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Boy Scouts of America changing name to more inclusive Scouting America after years of woes

IRVING, Texas — The Boy Scouts of America is changing its name for the first time in its 114-year history and will become Scouting America. It’s a significant shift as the organization emerges from bankruptcy following a flood of sexual abuse claims and seeks to focus on inclusion.

The organization steeped in tradition has made seismic changes after decades of turmoil, from finally allowing gay youth to welcoming girls throughout its ranks. With an eye on increasing flagging membership numbers, the Irving, Texas-based organization announced the name change Tuesday at its annual meeting in Florida.

“In the next 100 years we want any youth in America to feel very, very welcome to come into our programs,” Roger Krone, who took over last fall as president and chief executive officer, said in an interview before the announcement.

The organization began allowing gay youth in 2013 and ended a blanket ban on gay adult leaders in 2015. In 2017, it made the historic announcement that girls would be accepted as Cub Scouts as of 2018 and into the flagship Boy Scout program — renamed Scouts BSA — in 2019. Over 6,000 girls have now achieved the vaunted Eagle Scout rank.

There were nearly 1,000 young women in the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts in 2021, including Selby Chipman. The all-girls troop she was a founding member of in her hometown of Oak Ridge, North Carolina, has grown from five girls to nearly 50, and she thinks the name change will encourage even more girls to realize they can join.

“Girls were like: ‘You can join Boy Scouts of America?'” said Chipman, now a 20-year-old college student and assistant scoutmaster of her troop.

When people question the need to change the name, Krone points out that membership is at historic lows. “Part of my job is to reduce all the barriers I possibly can for people to accept us as an organization and to join,” he said.

Like other organizations, the scouts lost members during the pandemic, when participation was difficult. After a highpoint over the last decade of over 2 million members in 2018, the organization currently services just over 1 million youths, including more than 176,000 girls and young women. Membership peaked in 1972 at almost 5 million.

David Aaker, vice chairman of the national branding and marketing firm Prophet, author and professor emeritus at the University of California-Berkeley, called the name change an “excellent” move that gives the organization a chance to start a new conversation about itself, while not being so drastic that it strays too far from its original scouting mission.

“It’s a onetime chance to tell a new story,” Aaker said.

The National Organization for Women had urged the Boy Scouts to open itself to girls throughout its ranks. Bear Atwood, vice president of NOW, said the name change “signals that not only are girls allowed to join but they are welcome to join.”

Reaction online Tuesday ranged from those excited and supportive to those decrying that “boy” no longer appears in the name. “Wokeness destroys everything it touches,” wrote Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Georgia Republican, on X.

But Lois Alvar, a 20-year-old Eagle Scout and assistant scoutmaster from the Dallas area, said the new name should help all scouts feel accepted. “Having it nationally recognized that girls are being welcomed and included in scouting allows it to be a more safe space, just in general,” she said.

The move to accept girls throughout the Boy Scout ranks strained a bond with the Girl Scouts of the USA, which sued, saying it created marketplace confusion and damaged their recruitment efforts. They reached a settlement agreement after a judge rejected those claims, saying both groups are free to use words like “scouts” and “scouting.”

The Boy Scouts’ $2.4 billion bankruptcy reorganization plan took effect last year, allowing the organization to keep operating while compensating the more than 80,000 men who say they were sexually abused as children while scouting.

The organization won’t officially become Scouting America until Feb. 8, 2025, the organization’s 115th birthday. But Krone said he expects people will start immediately using the name.

“It sends this really strong message to everyone in America that they can come to this program, they can bring their authentic self, they can be who they are and they will be welcomed here,” Krone said.

Contributing: Kendria LaFleur and Jim Vertuno

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