NEW YORK (AP/NEWS10) – In a historic change, the Boy Scouts are announcing plans to admit girls into the Cub Scouts starting next year and to establish a new program for older girls using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts.
Under the plan announced Wednesday, Cub Scout dens – the smallest unit – will be single-gender, either all-boys or all-girls. The larger Cub Scout packs will have the option to welcome both genders if they choose.
In the past five years, the Boy Scouts have undergone some major changes. They started accepting transgender boys and openly gay youth members and adult volunteers.
Now, they’ll be adding girls to that list.
“Got a lot of valuable skill sets out of it, and I enjoyed my time with them,” former scout Ryan Cassidy said.
Cassidy thinks the time he spent with them helped him become the person he is today.
“General life lessons,” he said. “You know, treat everybody with respect and how to go about life, being polite, and helping others.”
The program for older girls is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.
The news shocked Cassidy.
“The awkward age that they are with their interactions with girls; it could create awkward situations,” he said.
The move comes after Boy Scouts of America expanded girls’ participation in specific programs. Boy Scouts Twin Rivers Council Asst. Scout Exec. Dennis Dugan said it was a natural step.
“More parents were surveyed and decided they wanted to be a part of,” he said.
Boy Scout leaders say the change is needed to provide more options for parents. It also comes after falling membership. The Girl Scouts organization has criticized the initiative, saying it strains the century-old bond between the two groups.
“They’re in a situation where they’re trying to replace members, you know, kind of members that they’re losing,” Girl Scouts of Northeastern NY Chief Exec. Officer Mary Buszuwski said.
Buszuwski doesn’t think the move will benefit girls or boys. She cited research that shows young girls are more reluctant to engage in coed environments.
“To either share their opinion or to vie for what we call, you know, a leadership role,” she said.
It will come down to what parents believe is the best fit for their child.
“Everyone has a choice whether or not they wish to participate in the scouting program,” Dugan said.
While other scouting organizations that allow boys and girls have gender free names like Scouts Canada, for now, Boy Scouts will remain Boy Scouts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.