NEW YORK – For a period of 108 years, the Scouts program is known simply as Boy Scouts. With girls soon entering the ranks, the group says the iconic name will change.
The organization on Wednesday announced a new name for its scout program: Skauti BSA. The change will take effect in February.
Chief Executive Boy Mike Surbaugh said that many options were considered during the long and “incredibly entertaining” considerations before choosing a new name.
“We wanted to land on something that evokes the past, but it also expresses the inclusive nature of the program,” he said. “We’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.”
Parents’ organization will remain Boy Scouts in America and Cub Scouts – its program for children aged 7 to 10 – will retain its title.
But scouts – a program for eleven to seventeen – will now be BSA scouts.
The organization has already begun to accept girls into cat scouts and BSA scouts will begin to accept girls next year.
Surbaugh predicted that both boys and girls in BSA scouts would refer to themselves simply as scouts rather than adding a “boy” or “girl” as a modifier.
The program for older boys and girls will be largely gender-disaggregated, with single-sex units engaged in the same activities, gaining the same merit badges, and potentially having the same path to the Eagle Scout Award.
Surbaugh said that having separate units for boys and girls should alleviate fears that girls who join the BSA for the first time could be at a disadvantage in finding leadership opportunities.
Meanwhile, more than 3,000 girls have joined roughly 170 Cub Scout packs involved in the first phase of the new policy, and this pace is intensifying this pace as part of a nationwide “Scout Me In” media campaign.
The change of name comes amid tense relationships between girl scouts and Boy Scouts of America.
Leaders of the scouts said they were blinded and prepared an aggressive campaign to get and keep the girl as members.
Initiatives include the creation of many new badges that girls can earn, focusing on outdoor activities and science, engineering, technology and mathematics. The organization expands its corporate partnerships in both of these areas and develops the LinkedIn Scouting page to support the career of former Scouts.
“Girl Scouts are leading girl development organizations,” said Sylvia Acevedo, Chief Executive Officer for Girls. “We are and remain the first choice for girls and parents who want to give their girls the opportunity to build new skills … and grow up into happy, successful, civic elderly people.”
Boy Scouts and BSA are among several major youth organizations in the US who have seen a sharp drop in their membership in recent years. Among the reasons include the competition of sports leagues, the perception of some families that they are old-fashioned and busy family plans.
Scouts claim that the current youth participation is about 2.3 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013 and over 4 million in the highest years of the past.
Boy Scouts say they have around 1.76 million girls and more than 780,000 adult members, less than 2 million young members and roughly 800,000 adult members in 2014.
The overall impact of BSA policy changes on the membership of Scout girls will not be known soon. But one regional leader, Fiona Cummings of Northern Illinois Boy Scouts, believes that BSA’s decision to confess to girls is among the factors that have so far reduced the number of young members of this council by more than 500 girls so far this year.
She said that the relationship with boy scouts in their region was common and they are now “very cold”.
“How can you manage these strategic strains?” she asked. “We both need to increase the number of members.”
Surbaugh said the BSA national leadership respected the girl’s scout program and hoped that both organizations would gain strength.
“If Girls Scouts are the most suitable for your girl, it’s fantastic,” he said. “If it’s not them, maybe it would be us.”