LAURINBURG — The traditional Boy Scouts of America and it’s decades-old policy as a male only organization is about to go through a couple of major changes.
David Harling, a 60-year veteran of regional Boy Scouts of America scene primarily at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church, visited with the Laurinburg Rotary Club on Tuesday and explained how the decisions to make those changes came about.
“First, though, I want to say that if you thought girls were not a part of Boy Scouts of American, you’re wrong,” he said. “Girls have been a part of Boy Scouts for more than 50 years — at levels like Sea Scouts, Explorers and Venture Scouts.”
But in early 2019, that will change — and expand to include the traditional Boy Scout troops. The changes will start even earlier at the Cub Scout level.
“This fall, girls will be allowed to join a Cub pack, and sponsoring locations will have three options to choose from,” Harling said. “They can offer a traditional boy only pack, a new all girl pack or a mixed gender pack.”
After the first of the new year, girls will also be welcome to join the Boy Scout troops — and again, there will be options available to those sponsoring troops.
“The decision was made because leadership thought girls should have the same opportunities as boys,” said Harling, who has mentored a total of 85 Eagle Scouts in his career. “And in many cases, sisters of Boy Scouts were participating in many of the scouting events, but couldn’t earn any awards for it.
“Plus, this is the 21st century and things have changed,” he added. “Why should we limit this great opportunity to just half the population?”
Harling added that, when a consulting and research firm conducted a survey about girls being allowed in Boy Scouts, the South was overwhelmingly in favor of it.
“When I first saw the numbers, I thought I was looking at results from California,” Harling said.
But he emphasized that Boy Scouts was not actively trying to recruit girls away from the Girl Scouts.
“This is all about offering a choice,” he said. “The two programs have some similarities, but also offer a very different program.”
With girls getting the option to join Boy Scouts, the national leadership also decided it was time to change the name.
“We didn’t think it was fair to keep the Boy Scout name when we would be bringing girls into the fold,” Harling said.
That led to a name change — from Boy Scouts of America to Scouts BSA.
“Boy Scouts of America is a strong brand, and we wanted to keep it part of the name,” Harling said.
Harling concluded by telling Rotary members that only a few countries in the world didn’t include “true, co-ed scouting” as part of its program. He also said Scouts BSA “was committed to finding good leadership and sponsors for any single-gender troops for girls.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or [email protected]