The Boy Scouts of America announced Wednesday that it will allow girls to be part of its Cub Scouts programs beginning next year.
The new rule will set up separate Cub Scout dens, made up of either all boys or all girls. A den is made up of six to eight children. Cub Scout dens make up the larger group, a Cub Scout pack.
Packs will have the option to either remain single-gender or have girls and boys in the larger group together, according to Boy Scouts of America leaders.
The plan was unanimously approved by the Boy Scouts board of directors.
"The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls," Boy Scouts of America said in a statement. "The organization evaluated the results of numerous research efforts, gaining input from current members and leaders, as well as parents and girls who've never been involved in Scouting -- to understand how to offer families an important additional choice in meeting the character development needs of all their children."
Boy Scouts of America also announced a plan for older girls that will use the same curriculum used by the Boy Scouts and will allow for girls to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Scouts must earn at least 21 merit badges to be eligible for the honor.
In explaining the decision, the board said it took the realities of a busy family life into consideration.
"Families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before, making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing," the Boy Scouts of America statement said.
"We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children," said Michael Surbaugh, chief executive of the Boy Scouts.
The decision comes after the group was slammed by the president of the Girl Scouts, who claimed Boy Scouts of America had instituted a “covert campaign to recruit girls.”
According to the Boy Scouts of America website, three groups make up the organization: Cub Scouts, which is for children in first through fifth grades; Boy Scouts, which is for youth 11-17 years old and Venturing, which is a coed program for young adults ages 13 through 20.
Boy Scouts of America has about 2.3 million youth members between the ages of 7 and 21 and about 960,000 volunteers in the United States and its territories. Earlier this year, Girl Scouts USA reported 1.5 million youth members.
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