Boy Scouts of America drops ‘boy’ in title to be more inclusive
In a move befitting the inclusive age we live, the Boy Scouts of America is dropping ‘boy’ from the name of its program in order to welcome youth scouts regardless of their gender.
“As we enter a new era for our organisation, it is important that all youth can see themselves in scouting in every way possible,” said Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh.
Surbaugh also unveiled the organisation’s new ‘Scout me in’ programme, also aimed to promote inclusiveness within the organisation.
“That is why it is important that the name for our scouting programme for older youth remain consistent with the single name approach used for the Cub Scouts,” he added.
In 2017, the Boy Scouts were asked to open their programmes to girls after a transgender boy was accepted within its ranks in a historical first.
The parent organisation will keep the name of Boys Scouts of America, or BSA for short. However, the Boys Scouts, which welcomes kids aged 10 to 17, will be known as Scouts BSA from February 2019 onwards.
According to the Associated Press, thousands of girls have joined the ranks of Cub Scouts, the BSA gender-neutral programme for kids aged between 7 and 10 years of age.
The organisation has been taking several steps towards a more gender-neutral and inclusive model since it lifted its ban on gay leaders in 2015.
In January 2017, the organisation opened its door to transgender youths, announcing it will be registering and accepting them in their programmes.
This happened after they first barred eight-year-old Joe Maldonado, a transgender boy, from joining. Up to this point, accepted recruits on the basis of the gender assigned on their birth certifications.
Amid mounting pressure from Maldonado’s parents and activists, BSA widened its policy to allow transgender recruits to join the Scouts. This led to several organisations calling for girls to be accepted as well.
“We’re certainly committed to finding program options that work for the entire family – it’s an area we continue to evaluate,” Boy Scouts of America communications director Effie Delimarkos said at the time.
“But we also feel that the benefit of a single-gender program is an important priority.”
The organisation seemed to undergo a 360-degree turn on its gender policy in 2017 when it began accepting all children into its Cub Scouts scheme.
“Cub Scouts is a lot of fun, and now it’s available to all kids,” said BSA marketing director Stephen Medlicott.
Girl recruits are poised to join the Scouts ranks this summer. According to Surbaugh, 3,000 girls have already enrolled in BSA’s Early Adopter Program.
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Girls Scouts of America, which is independent from BSA, tried to keep the Boy Scouts from recruiting girls.
“Our experiences are created for and with girls,” said Girl Scouts’ Chief Girl and Family Engagement Officer, Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “I think that’s important when we consider what appeals to them and what benefits them most.”
Both organisations have been declining in popularity. Boys Scouts of America has lost about 300,000 members in the last five years, going from 2.6 million members in 2013 to 2.3 million this year.
Girl Scouts of America counts 1.8 million members and uses Linkedin to engage the organisation’s network of alumnas.