In an initiative that it says comes as a result of requests from families and much research, Boy Scouts of America will allow girls to join the Cub Scouts and will also create an Eagle Scout track designed for older girls.
For the first time in its more than 100-year history, Boy Scouts of America is making a major shift in its membership. To put it simply, its best-known programs won’t be boys-only anymore.
Next year, girls will be allowed into the Cub Scout program. According to a BSA statement, 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. Cub Scout dens will be single-gender—all boys or all girls.
In 2019, BSA anticipates launching a separate track for older girls that will allow them to earn the coveted Eagle Scout mark. The expanded programs won’t be the only ones made available to both boys and girls—its existing Exploring and Venturing programs have been for decades, as has the more recent STEM Scouts pilot program.
In a news release, BSA Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh characterized the move as one that meets the organization’s mission while keeping in mind the changing needs of families.
“We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children,” he said in a statement. “We strive to bring what our organization does best—developing character and leadership for young people—to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.”
In recent years, BSA has overseen significant changes in the makeup of its membership, both for children and adults. In 2014, the organization lifted its controversial ban on openly gay youths taking part, and then voted to allow openly gay adults to do the same after a 2015 vote.
These moves—including the current one—have not come without controversy. In May, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ended its long-running relationship with the group for programs targeted at older youths, expressing concerns about the challenges of implementing the programs. However, the Mormon church had previously expressed its reservations on changes to the group’s LGBT policies. (The church, however, maintains its current Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs.)
And BuzzFeed reported earlier this year that Girl Scouts of the USA had expressed concerns with BSA’s shift to expand membership to girls, which was then being considered by BSA but had yet to be confirmed. The group has yet to comment on Wednesday’s announcement.