls and those who support their healthy development—including incredible and inspiring speakers, our dedicated volunteers, alumnae, and leaders from across our Movement, as well as many from the general public—came together from all over our country and across the globe to celebrate and amplify the incredible power of every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ in our Movement.
Our programs are research- and evidence-based and, from this research, we know that Girl Scouts excel in important aspects of life. In fact, a report that the Girl Scout Research Institute published this past summer, The Girl Scout Impact Study, shows that participating in Girl Scouts helps girls develop key leadership skills they need to be successful in life. Compared to their peers, Girl Scouts are more likely than non–Girl Scouts to be leaders because they:
- Have confidence in themselves and their abilities (80 percent vs. 68 percent)
- Act ethically and responsibly, and show concern for others (75 percent vs. 59 percent)
- Seek challenges and learn from setbacks (62 percent vs. 42 percent)
- Develop and maintain healthy relationships (60 percent vs. 43 percent)
- Identify and solve problems in their communities (57 percent vs. 28 percent)
- Take an active role in decision making (80 percent vs. 51 percent)
WJCT reporter Cyd Hoskinson contributed to this story.