For 108 years, the Boy Scouts of America’s flagship program has been known simply as the Boy Scouts. With girls soon entering the ranks, the group says that name will change.
The organization on Wednesday announced that the Boy Scouts — the program for 11-to-17-year-olds — will now be Scouts BSA. The change will take effect in February.
“We’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women,” said Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh.
Surbaugh says that boys and girls in Scouts BSA will refer to themselves simply as Scouts, rather than adding “boy” or “girl” as a modifier, Surbaugh said.
The parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America, and the Cub Scouts — the BSA’s program serving children from kindergarten through fifth grade — will keep its name. The organization, which announced last fall that it would allow girls to participate, started admitting them into the Cub Scouts in January. Scouts BSA will accept girls next year.
Surbaugh said many possibilities were considered during lengthy and “incredibly fun” deliberations before the new name was chosen.
The program for the older boys and girls will largely be divided along gender lines, with single-sex units pursuing the same types of activities, earning the same merit badges and potentially having the same pathway to the coveted Eagle Scout award.
Surbaugh said that having separate units for boys and girls should address concerns that girls joining the BSA might not get as many leadership opportunities.
So far, more than 3,000 girls have joined roughly 170 Cub Scout packs participating in the new policy.
The name change comes at a time of tense relations between the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America.
Girl Scout leaders said they were surprised by the move and are launching a campaign to recruit and keep girls as members.
Among the initiatives are several new badges that girls can earn, focusing on outdoor activities, science, engineering, technology and math.
“Girl Scouts is the premier leadership development organization for girls,” said Sylvia Acevedo, the Girl Scouts’ chief executive. “We are, and will remain, the first choice for girls and parents who want to provide their girls opportunities to build new skills . . . and grow into happy, successful, civically engaged adults.”
The Girl Scouts and the BSA are among several major youth organizations in the United States experiencing drops in membership in recent years. The Boy Scouts say current youth participation is about 2.3 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013 and more than 4 million in peak years. The Girl Scouts say they have about 1.76 million girls and more than 780,000 adult members, down from just over 2 million youth members and about 800,000 adult members in 2014.