The first all-girls troops in the organization formerly known as the Boy Scouts of America took the Scout Oath last weekend and now belong to a new organization called Scouts BSA. About 200 girls in nearly 30 troops in the Washington, D.C., area joined thousands of others already in the Scouts BSA since membership was opened to girls on Feb. 1.
The 109-year-old Boy Scouts announced in October 2017 that the group would begin admitting girls this year, eliciting sharp comments from the Girl Scouts of the USA, along with a trademark infringement lawsuit in November. The Girl Scouts claimed that the generic use of the term “Scouts” without the gender marker erodes the Girl Scouts core brand identity and marginalized the Girl Scouts by leading the public to believe that the Girl Scouts were not official “Scouting” programs and had no more than limited appeal.
The head of Scouts BSA, Michael Surbaugh, said the organization is entering a “new era” and that it was important for all young people to “see themselves in Scouting in every way possible.”
Perhaps the most significant part of this change is that girls are now eligible to earn Scouting merit badges and work toward the rank of Eagle Scout. Last May, 10-year-old twins Tatum and Ian Weir set a goal of becoming the first brother-sister pair to attain the rank of Eagle Scout. That’s being prepared–a youngster has to be at least 11-years old to be a Scout and the program ends when a Scout turns 18.
Scouts BSA is playing up its inclusiveness. On the group’s official magazine (Scouting USA) blog for adult leaders, the group posted a list of do’s and don’ts. Here’s a sample:
Emphasize that Scouts BSA welcomes families, boys, and girls to its programs
Use only official Boy Scouts of America materials
Remember that BSA and Girl Scouts of the USA are separate organizations
Use names, programs, marks, logos, or images of the Girl Scouts of the USA or mix them with those of the BSA
Use the world “girl” in front of “Scout”
Disparage other youth-serving organizations in any way
While the Scouts BSA program is now open to both boys and girls, there will be separate troops for girls and boys–although individual units may choose to form a linked troop that shares a chartered organization and troop committee.
Scouts BSA also designed a scouting uniform especially for girls and issued a Scouts BSA Handbook for Girls to match a Scouts BSA Handbook for Boys. While the content of the handbooks is the same, the images in the books will show either girls or boys, as appropriate.
In November, the BSA said it had 2.4 million youth participants, including girls, in its co-ed Exploring and Venturing programs. The Girl Scouts of the USA claimed 1.8 million girl members at the same time. At its peak in the 1970s, the BSA had more than 5 million members, and over the course of its century-long existence, more than a few famous alumni, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, filmmaker David Lynch, and Hall-of-Fame baseball player Hank Aaron.