The Boy Scouts of America have announced a name change for its flagship program — known simply as Boy Scouts for over 100 years — as girls are set to join them, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The new name? Scouts BSA, the outlet said.
The name change will take effect next February, the AP reported.
“We wanted to land on something that evokes the past but also conveys the inclusive nature of the program going forward,” Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh told the outlet. “We’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.”
Surbaugh characterized the deliberations over the new name as “incredibly fun” but lengthy, the AP reported.
More from the AP:
The parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America, and the Cub Scouts — its program for 7- to 10-year-olds — will keep its title, as well.
But the Boy Scouts — the program for 11- to 17-year-olds — will now be Scouts BSA.
The organization has already started admitting girls into the Cub Scouts, and Scouts BSA begins accepting girls next year.
Surbaugh said he believes that boys and girls in Scouts BSA both will call themselves “scouts” only as opposed to adding “boy” or “girl” in front, the outlet said.
Mixed gender concerns
Scouts BSA will largely be divided along gender lines, with single-sex units engaging in the same activities to earn merit badges and with the possibility of moving along the same path toward becoming Eagle Scouts, the AP said.
Surbaugh told the outlet that single-sex units should alleviate concerns that girls joining the BSA might face disadvantages.
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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.”
Strained relations between Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America
Girl Scout leaders said they were blindsided by the move, and they are preparing an aggressive campaign to recruit and retain girls, the outlet said.
“Girl Scouts is the premier leadership development organization for girls,” Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo told the AP. “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.”
There are a number of new badges girls can earn, the outlet said, which focus on outdoor activities as well as science, engineering, technology and math.
Both organizations have been hurt by sharp membership declines in recent years:
- The Boy Scouts said membership stands at about 2.3 million — down from 2.6 million in 2013 and more than 4 million in previous peak years, the AP said.
- The Girl Scouts said membership stands at about 1.76 million girls, down from just over 2 million members in 2014, the outlet added.
Fiona Cummings of Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois told the AP she believes the BSA’s decision to admit girls played a role in her council’s youth membership falling by over 500 girls so far this year.
She added to the outlet that relations with Boy Scouts in her region used to be collaborative but has been “very chilly” of late.
“How do you manage these strategic tensions?” Cummings asked the AP. “We both need to increase our membership numbers.”
Surbaugh told the outlet he hopes both organizations can thrive: “If the best fit for your girl is the Girl Scouts, that’s fantastic. If it’s not them, it might be us.”