The Boy Scouts of America agreed Wednesday to start admitting girls into the Cub Scouts next year and to create a program for older girls in 2019.
The change calls for Cub Scout dens, which are the smallest groups, to have either all boys or all girls. Larger Cub Scout packs could accept boys and girls.
The program for older girls is expected to allow them to earn the top rank of Eagle Scout.
“The values of Scouting — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example — are important for both young men and women,” said Michael Surbaugh, the group’s chief Scout executive. “We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and life-long experiences for their children.”
The plan was adopted unanimously by the organization’s board in Irving, Texas. The Boy Scouts has 2.3 million members ranging in age from 7 to 21.
But the Girl Scouts of the USA criticized the initiative after warning in August that the boys were trying to recruit their members.
“I formally request that your organization stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts … and not consider expanding to recruit girls,” Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, the president of the Girl Scouts, wrote in August to Randall Stephenson, the Boy Scouts president.
The Boy Scouts was founded in 1910 and the Girl Scouts in 1912. The Girl Scouts said the expansion would strain the bond between the two groups.
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., questioned the Boy Scouts' decision.
The Boy Scouts framed the decision as a convenience for busy families with both parents working or with single parents, citing a Pew Research Center survey conducted on 1,807 parents with young children in September and October 2015.
Other Boy Scouts surveys conducted online from April to September 2017 found high interest in signing up daughters for programs such as the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
“I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization,” Stephenson said. “It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”